Time Out's 101 Films of the Decade – Part 4, with reactions from Peter Jackson, David Fincher, Guillermo del Toro and more…
In Part Four we're all about post-millennial angst, from the eco-lament of 'Wall.e' to the adolescent traumas of 'Bad Education' and 'A Ma Soeur'; from the belly of an Israeli tank in 'Waltz with Bashir' to the cockpit of a hijacked plane in 'United 93'.
70. Saraband (2003, Swe)Directed by Ingmar BergmanFinal missive from a much-missed masterBergman’s final film – shot digitally in the studio with a handful of actors, as a belated sequel of sorts to ‘Scenes from a Marriage’ – finds Liv Ullmann visiting long-estranged and somewhat reclusive ex Erland Josephson, who dotes on his granddaughter while expressing, repeatedly, his loathing for her father, his son. An often agonisingly intense study in familial cruelty, it’s a glorious reminder that the late great Swede had lost none of his dramatic expertise, his unflinching honesty or his compassion: the final moments, revealing the often monstrous old man’s vulnerability, are as movingly tender as any in Bergman’s astonishing career. GARead the Time Out review
69. L’Enfant (2005, Bel)Directed by Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc DardenneDangerous Liége 'unsOnce again exploring life on the margins in unglamorous Liège, the Dardenne brothers prove it’s possible to create a film utterly in keeping with all its predecessors while managing to produce something fresh and quite devastating in its emotional punch. Renier (the son in ‘La Promesse’) returns as Bruno, an irresponsible 20-year-old happily living a hand-to-mouth existence funded by goods stolen by the schoolkids in his gang and by benefits paid out to his 18-year-old girlfriend Sonja (François) – who, when the film starts, has just had their kid. Though almost as reckless as Bruno, she’s unprepared when, unbeknown to her, he arranges for the baby to be illegally adopted in return for quick money… Things can only get worse, but the film is far from hopeless; such is the Dardennes’ unsentimental compassion for these characters that an ending of almost sublime grace and power is assured. En route, they provide a wonderfully evocative, accurate account of life on the streets, their astute observations of telling details beautifully served by performances of enormous subtlety and conviction. Most remarkable, a chase sequence in the final act is as suspenseful as anything on offer in a Hollywood action movie. Absolutely terrific. GARead the Time Out review
68. Donnie Darko (2001, US)Directed by Richard KellyPhilosophical timewarp trauma with added cheekbonesFilms of such invention and ambition come along rarely and when they do, are often more admired than enjoyed. ‘Donnie Darko’ is a true original, an exhilarating mixture of sci-fi, teen flick and psychedelic head trip that demands repeat viewing to absorb its dazzling visual detail and navigate its matrix of meaning. ‘Donnie Darko’ did modest business at the UK box office when it opened in 2001, but became a cult hit on DVD, with a director’s cut released in 2004. A shame, then, that director Richard Kelly’s subsequent efforts have been so poor. SC
Read the Time Out review
67. Best in Show (2000, US)Directed by Christopher Guest Fetch! Sit! Heel! Improvise!Doing for the pooch pageant what ‘Spinal Tap’ did for the posing pouch, Guest’s coolly observed spoof documentary – or ‘dogumentary’, if you will – lifts the lid on the hitherto unimagined lunacy lurking in the tufty netherworld of the Mayflower Kennel Club Dog Show. Highlights include Guest himself as the fabulously named Harlan Pepper, who comes across like a blessed out James Ellroy, dog show colour man Fred Willard’s blithering commentary on the show itself and Parker Posey’s brittle yuppie basket-case. Warm but never schmaltzy, vicious but never cruel, it’s a real (dog) treat from start to finish. ALD
Read the Time Out review
66. The Royal Tenenbaums (2001, US)Directed by Wes AndersonDid you just call me 'Coltrane'?The exquisite and occasionally frustrating career of Wes Anderson can be dissected neatly into ‘hits’ and ‘brave near-misses/beautiful follies’. His first three films 'Bottle Rocket', 'Rushmore' and 'The Royal Tenenbaums' fall into the first category, whilst everything since falls into the latter. It is perhaps no coincidence that all his most perfectly realised works were written with long-time collaborator Owen Wilson and Tenenbaums is the pinnacle of their artistic union. A wonderfully subtle offbeat comedy, it focuses on the dysfunctional relationships within the Tenenbaum family. Gene Hackman gives one of the finest performances of his long career as the father of three troubled offspring – played with pitch-perfect precision by Ben Stiller, Luke Wilson and Gwyneth Paltrow – who although having been child prodigies are all now cursed with crippling personality defects. It’s consistently funny and quirky but there’s a mournful melancholy at its heart which elevates the beyond the status of ‘cult classic’ into simply ‘classic’. Also, if there’s a better soundtrack out there, I haven’t heard it. TARead the Time Out review
