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Best of the '90s: Film.

CINDY SHERMAN, artist: Thomas Vinterberg's brilliant The Celebration (1998) is especially important because it signals the future of the medium, away from Hollywood's excesses.

JOHN WATERS, filmmaker: During the 1994 Cannes Film Festival was sick in bed with the flu on the night Pulp Fiction premiered. Suddenly, from blocks away I heard the most stupendous roar of approval from the opening-night audience. I was so pissed to have missed the night Quentin Tarantino became an instant cinematic icon. But once I saw the movie I knew he deserved it. I guess you could call me a Quentin-hag.

KIMBERLY PEIRCE, filmmaker (Boys Don't Cry): Zhang Yimou's Raise the Red Lantern (1991). I loved the film's reds, the scene at dawn in the courtyard lit with Chinese lanterns--and I fell in love with Gong Li.

DOUG AITKEN, artist: Jafar Panahi's The White Balloon (1995). I liked this Iranian film's directness, which is especially pleasurable given the intense indirection of most contemporary art.

RICHARD PRICE, novelist/screenwriter (Clockers): Carl Franklin's One False Move (1991). Clean and sharp, it was a perfect throwback to the double-bill films of the '40s. An interracial balancing act of compassion and intimacy, with a thriller's sense of the inexorability of violence.

BELL HOOKS, social theorist: Ma vie en rose. For me, Alain Berliner's 1997 film expressed the intense anxiety we have about difference--in this case, a boy's sexual difference.

KAREN COOPER, director of Film Forum: Matthew Barney's "Cremaster" series (1995-). The films' dense, erotically charged, mythopoeic imagery updates C.S. Lewis's vision, moving someplace obscure and dangerous, a world beyond good and evil.

DAVID SALLE, artist: Happy Together (1997) by Wong Kar-wai. The first film in the '90s to remind you of watching Godard.

JONATHAN ROSENBAUM, film critic: Abbas Kiarostami's Life, and Nothing More (1991), A Taste of Cherry (1997), and The Wind Will Carry Us (1999). Three prodigiously beautiful features that redefine cinematic economy--in several different ways at once.

RICHARD FLOOD, curator: Safe (Todd Haynes, 1995) and The Rapture (Michael Tolkin, 1991). Afraid of engaging with the everyday, both protagonists cocooned themselves, in films diagnosing ailments so symptomatic of the '90s: anomie and loss of physical and spiritual stimulus. I love The Rapture's Mimi Rodgers: She survived Tom Cruise, after all.


1. The Wonderful, Horrible Life of Leni Riefenstahl (Ray Muller, 1993) It doesn't answer the eternal question, "Did she sit on Hitler's face?" but this hilarious portrait proves that evil doesn't have to be banal: It can also be insane entertainment.

2. Happiness (Todd Solondz, 1998) Marks the welcome return of Louise Lasser to films that can match her anguishing drollery.

3. Being John Malkovich Spike Jonze, 1999) Anybody who doesn't adore this movie is brain-dead.

4. Crash (David Cronenberg, 1996) A banquet of prosthetically augmented homoerotica and disfigurement fetishism that made me want to smash into a Buick the minute I left the theater.

5. Go (Doug Liman, 1999) Pulp Fiction for people with an actual sense of humor.

6. Flirting with Disaster (David O. Russell, 1996) I like everything this director does. He's probably a monster.

7. Summer of Sam (Spike Lee, 1999 John Leguizamo's the only one of those one-man bores who can actually act in a movie with more than one character in it.

8. Fight Club (David Fincher, 1999) A brilliant film about consumer society that stupid people think is more violent than the average episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

9. The New Age (Michael Tolkin, 1992) Judy Davis and Peter Weller as the Laurel and Hardy of dysfunction.

10. Ed Wood (Tim Burton, 1994) A loving re-creation of a time when failure in the movie business had its compensatory charms for raving eccentrics who drank too much.


1. The Second Circle (Aleksandr Sokurov, 1990) There's no director active today whose films I admire as much. The Days of Eclipse (1988) is, I think, his greatest film.

2. Close Up (Abbas Kiarostami, 1990) Iranian cinema has been the great revelation of the last decade. Close Up is my (and, I've heard, Kiarostami's) favorite of his films.

3. The Stone (Aleksandr Sokurov, 1992) Chekhov's ghost features in this film meditation about a night at Yalta's Chekhov Museum.

4. Naked (Mike Leigh, 1993) I've been a Mike Leigh fan since 1977's Abigail's Party (as good as Moliere). Naked is, I suppose, his deepest film.

5. The Puppetmaster (Hou Hsiao-hsien, 1993) Set in the '30s and '40s. The Taiwanese director is just as marvelous as everyone says.

6. Satantango (Bela Tarr, 1994) Devastating, enthralling for every minute of its seven hours. I'd be glad to see it every year for the rest of my life.

7. Lamerica (Gianni Amelio, 1994) Epic, "realistic," true--a great, moral film, and perhaps the saddest film I've ever seen.

