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Film: best of 2004.

JOHN WATERS

1. Tarnation (Jonathan Caouette) The best movie of the year. A scarily original underground documentary about a boy (the director) who saves his own life with a video camera. A truly sensational debut.

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2. Baadasssss! (Mario Van Peebles) Not since Ed Wood has there been a film that captures the "making of a movie" with such a first-hand knowledge and love of showmanship.

3. The Mother (Roger Michell) A recently widowed grandmother turns horny and has a secret affair with her daughter's much younger, loutish boyfriend. Gerontophilia never seemed so exciting.

4. Bad Education (Pedro Almodovar) Even the Catholic Church and child abuse can be joyous in Almodovar's hands. Isn't Pedro simply the greatest director in the world?

5. The Brown Bunny (Vincent Gallo) All that beautiful scenery behind the bug-splattered windshield is sheer genius. I wish I'd seen the longer version.

6. The Dreamers (Bernardo Bertolucci) Everybody always looks sexy in a left-wing riot. Maybe they're even sexier when they stay home instead and have threesomes. Especially with a sound track this great.

7. Kill Bill, Volume 2 (Quentin Tarantino) Being buried alive with Uma and Quentin was the thrill ride of the season. Coolest end-credits of the decade.

8. The Saddest Music in the World (Guy Maddin) A maddeningly arty musical that will haunt your memory, even if you hated the movie. Maddin puts the capital A in Auteur.

9. Before Sunset (Richard Linklater) Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy walk around Paris and talk. That's it. The only romantic comedy I've ever loved.

10. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Michel Gondry) Jim Carrey used to look like Tex Watson's mug shot, but in this film he's the handsomest man in Hollywood. Most Artforum readers will want to have sex with him.

John Waters just released A John Waters Christmas on New Line Records.

AMY TAUBIN

1. Before Sunset (Richard Linklater) Fragile, passionate, exquisitely wrought, Linklater's modern epistemology of love is a perfect movie.

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2. The Big Red One (Samuel Fuller) The posthumous restoration of Fuller's semiautobiographical World War II picture is "termite art," but on an epic scale.

3. Infernal Affairs trilogy (Andrew Lau and Alan Mak) An identity-blasted Hong Kong cops-and-gangsters saga that combines the glamour and moral conundrums of Jean-Pierre Melville's policiers with the tragic weight of The Godfather.

4. A Talking Picture (Manoel de Oliveira) Angry and despairing, it's one of those great late works in which the artist puts aside ego and aesthetic concerns because he has nothing left to lose.

5. Primer (Shane Carruth) The most exciting first feature by a US director since Richard Kelly's similarly time-warped Donnie Darko.

6. Cowards Bend the Knee (Guy Maddin) Hockey players and hairdressers, silent comedy and shadow-drenched '30s horror flicks collide in a deliriously creepy castration fantasy.

7. Cafe Lumiere (Hou Hsiao-hsien) HHH pays tribute to Ozu in a wondrously radiant film that, rather than mimicking the master, finds the ways he might have been compelled by the face and pace of contemporary Tokyo.

8. Fahrenheit 9/11 (Michael Moore) Apparently it changed Hollywood's attitude toward documentaries more than it did voters' minds. Either way, it's one for the history books.

9. Arna's Children (Juliano Mer Khamis and Danniel Danniel) Khamis's mother, a former Zionist, organized a Palestinian children's theater troupe in Jenin. After her death, he seeks out her pupils. A despairing, completely partisan film.

10. Metallica: Some Kind of Monster (Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky) Four angry metalheads in the equivalent of marriage counseling is a template for a generation recognizing that remaining an adolescent when you turn forty is a problem.

Amy Taubin is a contributing editor of Film Comment and Sight and Sound.

JAMES QUANDT

1. The World (Jia Zhang-ke) Baudrillard goes to Beijing. In Jia's sad, encompassing vision of the new China, all is fake, forgery, or facsimile--except the desire to escape.

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2. Notre Musique (Jean-Luc Godard) Godard's Dantean triptych spills us into the abyss of the last century and suggests we will live forever with its slaughterous legacy.

3. 10e Chambre, Instants d'audiences (Raymond Depardon) The French photographer turns the proceedings of a Paris courtroom into a Balzacian fresco; funny and flinch-making.

4. Rheinmetall/Victoria 8 (Rodney Graham) A massive, clattery, '50s Italian projector produces soundless imagery of another vintage machine: a '30s German typewriter on whose keyboard sifts and settles a fine white powder. Flour? Crematoria residuum? The ashes of time? In any case, a slow snow of oblivion.

5. Cafe Lumiere (Hou Hsiao-hsien) Ironically, as Ozu's influence on Hou moves from inadvertent to blatant in this lovely homage, it also becomes more oblique, assimilated.

6. Tropical Malady (Apichatpong Weerasethakul) A Thai gay animist fable paralleling two love stories in which the hunter and the hunted yearn for mergence.

