Pocket Cinephile's Top Ten Films of 2008
1. Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Woody Allen, 2008
The tangled, cynical fatalism of Woody Allen's recent oeuvre is again present in this effortless tale of amour fou, but is here shot through with the director's signature wit and comedic machinations.
2. Le Voyage du ballon rouge (Flight of the Red Balloon), Hsiao-hsien Hou, 2007
Hou's is a patient, near-magical film. The director's staid, elegant compositions, alongside a truly bravura performance from Juliette Binoche, contribute to an aching, unflinching naturalism that permeates every corner of the film.
3. The Wrestler, Darren Aronofsky, 2008
Aronofsky admirably and tactfully cedes the floor to his leading man, as Mickey Rourke positively commands the screen in this stirring character study that harkens to Huston's similarly colorful Fat City.
4. Une vieille maîtresse (The Last Mistress), Catharine Breillat, 2007
Breillat's film, following in relatively close succession from Pascale Ferran's Lady Chatterly and Jacques Rivette's The Duchess of Langeais (see # 7), confirms a recent and quite specific trend in French cinema towards lavish period epics of forbidden love. Much as with those films, Breillat creates a patient work that allows for her characters' indiscretions (notably punctuated by the director's trademark carnality) to unspool in an artfully and fully rendered world.
5. La Fille coupée en deux (Girl Cut in Two), Claude Chabrol, 2007
Chabrol's latest, which sharply recalls Woody Allen's recent dark explorations (see # 1), loses focus somewhat in its middle act but nonetheless stands up as another pillar in the French master's protean filmography.
6. Mister Lonely, Harmony Korine, 2007
Korine's schizoid farce is an experimental feast, a meditation on performance, faith, and the nature of entertainment that, while faintly recalling Guy Maddin (see # 9) in its orchestrated delusions, remains a singular fractured vision.
7. Ne Touchez pas la Hache (The Duchess of Langeais), Jacques Rivette, 2007
The ever masterful Rivette offers Balzac's stark tale of ill-fated passion with a style most distinctly his, employing a stately mise-en-scene, mannered, elegant compositions, and a host of deceptively experimental flourishes.
8. In Bruges, Martin, McDonagh, 2008
McDonagh's exceedingly dark hit man genre exercise traffics in odd, stuttering rhythms. As such, the film's success derives from its counter-intuitive strangeness.
9. My Winnipeg, Guy Maddin, 2007
Exploring much the same hockey and hairdressers psycho-biographical territory as his 2003 film Cowards Bend the Knee, Maddin's docu-essay-fantasia is typically entrancing, if a bit more straight-laced, relatively speaking, than his usual fare.
10. Un conte de Noel (Christmas Tale), Arnaud Desplechin, 2008
Desplechin's domestic epic is a glorious tangle of neuroses and insinuations, all accented by the director's staccato rhythms. Thankfully, Desplechin's dysfunctional Vuillard clan is not so precious, hopeless, or insufferable as the creations of stateside contemporaries Noah Baumbach and the like.