8. Joan the Maid (Jacques Rivette, 1994) A masterpiece. Rivette, alone among the great filmmakers of his generation, has not changed or lowered his sights. Sandrine Bonnaire isn't Falconetti, but she is Joan of Arc.

9. Through the Olive Trees (Abbas Kiarostami, 1994) Brilliantly made, irresistibly touching.

10. Goodbye South, Goodbye (Hou Hsiao-hsien, 1996) Hoodlum-losers in the new Taiwan. As amazing as his stately, subtle, beautiful Flowers of Shanghai (1998), set in the 1880s.


1. My Own Private Idaho (Gus Van Sant, 1991) Having restricted my list to English-language narrative features, I begin with one of the most idiosyncratic and heartrending.

2. Jo-Jo at the Gate of the Lions (Britta Sjogren, 1992) This life of a modern Joan of Arc heralded the arrival of a vastly promising voice.

3. Thirty-two Short Films About Glenn Gould (Francois Girard, 1993) No finer proof that the best biopics unfold episodically by emotional themes rather than linear narrative.

4. The Bed You Sleep In (Jon Jost, 1993) Haunting portraits of a logging town in decline propel this anatomy of a family's disintegration.

5. Land and Freedom (Kenneth Loach, 1995) Historical tapestry unerringly authentic at its spiritual center.

6. Safe (Todd Haynes, 1995) A masterpiece of intricate ideas and dense tableaux from a limitless talent.

7. Angela (Rebecca Miller, 1995) Languorous rhythms and painterly images (by cinematographer Ellen Kuras) draw us into a girl's inner life with the intimacy of a Sally Mann photo.

8. Grace of My Heart (Allison Anders, 1996) Fine music, varied and energetic performances, and an epic sweep give this ambitious, imperfect work the stamp of greatness.

9. Kundun (Martin Scorsese, 1997) The courage to convey with quiet density a great man's journey reaffirmed Scorsese's humanism and skill.

10. The Thin Red Line (Terrence Malick, 1998) The most poetic "big" film since 2001, flawed but unsurpassable.


1. Conspirators of Pleasure (Jan Svankmajer, 1996) The last Surrealist presents his obscure object of desire--a radical mix of Sade, Freud, and Rube Goldberg.

2. Crash (David Cronenberg, 1996) Uncompromising in its melancholia.

3. D'Est (Chantal Akerman, 1993) On the road and into the void.

4. Fallen Angels (Wong Kar-wai, 1995) Another long goodbye, the epitome of neo-New Wave cinephilia.

5. Lessons of Darkness (Werner Herzog, 1992) The Gulf War was a movie in itself. This stunning documentary--already in danger of being lost--finds Revelations in the war's aftermath.

6. The Long Day Closes (Terence Davies, 1992) The movies are dead, long live the movies.

7. The Puppetmaster (Hou Hsiao-hsien, 1993) Hou is the director of the decade. I could just as well have listed Goodbye South, Goodbye (1996) or Flowers of Shanghai (1998).

8. Satantango (Bela Tarr, 1994) Seven hours on the Puszta. If there were only one movie...

9. Side/Walk/Shuttle (Ernie Gehr, 1991) The real vertigo, made at some hazard to the filmmaker's health (and without permission) on a glass hotel elevator overlooking San Francisco.

10. Tribulation 99: Alien Anomalies Under America (Craig Baldwin, 1992) The ultimate expression of the fin de siecle, a parody of JFK avant la lettre, the quintessential expression of the tabloid decade, national entertainment state, life the movie, conspiracy of pleasure, or whatever you choose to call the spectacle.


1. The Last Bolshevik (Chris Marker, 1992) Farewell to the twentieth century: remembering the casualties of history, their dreams of a future that never came to pass.

2. Dead Man (Jim Jarmusch, 1995) The slippery, totemic poetry of America, wherein an innocent named William Blake receives his last rites from an Indian called Nobody.

3. Swordsman II (Ching Siu-tung, 1991) In the realm of the senses--beautifully convulsive, irresistibly phantasmagorical.

4. Lost Highway (David Lynch, 1997) Sex, displacement, metamorphosis; out of Kafka by way of In a Lonely Place.

5. Underground (Emir Kusturica, 1995) A surreal-politik wedding of comedy and nightmare, holding its reception in the shock corridors of power.

6. Ashes of Time (Wong Kar-wai, 1994) Contemplative panoramas, eroticized ennui, and good old-fashioned Hong Kong movie mania.

7. Irma Vep (Olivier Assayas, 1996) Cinema as love letter.

8. The Wife (Tom Noonan, 1996) Scenes from a marriage of Kieslowski and Woody Allen. A perfectly shaped, exquisitely acted, devastatingly observed comedy of psychological manners.

9. The Addiction (Abel Ferrara, 1995) Of the myriad '90s neo-pulp fictions, this was the messiest, the most suggestive, and the most terrifying, held together by Lili Taylor's stricken bitterness and a single spat-out epithet: "Collaborator."

10. Zentropa (Lars von Trier, 1991) More about collaboration: complicity as the secret language of the twentieth century.
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Publication:Artforum International
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Dec 1, 1999
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