65. Waltz with Bashir (2008, Isr)Directed by Ari FolmanCry havoc and let slip the dogs of warFolman’s account of his experiences in the Israeli army in the early 1980s is best described as a documentary with dramatised flashbacks, although the unusual medium (animation) he chooses for such a political subject helps blur those definitions. The creeping focus of this kinetic, colourful and powerful film are the massacres at the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in Beirut in 1982 – events which the director suggests were tolerated, if not sanctioned, by his superiors and which he found so traumatic that he’s forgotten them. To recover his memories, he quizzes various friends and former army colleagues, and it’s these conversations that cause us to lunge into his past. Some may feel uncomfortable with Folman’s egocentric approach to pinpointing and remembering the tragedy of others, but there’s an honesty to his storytelling and an unflinching gaze on the horrors of war – for all involved – that it’s hard not to be affected by his recollections. DC
Ari Folman on ‘Waltz with Bashir’: ‘It’s an anti-war film. At least I hope it is. Critics, audiences, schools, they can say whatever the hell they like. “It’s documentary. It’s drama. It’s bullshit.” That’s fine. To make the film and then try to categorise it? I can’t! It’s too much. I don’t have to.’
Read the Time Out review
64. Bad Education (2004, Sp)Directed by Pedro AlmodóvarAnother brick in Pedro's wallRecalling ‘Law of Desire’ and anticipating ‘Broken Embraces’, ‘Bad Education’ sees Almodovar grappling with what he has called the masculine side of his imagination, putting sexual and professional jealousy to the fore. There’s attention to the delights of cinema and devilments of religion, Gael Garcia Bernal is at his most compelling as the young man with a hidden agenda and Gaultier’s costumes are fab. BWRead the Time Out review
63. United 93 (2006, US)Directed by Paul GreengrassLet's rollTurning the auditorium into an appalling communal experience from start to finish, Paul Greengrass brought the kinetic energy and sensory onslaught of the Bourne films together with the narrative honesty and emotional catharsis of ‘Bloody Sunday’ to create the definitive cinematic statement on 9/11, and thus one of the key films of the decade. No finger-pointing or demonisation, just riveting drama and quiet despair. Unforgettable – I neither want nor need to see it again. GTRead the Time Out review
62. WALL-E (2008, US)Directed by Andrew StantonNumber five is... oh wait, wrong movieBy 2008 it was already obvious that Pixar were the decade’s most reliable moviemaking team: the regrettable hiccup of ‘Cars’ aside, they’d produced a string of giddy, loveable, freakishly intelligent animated fables, and ransacked the global box office in the process. But it wasn’t until ‘WALL-E’ that the true scope of their vision became clear: this wasn’t just another cartoon, this was a visual symphony, an ecological cri de Coeur and a lovestruck tribute to the power of pure cinema. Granted, it goes off the boil slightly in the latter half, and its view of humanity is decidedly cynical, but the opening 30 minutes of near-silent robot romance remains breathtaking. THRead the Time Out review
61. A Ma Soeur! (2001, Fr)Directed by Catherine BreillatFat is a feminist issueWith a curtness of tone that makes Michael Haneke look like Nora Ephron, French provocatrice Catherine Breillat added a tough teen psychodrama to the erotic pyrotechnics of her breakthrough film ‘Romance’ (1999) in this warts-and-all chronicle of the technicalities and eventual emotional ramifications of two sisters losing their virginity. In the US, the film was adorned with the somewhat clunky title of ‘Fat Girl’, referring to the carriage of the main character, Anaïs Reboux, who is forced into the role of nervous voyeur as the family camping holiday turns into a hormonal hotbed of reckless sexual sparring for her lithe sister (Roxane Mesquida). Breillat is not a director to underestimate the power of sex on the comportment of the average person, but she is one of a brave few unafraid to reveal its potentially ruinous side-effects. DJRead the Time Out review
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