Images of the Decade: Words

Ryland Walker Knight

Movies are made up of images, even the bad ones. But the bad movies rarely leave any images lingering in your brain. The great films are the ones making great images. A great image is many things, by nature diffuse, and we might agree that any great image moves even when stopped still, opening its own cinematic world. Thus, The Notebook's decision to celebrate our recent decade not with a list but with this stream. Each contributor was asked to pick 1 film he or she wants to remember from the 2000s, select 1 image from that film to remember it by, and write one sentence to supplement their selection. We've done our best to craft not simply a grab bag but a cogent flow of the indelible, one image speaking to the next on a variety of registers: from film to film, between color and compositional rhymes, and, as you'll read, the captions themselves tell their own story (if we've succeeded in our manifold collage) of the decade's themes and preoccupations. We hope you enjoy!

If you have your own favorite images of the 2000s to share, post them in our forum!

The Notebook's Images of the Decade: ImagesWords


Neil Young: Punch-Drunk Love (P.T. Anderson, 2002)

Search of non-being in flight from extraneous perception breaking down in inescapability of self-perception.- Samuel Beckett, Film (1963)


Fernando F. Croce: Spider (David Cronenberg, 2002)

The one smile of the madman-artist, who “can hear the wallpaper bubbling.”


Evan Davis: My Dad Is 100 Years Old (Guy Maddin, 2005)

Isabella becomes those who saw themselves as artists, and proves that in the right hands, the cinema re-forms the world through each set of eyes.


Gabe Klinger: Vai-e-vem (João César Monteiro, 2003)

"I can only give you my shadow."


Adrian Martin: Moolaadé (Ousmane Sembene, 2004)

The '00s saw the death of Africa's greatest director, Ousmane Sembene, and the demise of his longtime US distributor New Yorker Films and I offer this shot—a pile of confiscated radios outside a bright yellow Gaudiesque mosque (and the orange anthill that mirrors it)—from Sembene’s final film, in their memory.


Kevin Lee: Oxhide II (Liu Jiayin, 2009)

A camera lens turns a common table space into a field of endless visual play; small things transformed before our eyes forever, both onscreen and off.


Ben Simington: A Family Finds Entertainment (Ryan Trecartin, 2004)

At home as much at the Whitney as on YouTube, Trecartin's frantic, obsessive, and ubiquitous overwriting atop just about every frame alerts that no virtual surface is ever again safe from maximum distortion; this ain't your grandparents' moving image, and it's only going to become more commonplace as the line between cinematography and animation continues to get more confused.


Michael Sicinski: What the Water Said Nos. 4-6 (David Gatten, 2007)

A century and a half ago, we sat stock still, piercing ourselves into obstinate metal plates; now we inscribe the light faster than our sluggish minds can even parse it.


Craig Keller: Eloge de l'amour [Eulogy for LoveOde to Love ] (Jean-Luc Godard, 2001)

"O madness of discourse, / That cause sets up with and against itself; / Bi-fold authority, where reason can revolt / Without perdition, and loss assume all reason / Without revolt. This is, and is not, Cressid. / Within my soul there doth conduce a fight / Of this strange nature that a thing inseparate / Divides more wider than the sky and earth." —from Troilus and Cressida by William Shakespeare (1602)


Zach Campbell: Tachigui: The Amazing Lives of the Fast Food Grifters (Mamoru Oshii, 2006)

A new aesthetics of hunger: there was of course Rocha, plus Godard gave us the world in a coffee cup (2 ou 3 choses…), and roughly thirty years after Oshii hit us up with some images to remind us of the sophisticated games borne of having and having not, wanting and wanting not.


Marie-Pierre Duhamel: L'anglaise et le duc (Eric Rohmer, 2001)

Eric Rohmer (re)opens the path to cine-realism, for today and tomorrow.

Ryland Walker Knight: Esther Kahn (Arnaud Desplechin, 2000)

Our Esther, an unwitting spectacle immobilized and out of place, stung by the recognition of what she's lost (her words, her meaning, a man) beyond the stage, finds her way into the world—seemingly for the first time, almost exhuming her soul—by standing outside it, acting as another.


