Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Favourites from the 90s

My 10 favourite films from the 90s. Inspired by this list from an old issue of the film comment magazine.

I should probably have added some commentary defending my choices, but no time folks. Just a few lines in any case. Lynch, Haneke, Tsai and Kiarostami were all at their peaks over the entire decade. It is difficult to choose one over the other for any of these people. They are all my favourites. I wish more American films were like Short Cuts or Safe - trenchant social criticism and steeped in Americana, like the great American films of the 70s. Number 1, well, I only wish there were more directors who were willing to go so far and in the process even risk appearing totally nuts, or even plain foolish. Kieslowski's Three Colours:Red may be better but you get two Irene Jacobs in Veronique, that's why it is there. What else? Naked and Satantango - that's just masochistic miserabilist in me I guess.

1. Breaking the Waves (Lars von Trier, 1996)
2. Satantango (Bela Tarr, 1994)
3. Lost Highway (David Lynch, 1997)
4. Naked (Mike Leigh, 1993)
5. Short Cuts (Robert Altman, 1993)
6. The Double Life of Veronique (Krzysztof Kiesklowski, 1991)
7. Funny Games (Michael Haneke, 1997)
8. Vive L'Amour (Tsai Ming-liang, 1994)
9. The Wind Will Carry Us (Abbas Kiarostami, 1999)
10. Safe (Todd Haynes, 1995)


Cheshire Cat said...

Masochistic miserabilism without "Dancer in the Dark" and "The Piano Teacher"?

Alok said...

Big fan of Piano Teacher but it came in 2002 and Lars Von Trier already has a masochistic entry in the list !!

Jabberwock said...

I wouldn't venture to make a 10-favourite-movies list myself (unless I did it with the rider that the list would have changed completely within a few seconds of my writing it out), but I love Naked, Breaking the Waves, Short Cuts, The Double Life of Veronique, The Wind will Carry Us and Safe. Haven't seen the others on your list. What did you think of Dogville? (I know it isn't 1990s, just asking)

Alok said...

I liked Dogville a lot even though the ideas were pretty shallow (people are shit, capitalism is exploitative etc). Nothing like Breaking the Waves which really forces one to think again about love, devotion, religion, rationality and other things.

I got more defensive about it when I saw the wrongheaded commentaries from many american critics who felt personally affronted by it. It was crazy to read all the venomous reviews. If given a choice I will myself prefer a film which is more "organic" and real and in which ideas emerge on their own, rather than a purely ideological film but really I don't think you need to choose one... Both are valid forms and I personally felt Dogville had a lot of sincerity and not to say a lot of gumption, something sadly missing in a lot of otherwise talented young directors who settle for making generic arthouse and festival films.

Puccinio said...

My 10 favourites of the 90s,(in no order)

Satatango(Bela Tarr)
A Brighter Summer Day(Edward Yang)
Les Amants du Pont-Neuf(Leos Carax)
The Age of Innocence(Martin Scorsese)
Casino(Martin Scorsese)
Short Cuts(Robert Altman)
Distant Voices, Still Lives(Terence Davies)
A Moment of Innocence (Mohsen Makhmalbaf)
Flowers of Shanghai(Hou-Hsiao Hsien)
and too many films to choose from but if I were to make one more choice...but that would make it too Scorsese-centric...okay this one...
Francis Ford Coppola's ''Dracula''.

Alok said...

Haven't seen quite a few on your list - Yang, Carax, Makhmalbaf & Davies. Have seen Yang's Yi Yi which I loved a lot and also The Cyclist by Makhmalbaf which was also good...

About Scorsese ..interesting. It's been a few years since I saw these Scorsese films (Goodfellas too) and may be those were my "pre-cinefile" days, I never really engaged with any of these films in any serious manner. May be I should revisit them.

Puccinio said...

Well Scorsese had a good runin 90's

''Goodfellas'', ''Casino'', ''Kundun'', ''The Age of Innocence'' and his two documentaries on American and Italian Cinema are also masterpieces. ''Bringing Out The Dead'' is good but one of his second-tier work while after ''Gangs of New York''(a tragic failure), his career has hit a brief slump. Hopefully he'll be back.

The 90's was a pretty good decade actually. Much better than the 80's and much better than '00s. There were many good films made then.

Space Bar said...

i would *never* attempt this list...but so tempted to!

I'm surprised about the Kieslowski though, but that's probably just me. I find him descending into sentimentalism all too often.

Alok said...

sb: he is probably the only old-school "humanist" director on the list...:) this worldview is not very fashionable now (I find it sentimental too) but he is also very good with the technique. In Veronique or in his Three Colours every frame feels like something that took a long time to prepare - the composition, the lighting, the background score everything is just perfect and totally harmonized. I don't think there is a team anywhere comparable to the one that worked with him - Piesciwicz who wrote the screenplays, Zbigniew Preiszner who composed and whoever was the cinematographer... (I am sure the spellings are wrong but I am not going to check.)

puccinio: Rise of Asia was definitely the main theme of the 90s. These Taiwanese directors made some superb films, formally intelligent and self-aware and at the same time very effective social criticism. Iran was another national cinema. Hong Kong was another, Wong Kar-wai missed the list but his best film (2046) came later. I have left out Pedro Almodovar too, specially All About My Mother. He is also a major and an original artist (he was following fassbinder's footsteps but in a more good-humored sort of way)..

puccinio said...

I'd be careful about the whole Rise of Asia bonhomie. I mean es it's obvious that many cinemas in the Middle East and the Far East have developed in leaps and bounds artistically in the last two decades but already in the 80's you had many creative work coming from there. Like Martin Scorsese's choice of the best film of the 90's, Tian Zhuangzhuang's ''The Horse Thief'' was made in the 80's, he saw it in the 90's.

Then there were many great Iranian films made in the 60's during the final years of that Shah over there.

And bear in mind many auteurs in the Far East, especially Hong Kong really struggle to get funding and Chinese directors have to really struggle against the Chinese censorship. It's pretty paranoid there.

As for Almodovar, I like some of his films but on the whole I don't see him as a voice distinct enough to merit comparison with R. W. Fassbinder, leave alone his other heroes like Nick Ray, Douglas Sirk and Bunuel.

I am not a big Wong-Kar-Wai man myself. And to me his best film is the magnificent, ''In The Mood for Love''. Still he's pretty talented and interesting.

AASHU said...

I am not an english movie bug so can't comment much on your list, but it certainly looks like an exhausti ve list of yours.
Anyway,I, being a frequent hindi movie watcher, would like you to prepare a similar list of all time favorite hindi movies.

Alok said...

aashu: great to see you here... and don't worry about not being an English movie "bug".. there's still a lot of time left for you to explore these. Bollywood is something I keep away from, specially when I am thinking of subjects to blog about but will see and think of some suitable topic.

Alok said...

puccinio: Almodovar shares the same sensibility but he is less critical and also less gloomy - he belongs to a post-fascist, new deomocratic Spain. He is also totally immersed in pop-culture, something again which makes him different from his predecessors like Fassbinder or Bunuel.