Film. (Best of 2002).
1. Far from Heaven (Todd Haynes) My favorite film of the year. A Douglas Sirk-inspired melodrama that actually works without being campy. How does a director this young know so much?
2. La Chatte deux tetes (Jacques Nolot) This hilarious, entertaining, and authentic film takes place entirely inside a Parisian porn theater. Somebody! Please! Give this movie American distribution!
3. The Piano Teacher (Michael Haneke) Not since Salo have we had a shocker like this. Isabelle Huppert is God.
4. Y Tu Mama Tambien (Alfonso Cuaron) Diego Luna and Gael Garcia Bernal get my vote for screen couple of the year (even if they were drunk and don't remember a thing).
5. Merci pour le chocolat (Claude Chabrol) It's her again. Isabelle Huppert poisons her family, and Claude Chabrol tells her how to do it with cinematic perfection.
6. Gerry (Gus Van Sant) So slow, so formal, so ballsy, so fucking good. Don't sleep with anybody who doesn't love this film.
7. In Praise of Love (Jean-Luc Godard) Right in the middle of a scene the music rises, overlaps, and completely drowns out the dialogue. The most beautiful and radical sound mix of the year.
8. Storytelling (Todd Solondz) The director of Happiness leaves you squirming in your seat, feeling gloriously bad. What more do you want for a ten-dollar admission?
9. Read My Lips (Jacques Audiard) A drab female office worker with a hearing problem falls for French rough trade. Not getting laid never seemed so exciting.
10. Talk to Her (Pedro Almodovar) My kind of romantic comedy--a wise and kind love affair with a girl in a coma. To hell with the Oscars, award Pedro the Nobel Peace Prize.
* 1. Far from Heaven (Todd Haynes) A luscious Sirk pastiche and a thoughtful revival of liberal melodrama.
2. Heaven (Tom Tykwer) Krzysztof Kieslowski's last script suits Run Lola Run director Tykwer, romanticist of couples in flight. Giovanni Ribisi holds the screen with his eyes.
3. I'm Going Home (Manoel de Oliveira) This portrait of an aging actor has a Chekhovian tautness. Ideally seen with Oliveira's affectionate tribute Oporto of My Childhood.
4. Japon (Carlos Reygadas) An intimate study, on scorched 16 mm, of a suicidal outsider and the hatreds rearing at a Mexican village.
5. My Life as McDull (Toe Yuen) This cartoon starts out cute--a pig and his mother eke out a living in Hong Kong--but ends as a melancholy reflection on failure.
6. Russian Ark (Alexander Sokurov) What could have been a stunt--an eighty-plus-minute tracking shot through the Winter Palace--becomes deeply elegiac, gliding from mass spectacle to serenity.
7. Shaolin Soccer/Kung-Fu Soccer (Stephen Chow) Rowdy fun throughout, with CGI used to create live-action cartoons.
8. Spirited Away (Hayao Miyazaki) After a girl's parents turn into pigs, she enters a world of folk spirits. Animated in limpid, scary detail.
9. Take Care of My Cat (Jeong Jae-eun) Five working girls try to keep their high school friendship alive. Loose, heartfelt, and precise enough to characterize its heroines through their cell phone chimes.
10. Talk to Her(Pedro Almodovar) Is Almodovar the only director who cares about plot nowadays? Linking two couples by tragic accidents, he reinvents the medical melodrama (and throws in a bold silent-film pastiche).
* In alphabetical order
1. Spider (David Cronenberg) Adapted from Patrick McGrath's novel, Cronenberg's first-person masterpiece is a reverse ghost story set in a derelict corner of London haunted by the specters of its protagonist's traumatized psyche.
2. In Praise of Love (Jean-Luc Godard) An elegy for love and its failures, it's also an essay on history, memory, and resistance--as sad and beautiful as anything Godard has ever made.
3. * Corpus Callosum (Michael Snow) Existential anxiety goes digital as Snow explodes the boringly secure enclaves of the nuclear family and the office drone.
4. The Fast Runner (Atanarjuat) (Zacharias Kunuk) Kunuk uses twenty-first-century DV to record a myth of origins set in a primeval white-on-white landscape stranger than the Jundland Wastes in Star Wars.
5. La Commune (Paris 1871) (Peter Watkins) Remarkably economical and totally absorbing, Watkins's six-hour docudrama is part Brechtian critique and part Annals school of history.
6. Far from Heaven (Todd Haynes) Haynes does the woman's picture according to Sirk and Ophuls to reveal that the '50s have never gone away.
7. Femme Fatale (Brian De Palma) The flip side of Mulholland Drive is a rogue-female empowerment dream as euphoric as an Angela Carter fairy-tale makeover.
8. The Uncertainty Principle (Manoel de Oliveira) More delirious and true to form than his audience-pleasing I'm Going Home, it's comparable to a Richard Foreman theater spectacle.