Edwin Mak: Tiexi District: West of the Tracks (Tiexiqu, Wang Bing, 2003)

Outlasted are the nights of worlds.


Joe Bowman: L’intrus (Claire Denis, 2004)

Béatrice Dalle’s famously gap-toothed grin, as her deceptively negligible character rides a dog sled through the snow, provides the final enigma of Claire Denis’ mystifying, frustrating marvel of a film.


Andrew Grant: Eureka (Shinji Aoyama, 2000)

The best post 9/11 movie made prior to 9/11—a decade’s worth of catharsis in just under four hours.


Anna Bak-Kvapil: The Squid and the Whale (Noah Baumbach, 2005)

Corduroy, divorce, and going to the Thalia with the Dicksteins; it's all very Kafkaesque.


David Hudson: Adaptation. (Spike Jonze, 2002)

As Tarantino was to the 90s, so was Charlie Kaufman to the 00s: Meta fractalized.


Daniel Kasman: Eloge de l'amour (Jean Luc Godard, 2001)

We look to the past—in Godard's homage to Vertigo's famed zoom-in/dolly-out stylization of Scottie's dizziness and the receeding spiral of memory and time—and look to the future in the same instant: in 2001 the trick is staged digitally, saturated with video color, a light receeding in the distance for the audience that sits rooted to the present.


David Phelps: The God of Day Had Gone Down Upon Him (Stan Brakhage, 2000)

With deathly overtones/inkly tones, Brakhage films the Vancouver sea as a Creation myth of both sea and image constantly regenerating themselves—in shades of light and mostly dark; in and out of focus; zoomed out and in; in over and underexposures; gradually gaining clarity and form and focus from the first flickers of film stock producing the image to the thing itself as it looks (not the same thing as what it is); and from the out-of-focus film grain to the actual grain of light specks on the sea—and a cubist demonstration of a thousand ways to see a thing: not just in the glimpses of a montage that keeps returning to the same fleeting scene, but even in a single shot, or two frames, never the same, as everything moves/moves on against rock/camera/man.


Dave McDougall:Regular Lovers (Philippe Garrel, 2005)

After the failure of the revolution, is the only option to retreat into yourself, or is just that a further dead end?


Acquarello: La blessure (Nicolas Klotz, 2004)

A semblance of normalcy after the humiliation, with Joy Division's "Atmosphere" as the anthem of alienation and defiance.


Kurt Shulenberger: Mulholland Dr. (David Lynch, 2001)

When you realize that the fears and anxieties of a decade—a decade in which personal identity is scrambled, complacency is ironic and the monsters are real and lurking behind the diner, this very diner—are distilled into a single shining drop of blood, David Lynch's nightmarish ode to Los Angeles (and celluloid, apparently) becomes an almost spiritual experience, a cryptic hieroglyph that can't be discussed, only whispered about.


Bilge Ebiri: An Injury to One (Travis Wilkerson, 2002)

If, as Faulkner says, “The past isn’t dead,” then it also follows that the future has been here for a long time.


Dan Sallitt: Michael Clayton (Tony Gilroy, 2007)

The thriller genre is gradually transformed via camera movement into the cinema of contemplation.


Stephen Sarrazin: Gran Torino (Clint Eastwood, 2008)

Behold a pale rider.


Adam Nayman: Black Book (Paul Verhoeven, 2006)

Resistance is Nubile


David Cairns: Pontypool (Bruce MacDonald, 2008)

Bruce MacDonald and Tony Burgess's Pontypool gave me a vast amount of pleasure at two screenings in the same week, laughing and gasping along with an enthusiastic audience the first time, and then slightly ahead of them the second time.


Ignatiy Vishnevetsky: Death of Neda Agha-Soltan (Unknown, 2009)

The image is terrifying, mundane, political, voyeuristic in the most mysterious and personal way; it's a record of death that, whether intended or not, became available for mass consumption and took on as many meanings as it had viewers.


Doug Cummings: Le fils (Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne, 2002)

The dramatic climax of a slow-burning film; in the wet leaves and mud, vengeance is denied and life is spared.

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