1 Flowers of Shanghai Hou Hsiao-hsien, Taiwan
Hou’s third masterpiece of the decade—following The Puppetmaster and Goodbye South, Goodbye—is a story about storytelling that takes a highly material view of prostitution in the course of a near mystical reverie on the nature of film. Sound off-putting? The movie was shown eight times during the Walter Reade’s Hou retrospective and every screening was sold out. Not since the Museum of Modern Art’s 1985 Tarkovsky retro had an “unreleased” filmmaker drawn such crowds—evidence that a sizable chunk of local film mavens is far ahead of the local media.
2 Khrustaliov, My Car! Alexei Gherman, Russia
Every 10-best list has its rules. Mine is that if a movie has three public screenings, it’s eligible. This phantasmagoric account of Stalin’s passing may never get a commercial release but it was shown twice by two Russian series.
3 Topsy-Turvy Mike Leigh, U.K.
This is the last 20th-century movie; Leigh already got the millennium out of his system with Naked. Hail and farewell to October, the gutsy production-distribution indie that made this movie but didn’t live to see it triumph.
4 Rosetta Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Belgium
The best Marxist remake of a Bresson movie ever.
5 eXistenZ David Cronenberg, Canada
Great props, great gags (that can make you gag), this is a parody of The Matrix, avant la lettre—being as it’s an art film, Miramax released under its genre label.
6 Magnolia Paul Thomas Anderson, U.S.
It isn’t perfect, but there’s a surfeit here of actual ideas.
7 Holy Smoke Jane Campion, Australia
Ditto and ditto.
8 Divine Arturo Ripstein, Mexico
Another director of the decade (and not just in his native Mexico), Ripstein made one of his fugitive New York appearances with Divine, a comedy about the end of cinema as collective fantasy. Incredibly frustrating that this hilarious and soulful movie could only be seen (and only three times) as part of the Walter Reade’s late-summer “Latin Beat!” series.
9 The Hole Tsai Ming-liang, Taiwan
Tsai’s most distilled, droll, deftly realized allegory—an apocalyptic comedy with numbers by Grace Chang and intimations of Jacques Tati—turned up at Cinema Village as part of the “2000 Seen By . . . ” series and went largely unreviewed.
10 Being John Malkovich Spike Jonze, U.S.
You gotta love it—or at least I do—despite that stupid final subplot.
Two runners-up: The belatedly released Close–Up (Abbas Kiarostami, Iran) and wonderfully scurrilous Dick (Andrew Fleming, U.S.). Fifteen honorable mentions: After Life (Hirokazu Kore-eda, Japan); All About My Mother (Pedro Almodóvar, Spain); The Apple (Samira Makhmalbaf, Iran); Autumn Tale (Eric Rohmer, France); The Blair Witch Project (Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez, U.S.); Boys Don’t Cry (Kimberly Peirce, U.S.); Cabaret Balkan (Goran Paskaljevic, Yugoslavia); Dr. Akagi (Shohei Imamura, Japan); Election (Alexander Payne, U.S.); I Stand Alone (Gaspar Noé, France); The Iron Giant (Brad Bird, U.S.); The Muse (Albert Brooks, U.S.); Photographer (Dariusz Jablonski, Poland); Secret Defense (Jacques Rivette, France); Sleepy Hollow (Tim Burton, U.S.); and the scene from Lovers on the Bridge (Leos Carax, France).
Ten Best of the Decade
alphabetical, only one film per director
Conspirators of Pleasure Jan Svankmajer, Czech Republic
Crash David Cronenberg, Canada
D’Est Chantal Akerman, Belgium
Fallen Angels Wong Kar-wai, Hong Kong
Lessons of Darkness Werner Herzog, Germany
The Long Day Closes Terence Davies, U.K.
Sátántangó Bela Tarr, Hungary
The Puppetmaster Hou Hsiao-hsien, Taiwan
Side/Walk/Shuttle Ernie Gehr, U.S.
Tribulation 99 Craig Baldwin, U.S.
Second Ten: Dead Man (Jim Jarmusch, U.S.); Exotica (Atom Egoyan, Canada); The Georgetown Loop (Ken Jacobs, U.S.); GoodFellas (Martin Scorsese, U.S.); Histoires du Cinéma (Jean-Luc Godard, Switzerland); Irma Vep (Olivier Assayas, France); Khrustaliov, My Car! (Alexei Gherman, Russia); Mother and Son (Alexander Sokurov, Russia); Topsy-Turvy (Mike Leigh, U.K.); Unforgiven (Clint Eastwood, U.S.).
Films of the Century
in chronological order
The Birth of a Nation D.W. Griffith
Les Vampires Louis Feuillade
The Man With a Movie Camera Dziga Vertov
Rose Hobart Joseph Cornell
Rules of the Game Jean Renoir
Pather Panchali Satyajit Ray
Vertigo Alfred Hitchcock
Au Hasard Balthazar Robert Bresson
Two or Three Things I Know About Her Jean-Luc Godard
Shoah Claude Lanzmann