9. Auto Focus (Paul Schrader) Schrader's horribly funny indictment of the '60s takes the unfashionable position that the sexual revolution was bad for us--and so was the Sony Porta-Pak.
10. Lovely & Amazing (Nicole Holofcener) Negotiating the dilemmas of female identity, Holofcener's three SoCal sisters are the most winning characters of the year.
1. Merci pour le chocolat (Claude Chabrol) Merci to Chabrol for this master class in the elegant use of mise-en-scene to subtly reveal character and create drama.
2. Talk to Her (Pedro Almodovar) Sex for Almodovar is like murder for Chabrol: It's a key to the mysteries of the human heart.
3. Russian Ark (Alexander Sokurov) A cinematic enigma, an epic piece of Brechtian theater, themes that overlap and build like a nineteenth-century symphony--a haunting experience.
4. Gerry (Gus Van Sant) This existential buddy film is an aesthetic about-face for Van Sant and a welcome return to the mordant humor and outsider poetry of Mala Noche and My Own Private Idaho.
5. Open Hearts (Susanne Bier) This all too believable story about adultery in Copenhagen is a modern classic thanks to the intimacy and realism of the Dogme shooting style.
6. Far from Heaven (Todd Haynes) Haynes's imitation of Sirk's imitation works because the emotions are real and the taboos of race and homosexuality still resonate. Plus it's gorgeous.
7. Punch-Drunk Love (Paul Thomas Anderson) No imitations here: classic screwball comedy made fresh by a punch-drunk style that swings between deadpan and operatic. And families really do act that way.
8. 24 Hour Party People (Michael Winterbottom) Shorn of the usual moralizing and melodrama, this wildly entertaining look back at the Birmingham punk scene trades in verbal wit, inventive editing, and quirky characters.
9. Y Tu Mama Tambien (Alfonso Cuaron) A Mexican road movie that pulses with joie de vivre right up to the bittersweet ending.
10. War Photographer (Christian Frei) A documentary that matches its subject--photojournalist James Nachtwey--in obsessiveness, courage, and moral indignation.
1. Punch-Drunk Love (Paul Thomas Anderson) Anderson's razor-sharp direction incorporates artwork by Jeremy Blake and music by John Brion and Harry Nilsson.
2. Russian Ark (Alexander Sokurov) In the longest single take in film history, Sokurov escorts us though thirty-three rooms in the Hermitage, past 867 actors and three orchestras, as though traversing his country's history in a dream.
3. What's the Time in Vyborg? (Liisa Roberts) Written with teenagers in the formerly Finnish town of Vyborg, Russia, Roberts's film rebuilds this lost city though images of the present, as part of a larger project involving the restoration of Vyborg's Aalto Library.
4. Empire (Paul Sietsema) An exploration of filmic and architectural space though three constructed interiors: a labyrinth, a Rococo room, and Clement Greenberg's New York apartment.
5. Southeast Passage: A Journey to New Blank Spots on the Map of Europe (Ulrike Ottinger) Ottinger charts the forgotten places in the post-1989 splintering of old Europe.
6. The Man Without a Past (Aki Kaurismaki) A powerful portrayal of psychological fragility from the director who shaped the Finnish cinematic climate out of which Eija-Liisa Ahtila emerged.
7. Angel on the Right (Jamshed Usmonov). A searing drama of life in post-Soviet Tajikistan, in a rare film from the region.
8. CREMASTER 3 (Matthew Barney) The final film in the CREMASTER cycle; Barney's oedipal battle with Ken Russell, Roger Daltrey, and Richard Serra.
9. Love is a Treasure (Eija-Liisa Ahtila) Ahtila expresses the trauma of suppressed libidinal rage in a blurring of documentary and fiction.
10. C'est le murmure de l'eau qui chante (Brigitte Cornand) Louise Bourgeois's evident trust in Cornand reveals the artist's daily life with a rare intimacy.
FILM: BEST OF 2002 IAN BIRNIE is director of the film department at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, where he organized film programs on production designer Dante Ferretti and filmmaker Terry Gilliam last fall. His series on film composer Howard Shore begins this month. DAVID BORDWELL is Jacques Ledoux Professor of Film Studies at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. His most recent books are Planet Hong Kong: Popular Cinema and the Art of Entertainment (Harvard University Press, 2000) and, with Kristin Thompson, Film History: An Introduction (McGraw Hill, 1994). CHRISSIE ILES is curator of film and video at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, where she has organized film series by Andy Warhol, Liisa Roberts, Gary Hill, and, most recently, Jack Goldstein (see Reviews). AMY TAUBIN, a contributing editor of Film Comment and Sight and Sound and the author of Taxi Driver (British Film Institute, 2000), teaches at the School of Visual Arts, New York. Filmmaker JOHN WATERS is organizing an exhibitio n of his new photographs for American Fine Arts at P.H.A.G., New York, in March 2003.