Best Films of 2008

This year, for the first time, I submitted an official Top 10 list, abiding by the “one-week theatrical run in the States” rule. The full write-up can be found at The Auteurs’ Notebook.

  1. Still Life (Jia Zhang-ke)
  2. In the City of Sylvia (Jose Luis Guerin)
  3. Flight of the Red Balloon (Hou Hsiao-hsien)
  4. A Christmas Tale (Arnaud Desplechin)
  5. Wendy and Lucy (Kelly Reichardt)
  6. Paraguayan Hammock (Paz Encina)
  7. Love Songs (Christoph Honore)
  8. The Last Mistress (Catherine Breillat)
  9. Woman on the Beach (Hong Sang-soo)
  10. The Romance of Astree and Celadon (Eric Rohmer)

In the three weeks since I submitted that piece I’ve caught up with a couple other well-reviewed films, and I suspect that one of them, Heartbeat Detector (Nicolas Klotz), would have bumped Rohmer from the list had I seen it sooner. I’m eager to watch it again.

RR (Benning, 2008)

Favorite New Films I Saw in 2008

As I mentioned in my write-up for The Auteurs, these year-end lists offer a really frustrating glimpse into the state of film distribution. If I hadn’t spent ten days in Toronto, the list below would include one film, Love Songs, which, it’s perhaps worth noting, played at TIFF ‘07 and which I saw more than a year later when it finally found its way to DVD. Someday, hopefully, Senses of Cinema will post their next issue (it’s already more than a month late), which will include my essay about many of these films.

  1. RR (James Benning)
  2. When It was Blue (Jennifer Reeves)
  3. 35 Shots of Rum (Claire Denis)
  4. Liverpool (Lisandro Alonso)
  5. Revanche (Gotz Spielman)
  6. A Christmas Tale (Arnaud Desplechin)
  7. Wendy and Lucy (Kelly Reichardt)
  8. Winter / Sarabande (Nathaniel Dorsky)
  9. Horizontal Boundaries (Pat O’Neill)
  10. Love Songs (Christoph Honore)
  11. Birdsong (Albert Serra)
  12. Salamandra (Pablo Aguero)
  13. The Beaches of Agnes (Agnes Varda)
  14. Still Walking (Hirokazu Kore-eda)
  15. Hunger (Steve McQueen)

The Bad and the Beautiful (Minnelli, 1952)

Favorite Discoveries of 2008

This list is a lot more fun. Older films that I saw for the first time in ’08. Limited to one film per director, listed in alphabetical order. This was a great year for silent films — starting with the Ford at Fox boxset, followed by a trip to San Francisco for the Silent Film Festival in July, and ending with a brief trip through Murnau. With the recent release of the Murnau, Borzage and Fox set, I suspect 2009 will be a good one, too.

  • The Bad and the Beautiful (Vincent Minnelli, 1952)
  • Esther Kahn (Arnaud Desplechin, 2000)
  • Faust (F. W. Murnau, 1926)
  • Four Sons (John Ford, 1928)
  • Jujiro (Teinosuke Kinugasa, 1928)
  • Killer of Sheep (Charles Burnett, 1977)
  • Late Spring (Yasujiro Ozu, 1949)
  • Life on Earth (Abderrahmane Sissako, 1998)
  • The Lovers on the Bridge (Leos Carax, 1999)
  • Los Muertos (Lisandro Alonso, 2004)
  • Platform (Jia Zhang-ke, 2000)
  • ‘Round Midnight (Bertrand Tavernier, 1986)
  • Sans Soleil (Chris Marker, 1983)
  • The Trial (Orson Welles, 1962)
  • The Unknown (Tod Browning, 1927)
  • Vers Mathilde (Claire Denis, 2005)
  • Young Girls of Rochefort (Jacques Demy, 1967)