7. Vento di terra (Vincenzo Marra) A modest, moving Neapolitan update on Rocco and His Brothers; the accumulation of misfortune and grief would be too much to bear were it not for the film's clenched precision.

8. La Blessure (Nicolas Klotz) This bruising, lucid portrait of African immigrants in Paris is truly bouleversant.

9. The Big Red One (Samuel Fuller) Fuller's butchered swan song, lovingly reconstructed by Richard Schickel, now finds its antiheroic twin in Nicholas Ray's recently restored Bitter Victory.

10. Trilogy: The Weeping Meadow (Theo Angelopoulos) The Greek master's best film in over a decade returns to the brumous, bloody terrain and Brechtian mode of The Travelling Players.

James Quandt is senior programmer at Cinematheque Ontario in Toronto.

CHRISSIE ILES

1. Five (Abbas Kiarostami) The contemplative stillness of Kiarostami's five-part masterpiece reveals the rhythms of the Caspian seashore through slowly observed details.

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2. Notre Musique (Jean-Luc Godard) In Godard's divine tragedy, Paradise is guarded by the US Marines: Empire knows no bounds.

3. () (Morgan Fisher) () frees insert shots from classic Hollywood movies from their marginalized role as the connective tissue of cinematic narrative and promotes them to an egalitarian conceptual role.

4. Michelangelo Eye to Eye (Michelangelo Antonioni) The director stands in front of his namesake's statue of Moses. As if confronting his own and our mortality, his gaze onto Michelangelo's mastery recalls our own cinematic gaze onto his.

5. Not Yet (Jim O'Rourke) O'Rourke's first film deconstructs panning shots from Blow Out, layering electronic tones and film loops into a harmonic composition of gradual abstraction.

6. The Uncles (Tacita Dean) Fragments of remembered experience become indivisible from the elusive past of cinema.

7. Going Upriver: The Long War of John Kerry (George Butler) A clear rebuttal to the distortions of Kerry's war record in Vietnam, Butler's documentary was a beacon in the otherwise murky preelection political mire.

8. Memory Bucket (Jeremy Deller) An outsider's portrait of Texas, seen through the other end of the telescope. Highly charged locations intercut with bats flocking out of a cave at sunset proffer a jolting contrast between the natural beauty of America's Lone Star State and its reputation as the red heartland.

9. Top Spot (Tracey Emin) The British artist interviews six teenage girls whose stories echo aspects of her own traumatic youth in Margate, a seedy seaside town in the south of England.

10. Luke (Bruce Conner) A reworking of Super-8 footage the filmmaker shot in 1967, Conner's study of a day on the set of Cool Hand Luke shows cast and crew both in front of and behind the camera.

Chrissie Iles is a curator at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.

JONATHAN ROMNEY

1. Innocence (Lucile Hadzihalilovic) The debut discovery of the year--an eerie, hermetic world inhabited by prepubescent girls, with echoes of Bunuel, Balthus, Borowczyk, and Angela Carter, yet totally, audaciously original.

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2. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Michel Gondry) Who would have thought that Alain Resnais would be reincarnated in the byzantine convolutions of a Franco-American essay in romantic slapstick?

3. Goodbye Dragon Inn (Tsai Ming-liang) A beautiful, tender, farcical farewell to cinema from a Taiwanese melancholic with a peerless eye for elegant perspectives and rain-dripping interiors.

4. 5 X 2 (Francois Ozon) French cinema's eternal enfant terrible turned compellingly adult with his anatomy of a marriage, as harrowing as any domestic drama outside Bergman.

5. The Consequences of Love (Paolo Sorrentino) A Mafia intrigue with a difference, as if shot by Antonioni and scripted by Pirandello. Lead actor Toni Servillo's glacial way with a lifted eyebrow could disconcert John Malkovich.

6. Five (Abbas Kiarostami) Five single-take essays in lyrical minimalism, of a sort that might seem routine in gallery video but that worked like a small, silent bomb in the context of Cannes.

7. Tarnation (Jonathan Caouette) Reality cinema as gruelling therapy, Caouette's "my crazy family" confessional is painful viewing but a moving, sometimes weirdly entertaining tour de force. You only pray that it doesn't start a trend.

8. Aaltra (Gustave Kervern and Benoit Delepine) The best fun I've had in the cinema all year? This gloriously malicious Belgian disability road comedy. See it to believe it.

9. The Incredibles (Brad Bird) Further proof that the only consistent aesthetic research in Hollywood comes from the Pixar studio. An exhilarating workout for the eyes.

10. Collateral (Michael Mann) A routine genre outing that leapt to another plane thanks to Mann's pioneering use of high-definition video, resulting in a luminous essay on Los Angeles.

Jonathan Romney is a film critic for the Independent on Sunday and author of Atom Egoyan (BFI Publications, 2003).
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Publication:Artforum International
Date:Dec 1, 2004
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