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This archive contains posts from May 2007 to November 2008. More recent posts are at:

Name: Dan Sallitt
Location: New York, New York, United States

Friday, January 4, 2008

2007 Lists

I like making lists, but only when the parameters are meaningful. There is always something arbitrary about making a list of theatrical premieres in your home city, and even more so lately, with an increasing number of good movies eking out a bare one-week run in specialty venues. I'm fonder of lists of world premieres, because they better reflect the state of production at a moment in time. But only the most ardent festival-hoppers can make a stable world-premiere list at year's end; the flow of 2007 films into New York theaters will continue unabated throughout 2008. Now is actually a good time for a list of 2006 world premieres, but no one would care.

I keep my lists of world premieres online and update them every few months, so you can check them any time you want. Here's a list of my favorite films that received their first one-week theatrical run in New York during 2007. (I exclude films that were made too long ago to feel contemporary.) The director's name follows the film title. This year's list wants to stop at nine, so I will oblige it:

1. The Wayward Cloud (Tsai Ming-liang)
2. Lady Chatterley (Pascale Ferran)
3. The Darjeeling Limited (Wes Anderson)
4. Vanaja (Rajnesh Domalpalli)
5. Flanders (Bruno Dumont)
6. Hannah Takes the Stairs (Joe Swanberg)
7. Stephanie Daley (Hilary Brougher)
8. Day Night Day Night (Julia Loktev)
9. Summer '04 (Stefan Krohmer)

A pleasing list of honorable mentions (in alphabetical order): Bug (William Friedkin), Charlie Wilson's War (Mike Nichols), Drama/Mex (Gerardo Naranjo), Death Proof (Quentin Tarantino), Love for Sale (Suely in the Sky) (Karim Aïnouz), Offside (Jafar Panahi), We Own the Night (James Gray), Whole New Thing (Amnon Buchbinder).

Films with a lot going for them: Close to Home (Vardit Bilu and Dalia Hagar), Comedy of Power (Claude Chabrol), Delirious (Tom DiCillo), Eastern Promises (David Cronenberg), Fay Grim (Hal Hartley), Glass Lips (Blood of a Poet) (Lech Majewski), I Don't Want to Sleep Alone (Tsai Ming-liang), In Between Days (So Yong Kim), Joshua (George Ratliff), Longing (Valeska Grisebach), Los Muertos (Lisandro Alonso), No Country for Old Men (Ethan Coen and Joel Coen), Persepolis (Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud), Private Fears in Public Places (Coeurs) (Alain Resnais), This Is England (Shane Meadows).

Films with something going for them: The Bothersome Man (Jens Lien), Colossal Youth (Pedro Costa), Dans Paris (Christophe Honoré), Daratt (Mahamat-Saleh Haroun), The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (Julian Schnabel), The Host (Bong Joon-ho), I'm Not There (Todd Haynes), Juno (Jason Reitman), The Man of My Life (Zabou Breitman), Once (John Carney), Private Property (Joachim Lafosse), Quiet City (Aaron Katz), Honor de cavalleria (Quixotic) (Albert Serra), Red Road (Andrea Arnold), The Rocket (Rocket Richard) (Charles Binamé), Syndromes and a Century (Apichatpong Weerasethakul), White Palms (Szabolcs Hajdu), Wild Tigers I Have Known (Cam Archer).

Films that some people liked more than I did: 12:08 East of Bucharest (Corneliu Porumboiu), 13 Lakes (James Benning), The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (Andrew Dominik), Atonement (Joe Wright), Away From Her (Sarah Polley), Before the Devil Knows You're Dead (Sidney Lumet), Beowulf (Robert Zemeckis), Dam Street (Li Yu), Falling (Barbara Albert), The Go Master (Tian Zhuangzhuang), I Love You (Volim Te) (Dalibor Matanic), Into the Wild (Sean Penn), Jindabyne (Ray Lawrence), Margot at the Wedding (Noah Baumbach), Poison Friends (Emmanuel Bourdieu), Radiant City (Jim Brown and Gary Burns), Rocket Science (Jeffrey Blitz), The Situation (Philip Haas), Southland Tales (Richard Kelly), Sunshine (Danny Boyle), Tears of the Black Tiger (Wisit Sasanatieng), Planet Terror (Robert Rodriguez), There Will Be Blood (Paul Thomas Anderson), Zodiac (David Fincher), Zoo (Robinson Devor).



Blogger Eric M. said...

I debated about leaving a comment, because there is no way I can just focus on just one thing here-so bear with me.

You may have been my ten list on my blog-if not, it's there right now. I've only seen five of the films in your top nine-Lady Chatterley being my persona favorite out of those. I still think Darjeeling was a lesser Anderson, good nonetheless, but nothing too amazing. Stephanie Daley and Day Night Day Night I both liked, but Hannah Takes the Stairs I almost detested. I am really having a hard time getting into that whole "mumblecore" movement-and when I saw Funny Ha Ha two years ago I was still left scratching my head.

