erasing clouds

2005: My 10 Favorite Films of the Year

by dave heaton

For whatever reason I saw fewer films this year than usual, but still there were at least 10 films that greatly impressed me.

1. Tropical Malady

Thai filmmaker Apichatpong Weerasethakul's habit of mixing fiction and documentary in intriguing ways took a leap forward with Tropical Malady, by bringing mythology and fantasy into the equation in a major way. Weerasethakul takes the mystery and ambiguity present in ancient folk tales and entwines it with the mystery and ambiguity of human relationships and interactions, within a film that's one part experimental film and one part touching, straightforward love story. Both times I saw it I left the theater invigorated, more excited about film's potential for exploration and excitement than I remember ever being before.

2. 2046

Memory is a tricky thing, and so is love. Both are explored through a spiralling mess of stories and recollections, delivered with Wong-Kar Wai and friends' brilliant eye - for details, colors, atmosphere. 2046 manages to being really dizzying and dreamy and confusing, but it also contains stories, characters, and scenes that punch through the maze in a direct way, perfectly communicating feelings like loneliness, regret, and anticipation.

3. Match Point

One of the more involving works of storytelling of the year was this film from Woody Allen. It starts loose, as the tale of a tennis pro from a working-class background who meets and becomes a part of a wealthy London family, eventually becomes a tightly wound suspense film, and along the way is driven both by Allen's usual acute sense of scene-setting and some overarching ideas that become increasingly more pertinent.

4. Broken Flowers

Like a road trip that goes nowhere, a soap opera where nothing much happens, a melodrama that offers no solutions or answers, Broken Flowers is very much in Jim Jarmusch's tradition of evading Hollywood conventions while making movies obviously inspired by cinematic history.

5. The Squid and the Whale

Director Noah Baumbach's comedies Kicking and Screaming and Mr. Jealousy were also astute portraits of human behavior, but nothing like the much darker, pretty much autobiographical The Squid and the Whale, a moving look at divorce.

6. Not on the Lips

Alain Resnais, whose career as a director stretches back to 1936 and includes acknowledged classics like Hiroshima, Mon Amour, Night and Fog and Last Year at Marienbad, apparently no longer has the clout to get his latest film released in the US, as this went straight to video and only belatedly opened on a few screens. Perhaps it's because this theatrical, set-in-the-1920s movie musical was perceived as a trifle, nothing serious. It's a shame because there is a lot of interest going on here, from the very New Wave way that the film draws attention to its film-ness to the very real emotions and political issues that get raised.

7. The Girl From Monday

A digital-video feature similar in look and tone to his 1998 apocalyptic tale The Book of Life, the low-budget science-fiction film The Girl From Monday uniquely probes important modern-day issues of freedom, democracy, and corporate domination, while remaining within Hartley's always distinct style of filmmaking.

8. Me and You and Everyone We Know

Light in tone, yet with serious undercurrents, Miranda July's debut feature-length film takes on the difficulties of human interaction and communication, while as a film it both retains that same sense of distance and breaks through it.

9. Howl's Moving Castle

Another fanciful yet forceful fable from Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki, this time using an British children's tale as a starting-off point. It's set in war time, and includes of course a host of magical circumstances and unusual characters, while along the way presenting a case for diving headlong into life and opening yourself up to others.

10. Funny Ha Ha

Funny Ha Ha is movie about twenty-somethings in search of their place in life that is so low-budget in look and natural in its storytelling/characterizations that it often felt like I was watching home movies of friends and acquaintances. At times I found it more interesting than entertaining, especially for the way that using non-professional actors and run-of-the-mill settings and situations made for a film which felt 'real' without seeming self-consciously aimed at being so. That resemblance to real life, and the slight plot, almost made me shrug my shoulders in indifference at times, yet days later I was still thinking about it, and reading up on director Andrew Bujalski and his next film, Mutual Appreciation.

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