These are the best films I’ve seen that were released in the United States since 2000. Unfortunately, the list of worthy films I haven’t seen is far more extensive. This embarrassing list includes: Los Angeles Plays Itself, Moolaade, Three Times, The Best of Youth, La Commune, Downfall, Man Push Cart, Old Joy, Beau Travail, Headless Woman, Wendy and Lucy, Goodbye Solo, Ballast, Eloge de l’amour, The Limits of Control, Lorna’s Silence, A Serious Man, Wild Reeds, Star-Spangled to Death, Yi Yi, the White Ribbon, Cache, Profit Motive and the Whispering Wind, What Time is it There? Blissfully Yours, You, The Living, The Vertical Ray of the Sun, The Fantastic Mr. Fox, Martin Arnold’s De-Animated, An Education, Life During Wartime, Dogville, all of which I imagine would have a shot at my own personal list had I seen them. I take myself to take for including only one non-Western film, something I hope to remedy in the future. My full list of 25 is more varied and controversial, but it seemed best to post ten here.
Since I saw it in early 2003, there has not been a serious contender for Werckmeister Harmonies’ top spot. It’s the one film I’ve seen this decade that was instantly worthy of discussion alongside the shortlist of cinema’s masterpieces (Tokyo Story, Vertigo, Citizen Kane, L’atalante, L’Avventura, Rashomon). It’s the one film this decade that I’d have no qualms considering for a Sight and Sound poll. More than that, it’s one of the few films this decade that announces greatness in its first few frames.
If this were strictly a “Best of” list, I’d probably rank Weerasethakul’s Syndromes and a Centruy and Lynch’s Mulholland Dr. above the films of theirs I’ve included. However, I feel in the case of the former that Tropical Malady is both more lyrical and more humane than Syndromes, even if it’s a bit less ambitious. On the subject of Lynch, I consider Inland Empire his greatest achievement, even if it’s not quite as cohesive or immediate as Mulholland Dr. The latter Lynch film strikes what for many is an ideal balance between the farthest reaches of the Lynchian and his unheralded skill as yarn-spinner, while the former represents the purest foray into his obsessions and cinematic skill.
I was fortunate enough to see Tscherkassky present Instructions for a Light and Sound Machine in person in Pittsburgh. If it’s a bit of a cheat to include a film that is hard to see a decent copy of, I’ll say that it’s one of the most exhilarating theatrical experiences of my life, and confirms that Tscherkassky is one of the greatest avant-gardists working today, even if he considers himself a narrative filmmaker. In short: it’s worth seeking out, even if you have to watch an awful copy at Google video.
Though I find myself returning to Gondry’s Be Kind, Rewind and Science of Sleep more often, it’s tough to ignore the impact of Eternal Sunshine and its equal measure of wit and humanity. It’s destined to be the most well-liked film for all parties involved, from Gondry and Kaufman to Winslet, Carrey and Dunst. Its inclusion here is an acknowledgment that a great film can be charming above all, so long as it isn’t stupid or insubstantial.
Punch-Drunk Love, however, is, in my estimation, Anderson’s best, most ambitious feature to date. We’re conditioned to think of cinematic ambition in terms of scale, and in that capacity There Will Be Blood contains more girth than Punch. But if we’d adjust our measurements of grandeur to include idiosyncrasy and heart, then it’s clear that American cinema’s 21st century wunderkind created the decade’s most unabashedly sincere and odd paean to romantic love. Compare that to an (admittedly brilliant) epic landscape picture about American spirituality and industry, and tell me which is more genuinely ambitious, more daringly original.
The Dardenne brothers’ film and Melville’s revelation seem to me less controversial picks that speak for themselves. You could say that the belated Melville picture wasn’t made this decade, but experiencing its first U.S. release four decades after it was created is a joyous opportunity. How can you judge a film unless it’s released?
Larry Clark’s Bully
Theodoros Angelopoulos’ The Weeping Meadow
are the final two (ranked at #9 and #4, respectively), though neither is available for inclusion from The Auteurs’ database, unfortunately. Clark’s film would probably wind up the most controversial pick, but it’s portrait of alienated American youth remains for me the most perceptive of any book or film I’ve seen. I’d venture to say that Clark will be rediscovered in the coming decades and recognized as a truly original American filmmaker of rare perception. Angelopoulos’ film has thankfully and surprisingly popped up on a few other lists by international critics. It remains for me Angelopoulos’ best, deepest and most earnest film. The art film contrivances may aggravate contemporary viewers, but had this film been released in 1967, it’d be a perennial contender.Read less