Time Out's 101 Films of the Decade – Part 10, with reactions from Peter Jackson, David Fincher, Guillermo del Toro and more…
In part ten we're riding the range with Brad Pitt, interior decorating with Julianne Moore and bullfighting ourselves into a coma courtesy of Pedro Almodovar...
10. Ten (2002, Iran/Fr)Directed by Abbas KiarostamiNow that's what we call synergy...Kiarostami’s richly rewarding foray into no-budget digital filmmaking consists simply of ten brief journeys around Tehran undertaken by a young mother in her car; two cameras fixed to the dashboard show either the driver or one of her passengers – all women save for her son, an argumentative macho monster in the making. The minimalist methodology makes for a compelling narrative of rare emotional authenticity, packed with poetic and political resonance as it explores the options open to women in modern Iran and celebrates their courage in coping with daily oppression. A film of countless nuances and a reminder, in times of industrial cinematic excess, that less can be very much more. GA
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9. No Country for Old Men (2007, US)Directed by Ethan Coen, Joel CoenWhat's the most you ever lost on a coin toss?Based on author Cormac McCarthy’s contemporary Western, this cat-and-mouse thriller is an awe-inspiring accomplishment that fully deserved its clutch of Oscars. The premise couldn’t be simpler: a cash-strapped Vietnam vet (Josh Brolin) stumbles upon the remnants of a drug deal gone wrong, forgets all morals and keeps the stash, and is then relentlessly pursued by someone possibly involved in the original deal. His nemesis – Javier Bardem’s mysterious cattlegun-carrying killer, Anton Chigurh – has a pageboy haircut, a gentle but menacing demeanour, a mindset that’s impossible to penetrate and sharp detection skills. When he’s on screen, feet start twitching and fingernails are dispensed with. Tommy Lee Jones’s pondering Sheriff, meanwhile, offers welcome respite from the taut, survivalist nature of the pursuit-led storyline, which could so easily have been written with the Coens in mind. There’s not a moment of fat in this monumental and visually resplendent contribution. The fact it screened within weeks of the equally impressive ‘There Will Be Blood’ is ample evidence that 2008 could ultimately be considered one of the decade’s vintage years. DARead the Time Out review
8. Far from Heaven (2002, US)Directed by Todd Haynes Drifting along in the American dreamAmerican director Todd Haynes made just two features this decade, the fractured Bob Dylan portrait ‘I’m Not There’ (2007) and this reworking of the real and imagined worlds of Douglas Sirk’s 1950s melodrama ‘All That Heaven Allows’. Julianne Moore perfectly captured the public bravado and private longing of Cathy Whitaker, a wealthy housewife in Hartford, Connecticut in 1957 whose marriage to a high-flying advertising executive is celebrated locally as the ultimate in refined living. That’s until her husband, Frank (an excellent, repressed Dennis Quaid) is caught by his wife in an embrace with another man, prompting him to cure his 'illness' with therapy. An exploration of sexual repression isn’t the only modern angle Haynes lend to this '50s story: he also explores ongoing racial divisions by examining the close but impossible friendship between Cathy and her cultured gardener Raymond (Dennis Haysbert). The real success of the film is that Haynes treats his subject with the utmost seriousness while operating in a world of pastiche. It’s not an easy trick to pull off, but Haynes manages it with aplomb, leaving us with memories of the film’s costumes and production design that are as strong as those of the film’s important and enduring social themes. DC
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7. Talk to Her (2002, Sp)Directed by Pedro AlmodóvarGirlfriend in a coma Next to the Coen brothers and Michael Haneke, Spain’s answer to Douglas Sirk – Pedro Almodóvar – has surfaced as this decade’s most consistently outstanding director with no less than three films clocking in to our top 101. ‘Talk To Her’ was the hotly-tipped follow-up to his 1999 Oscar-winning breakthrough, ‘All About My Mother’, and with the gift of hindsight we can see that he not only trumped that film in terms of narrative complexity, directorial surefootedness and visual splendour, but came up with one of the most supremely affecting works of his career. The film employs two comatose women as its principle cast members and mines a delicious mixture of high drama, trenchant insight and acerbic comedy from simply observing how two very different men care for these patients. It’s a story that deals with grief, communication and solitude in the innovative, artful and occasionally devastatingly manner that, for Almodóvar, has become par for the course. And in an alternative list of films that contain a metaphorical silent film pastiche in the mid section, this one would be number one. DJ Read the Time Out review
6. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007, US)Directed by Andrew DominikThe real American IdolAustralian director Andrew Dominik followed the grungy carve-up of ‘Chopper’ (2000) with a near-perfect revisionist Western that investigated the very beginnings of American mythomania and its polarising effects on both hero and worshipper. Rarely has history seemed so brisk and alive as this, and seldom has a legend been given as much rope to spin itself out.Brad Pitt plays James like the cold heart of a comet, simultaneously weighed down by the paranoia of his gang splintering apart and the full gravity of his renown starting to press upon him. Pitt somehow transforms himself into a straight-backed sepia portrait of James, offering a visage that resembles a handful of iron filings dragged through an especially handsome block of balsa wood and delivering a performance that skirts the enigma that shrouds so storied a figure without ever once inclining toward ostentation or dipping into the fund of actorly mannerism.Casey Affleck is, if anything, even better as the young tyro who finds himself invited into the James fold. Slinking and squirming in the skin of Ford, he continually ebbs and flows between being stunned and emboldened by the unalterable and unavoidable place in history that beckons to him. It is ultimately Ford’s story, and Affleck’s ability to draw out sympathy and pity for so obsequious and resentful a toady is quite astonishing. Nick Cave and Warren Ellis’s score is all subdued reflection and the stalwart Roger Deakins’ stately photography simply could not have been bettered. The only complaint is that, even clocking in at a cool two-and-a-half hours, the film could and should have been longer. ALDRead the Time Out review
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