You seem to like We Own the Night way more than I could even consider.

I like how you mention Fay Grim with something positive next to it. Although very different from Henry Fool, I still really enjoyed. it. I loved The Bothersome Man, and Red Road, and kind of forgot about White Palms-I caught that at MOMA sometime over the summer, and remembered listening to the confused woman behind me complain about the last five minutes of the movie. I had a hard time keeping my eyes open during Wild Tigers I Have Known, and tried watching it again on the IFC Channel a few weeks ago-it still didn't work out.

As for the final list on your page, several of those are getting an abundant amount of praise they don't deserve. Into the Wild, although good and pretty to look at, suffered through Sean Penn's script, which really asked me to care for this chaarcter more than I was able to. Away from Her had good performances, but nothing much after that. Beowulf, once again, had some nice images, but not more than that. I kind of hated Margot at the Wedding, Poison Friends, The Situation, Southland Tales, and Zoo. I enjoyed Before the Devil Knows You're Dead and Rocket Science, but I kind of wish you'd put more stock into 12:08, Jesse James, Jindabyne, and There Will Be Blood. And Planet Terror (incorrectly posted here as Terror Planet) was fun to watch in the context of Grindhouse as a whole (while Death Proof was still the better movie, its that three hour package that I really loved). Not sure how it would work on its own.

I'm grateful for your rather nonplus reaction to Juno-which while I really liked I wouldn't go as far as the mammoth reaction its getting-and I'm Not There, while puzzled me. Like you said, it had something going for it, but its ambition almost overshadowed any attempts to make it good.

There's not much to respond to here, although I will say you probably will give a hearty thumbs down to my list.

January 5, 2008 4:47 AM  
Blogger Dan Sallitt said...

Eric - thanks for the correction on the Rodriguez. I did see your lists, which were interesting, a bit more varied than most. If I got upset at seeing lists I didn't agree with, I wouldn't be able to get out of the fetal position this time of year....

A lot of people seem to be down on Hannah - I don't get it. I thought it would get more year-end attention than it has. I haven't read Amy Taubin's attack in Film Comment, but a lot of people, pro and con, seem to be citing it, so maybe it was influential. Anyway, the world is not overcrowded with filmmakers who can show the appealing and uncomfortable aspects of people as part of the same fluid personality system; and America even less so.

January 5, 2008 11:07 AM  
Anonymous Jonah said...

I'm glad there is another dissenter on "Away from Her." The formal choices Polley made frequently felt banal. Shot/reverse shot rhythms felt mechanical, uninspired, and when she altered the rhythm to highlight a moment it always felt too deliberate. I could anticipate shot changes, changes in scale, etc. in a way that wasn't pleasant for me.

When Polley seemed unsure of what impact a scene should have on the overall narrative, she added a little coda of "tasteful" pictorial effects (overexposure, slomo, soft focus). And the characterizations felt quite pat--their arcs seemed too clean.

I'm probably being overly negative. That's my contrarian impulse. But I left the movie feeling that anything with such a weighty subject should have shaken me up rather than alienated me as it did.

Sadly, because I don't live in a major market, I've only been able to see three of the films on your top 9 list (#s 2-4).

January 6, 2008 2:19 AM  
Blogger Dan Sallitt said...

Jonah - yeah, Ms. Polley's film seemed like a bit of a waxworks to me: heavy performance style, obvious visual and narrative intent. I must confess that I didn't stick it out: The Thing from Another World was playing somewhere later that night, and I hadn't seen it in 20 years or so, and it just didn't seem fair somehow.

But people whose judgment I respect admire Away from Her. After 35 years of serious filmgoing, I understand less than ever how my tastes fit into the population of all tastes. I feel a great, existentialist solitude in the realm of art preferences - they feel so objective! - and I still don't understand why everyone doesn't seem to feel this solitude.

January 6, 2008 10:37 AM  
Anonymous Paula said...

I thought Away from Her was awful--just leaden and tonedeaf and too many shots of Julie Christie in really amazing sweaters, which seemed incongruous with her mental state.

I have Netflixed Hannah Takes the Stairs and Lady Chatterley.

January 7, 2008 1:31 PM  
Blogger Dan Sallitt said...

'cita - I know you like DVD, but if you want to get theatrical, Lady Chatterley will be screening at MOMA on Monday, January 28 (with the director in attendance) and on Thursday, February 7.

January 8, 2008 12:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am glad you mention drama/mex. My favorite movie last year but one that seems out of every critic´s radar

January 23, 2008 1:38 PM  
Blogger Dan Sallitt said...

Yeah, Naranjo is a double threat: good dialogue and a good eye. In September, Variety wrote, "Canana (a production company) is currently filming Gerardo Naranjo's third feature, Voy a explotar, which follows two 15-year-olds on a romantic lark in Guanajuato."

January 24, 2008 2:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think that "Away from Her" is a lovely and subtle film, and a very good adaptation of the Alice Munro short story. Gordon Pinsent is especially in the role of the husband Grant.

February 12, 2008 5:42 PM  

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