Notable Films of the Noughties

18 12 2009

Walking the walk. 'Elephant'

And so here, with all of the usual caveats, and in no particular order, is a list of films that have moved, excited and inspired me over the last ten years.

The Great

Elephant (Gus Van Sant, 2003)

A long, lazy stroll around the scene of a gathering storm, Elephant uncovers both the very particular, private world of the American teenager and the kind of wider social malaise that finds an outlet in the occasional high school massacre. It’s an angry film in some ways, but also by turns calm, dreamlike, and level-headed, and filled with unforgettable moments (that scene with the bulimic girls: need I say more?).

Syndromes and a Century / Sang sattawat (Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2006)

I’ve said it elsewhere on this ‘blog recently, but to my mind Apichatpong Weerasethakul (or ‘Joe’ to his friends) is one of the few contemporary film-makers who’s genuinely interested in finding new and exciting possibilities in cinema. This 2006 film tells mirrored stories of love in a rural and an urban Thai hospital, and is my favourite of his. Like all of Apichatpong’s work, the film is split into two halves, with scenes that unfold with a gentle, unforced naturalism, and much to think about once you’ve left the cinema. If you let it (and you should) Syndromes… will hypnotise you. In a good way, of course…

Hidden / Caché (Michael Haneke, 2005)

A thriller of sorts from everyone’s favourite Bad Santa Michael Haneke. Here the subject matter is class and colonial guilt, and the director’s gaze has never been harsher. Juliette Binoche is intense and French, Daniel Auteuil is conflicted, and the film itself is a veritable puzzle box for the unpicking. Also contains possibly the most shocking cut (so to speak) in Noughties cinema. Ouch!

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Happy Haneke

12 11 2009
The White Ribbon

'The White Ribbon'

OK, I admit it: that title doesn’t make a lot of sense. Pun-notwithstanding, there are very few film-makers working today who are less likely to branch out into light romantic comedy than Michael Haneke. In the last decade, with work like The Piano Teacher, Code Unknown and Hidden, the Austrian director has established a reputation for himself as the master of certain kind of austere, serious and confrontational cinema that is about as far from Hollywood schmalz as it’s possible to get.

This week sees the UK release of Haneke’s latest film, The White Ribbon (Das weisse Band), in which he tells the story of a small German farming community plagued by a series of unexplained outrages sometime before the outbreak of World War One. A barn is burned down, a tripwire throws a doctor from his horse, and the local baron’s son is beaten by assailants unknown. The powers-that-be – the baron, the pastor, the doctor – respond to this anarchy with a wave of violent discipline against their social inferiors and the children of the village. These latter will, we realise, grow up to form part of the Nazi generation, and Haneke has spoken of setting out to explore the movement’s roots in the kind of repressive, petty and suspicious community portrayed in the film. 

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