Friday, January 1, 2010

I Thought Nought: The Essentials

The decade's finally over. Me talking about it? ...Not so much.

Moments and Thoughts on
the Best of the Noughts


Mulholland Dr. (2001)
Directed by David Lynch

David Lynch's deliriously fascinating and addictive fever dream aloft the City of Angels boasts an epic breakthrough from a sexy/scorned Naomi Watts. One of Lynch's finest cinematic experiences and artistic expressions. Gorgeous, ominous and wholly original; it's an impossible puzzle with all its pieces perfectly in place.

In the Mood for Love (2001)
Directed by Wong Kar-Wai

Sensuous longing of such exquisite craft and resonance. Tony Leung and Maggie Cheung spark one of the most haunting and passionate romances to grace the silver screen, without even allowing their romance to ignite. Wong Kar-Wai's enveloping aura looks back on a love in full bloom stifled in its time and place. Painful and majestic in its emotional and visual restraint, it's one of the greatest love stories ever told, and yet barely spoken.

Before Sunset (2004)
Directed by Richard Linklater

Richard Linklater's sequel-de-resistance picks up the love connection of Jesse and Celine with startling ease from its predecessor Before Sunrise, then adds to and extends it with a poignancy, maturity and immaculate sense of possibility. One flirtatious, funny and sobering stroll through Paris reveals characters that feel entirely real, with a spark that lingers even stronger nine years later. Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke bring immeasurable authenticity and charm to their romantic reunion, no cutaways to the Eiffel Tower necessary. Finally a romantic comedy that makes love and connection seem like more than a requisite ending.

Y tu Mamá También (2002)
Directed by Alfonso Cuarón

Bawdy sex comedy and coming-of-age drama gain a dose of maturity, melancholy and cultural perspective -- not to mention a deeper understanding of characters initially driven by getting their dicks wet. Alfonso Cuarón's film feels like a journey of the unexpected, taking one by surprise with a light, naturalistic, and pulsating energy underlined by heavy, unspoken emotions. By the time the film and its characters reach their climax, there's a whole new way of looking at things.

Brokeback Mountain (2005)
Directed by Ang Lee

Like Ang Lee's best films it's both sparing and superbly grand - if not in the majestic mountain vistas than in its thematic and emotional reach. Steeped in repression and yearning, it toys with its American West origins to reveal a love story that's both roped in tradition and completely free rein. Like the inner turmoil of its doomed lovers, the film has an ache at its center that remains long past its misty-eyed final frames, much due to the deeply felt performances of Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal. It's classic romance with a literal bent, with an elegant restraint matched only by its raw passion. "If you can't fix it, you've gotta stand it." Lucky for us, this one's pretty flawless.

Dogville (2004)
Directed by Lars von Trier

Lars von Trier bares his teeth, chains you to your seat and smashes your Hummel figurines. This audacious and inventive approach to stripped-down cinema is about as big-scale in its ideas as anything this decade -- another vicious think-piece to follow von Trier's equal parts stunning and savage Dancer in the Dark (another decade favorite). Dogville looks into a seemingly sweet small town and the sourest sides of human nature. It's not the anti-American tirade many have criticized, rather a worthwhile indictment of society as a whole. Its satire is scathing, funny and sensationally dark, told with remarkable innovation and yet another daring and devastating turn by Nicole Kidman. A bit like a cinematic Our Town, populated by Depression-era scum of the earth.

More I Thought Nought (Best of the Decade) entries here.


Paul Martin said...

Mulholland Dr. wholly original? I thought it was his least original film, because in essence (thematically), it's a remake of Lost Highway. Not that I'm criticising, because I love both. The whole concept of fractured identity was then further pushed to the max in Inland Empire.

Nice selection of films: Y tu mama tambien is my first and favourite Cuaron film experience. Ang Lee and Richard Linklater are always good value.

Adam said...
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