Best Films of 2009

I’ve now seen about 40 of the point-earning films from the 2009 IndieWire Critics Survey, which seems a reasonable enough number. I’m not even sure how IndieWire qualifies a film as a 2009 release, although given the appearance of Sokurov’s The Sun (which I saw in September 2005!), I assume they go by the one-week theatrical release rule. I’ve taken the coward’s route and included eleven films because I just couldn’t decide which one to leave off. All in all, I’d say it was a good but far-from-great year. As one guide, none of these films made my Favorite Films of the Decade list, and I can’t imagine any of them will gain greatly in stature over time. (Although after a single recent viewing of The Headless Woman, I wouldn’t be surprised if I later come to the realization that it’s Martel’s masterpiece. Still thinking on that one.)

  1. 35 Shots of Rum (Claire Denis) [ more ]
  2. Revanche (Gotz Spielmann) [ more ]
  3. Munyurangabo (Lee Isaac Chung) [ more ]
  4. Liverpool (Lisandro Alonso) [ more ]
  5. The Headless Woman (Lucrecia Martel)
  6. Police, Adjective (Corneliu Porumboiu)
  7. Birdsong (Albert Serra) [ more ]
  8. Fantastic Mr. Fox (Wes Anderson)
  9. Duplicity (Tony Gilroy)
  10. Two Lovers (James Gray)
  11. Summer Hours (Olivier Assayas)

Phantoms of Nabua (Apitchatpong Weerasethakul, 2009)

Favorite New Films I Saw in 2009

Distribution rules be damned! I saw about 80 films this year that qualify under this category, which is a catch-all: If I saw a recently-produced film in 2009, and it was my first opportunity to see it, then it qualifies. So I’m working from a deep pool here: shorts and feature-length films; narratives, essays, documentaries, and the avant-garde; DVDs, festival films, theatrical releases, museum installations, and, in one case, a pre-release screener. From this vantage, 2009 looks a hell of a lot better.

  1. Phantoms of Nabua / A Letter to Uncle Boonmee (Apitchatpong Weerasethakul) [ more ]
  2. Bluebeard (Catherine Breillat) [ more ]
  3. Face (Tsai Ming-liang) [ more ]
  4. To Die Like a Man (João Pedro Rodrigues)
  5. Let Each One Go Where He May (Ben Russell)
  6. Lucky Life (Lee Isaac Chung)
  7. The Headless Woman (Lucrecia Martel)
  8. Our Beloved Month of August (Miguel Gomes)
  9. Wild Grass (Alain Resnais)
  10. In Comparison (Harun Farocki)

The Long Voyage Home

Favorite Discoveries of 2009

Were it not for my “one film per director” rule, this list would likely consist of nine John Ford films and Jeanne Dielman. Instituting the rule makes it more representative of my movie-watching year, though. Along with the thirteen Ford films I saw, I also went through a brief ’80s phase last spring, when I made a couple great discoveries, and there were a couple hold-overs from last year’s trip through the Borzage and Murnau DVD releases.

  • 7th Heaven (Frank Borzage, 1927)
  • City Girl (F. W. Murnau, 1930)
  • Emergency Kisses (Philippe Garrel, 1989)
  • Grown Ups (Mike Leigh, 1980) [ more ]
  • Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (Chantal Akerman, 1975)
  • The Long Voyage Home (John Ford, 1940)
  • Loulou (Maurice Pialat, 1980) [ more ]
  • The Reckless Moment (Max Ophuls, 1949)
  • Tren de Sombras (Jose Luis Guerin, 1997) [ more ]
  • Voyage en deuce (Michel Deville, 1980) [ more ]