6 January 2010

Best Films of the 00s (that I've seen): part two

Children of Men (2006)
Manages to be both an utterly convincing depiction of a terrifying near-future and at the same time look like a rough-and-ready, low budget, hand-held record of events by a doco film crew on location. The Christian allegory in the last reel had me gasping for its fearlessness. For me the last couple of minutes were a disappointment, but boy, while it lasts it's a wild ride.

The Man Who Wasn't There (2001)
A right-angled look at Film Noir. Puts the implicit sadness, loneliness and fatigue of those classics front and centre. It's not perfect, but the result is strange, funny and unsettling.

Punch Drunk Love (2002)
A movie that grows in effect each time you see it, undercutting expectations at all times. It is short, strangely cast with Adam Sandler in the lead, with odd, unexpected musical cues and sound design, together with a preference for those empty void-like spaces we often find around shopping malls, car parks and bad motels, and yet it's animated with an unmistakable spark of life - a love story, for all that.

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (2007)
Shouldn't have worked at all: take a story about the reduction of action and human potential down to the merest flicker and give it to Julian Schnabel, one of the biggest egos in movies. He invests the plight of its main character with a furious will to live, and what should be pure schmaltz is actually quite stark and unsentimental. It also goes further into the use of the subjective camera than any movie I can think of. Orson Welles wanted to do the same thing with Conrad's 'Heart of Darkness' in 1940 but the technology defeated him.

Memento (2001)
Its reverse-time scheme should be a gimmick but it works seamlessly and feels completely intrinsic to the story. Audacious, in a word.

Zodiac (2007)
I would happily agree that this film feels like a failure, that it takes a long time to arrive nowhere in particular, but its steadfast refusal to give easy answers stays in the mind long afterwards. Several scenes are extremely disturbing, not for explicit violence, but for the ordinary banal way terrible things can and do happen anywhere, anytime. For an American film, it most resembles the enigmas of Michael Haneke, and I wouldn't be surprised to hear that he might have been an influence on Director David Fincher.

Lost in Translation (2003)
A rarity in American cinema, a film which resides more in silences than in action. Against a situation of cultural dislocation for the characters, a kind of inter-zone, where normal codes of behaviour don't need to apply (and they are free from social constraints), the decision not to act has consequence. A film for adults.

28 Days Later (2003)
A creepy, believable zombie movie set in a near-future London, beautifully realised on a very low budget.

Amores Perros (2001)
Films with intricate multi-story structures were flavour of the month in the early decade, but this is the best of them, even if the pitfalls are not always avoided. Like the best Latin cinema, it is bold, broadly drawn and intensely emotional.

The Bourne Identity (2002), Supremacy (2004), Ultimatum (2007)
You can take your pick of the Bournes, their virtues are common to all. Exciting, kinetic action which is also cinematic and coherent, unlike so much contemporary action footage ("Put in a dozen cameras from every angle and we'll make sense of it in 'post'"). Thoughtful story in a 1960s paranoid geo-political thriller vein but which is constructed to feel plausible. Bourne himself is a sympathetic character played with restraint by Matt Damon.

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