Time Out's 101 Films of the Decade – Part 8, with reactions from Peter Jackson, David Fincher, Guillermo del Toro and more…
Part Eight takes us to war: we're battling orcs in 'The Two Towers', fascists in 'Pan's Labyrinth', British colonials in 'The New World', the forces of right-wing oppression in 'Milk' and common sense itself in 'Amelie'.
30. The White Ribbon (2008, Ger)Directed by Michael HanekeThey fuck you up, your Mum and DadThe newest film on the list, and the third for director Haneke, this year’s Palme d’Or winner may be the most daunting film of the decade: 150 minutes of stark, glowering German landscapes, oppressive cinematography and allegorical plotting, in the company of some of modern cinema’s most deluded and reprehensible characters. ‘The White Ribbon’ is a remarkable, rigorous piece of work: addressing the roots of extremism in an informed but never overt fashion, Haneke lays the blame not at the feet of government but the parents, punishing their children for crimes they may or may not have committed, sowing the poison seeds of a warped and world-altering rebellion. THRead the Time Out review Michael Haneke on ‘The White Ribbon’: ‘It could have been set at a different time about a different situation. It’s about the origin of evil, the origin of radicalism and terrorism. I don’t want it to be understood solely as a film about German fascism. I want to show how all sorts of suppression can make you open to an idea when someone comes along and says: “I can save you.” It’s like the story of the Pied Piper… It’s the war that takes place between people that makes them receptive to such ideologies.’
29. Dancer in the Dark (2000, Den/Swe)Directed by Lars von TrierOh, the humanity!While the so-called ‘history books’ may state that Eli Roth’s ‘Hostel’ or one of the ‘Saw’ films instigated the ‘torture porn’ film cycle, we must remember that Lars von Trier has been making audiences squirm with palpable unease at the relentless suffering of an on-screen protagonist for ages. This agonising quasi-paean to the Hollywood musical was the director’s audacious and brilliant closing chapter to his Golden Heart trilogy, and while he’d courted his detractors with ‘Breaking the Waves’ and angered them still further with ‘The Idiots’, with ‘Dancer in the Dark’ he aimed to send them screaming into the streets – who can forget the famous zero star review it received in The Guardian? The film stars Bjork as a myopic, Eastern European factory worker who has moved to the US with her son Gene, and in her bid to save up money for an eye operation is deceived by a neighbour and duly issued with a one-way ticket to the gallows. It being a musical (or, at least, a deconstruction/inversion of musical tropes), all this is interspersed with a selection of stunning electro-pop ditties and large-scale dance numbers recorded on static cameras. While the undeniably vindictive internal mechanics of Von Trier’s screenplay generate much of the film’s considerable emotional wallop, it’s Bjork’s stultifying, total-immersion performance that drags it into the realms of the unforgettable. DJRead the Time Out review
28. The New World (2005, US)Directed by Terrence MalickMalick's search for the lost Eden continuesCaptain Smith (Colin Farrell) and Pocahontas (Q’orianka Kilcher) had their very mad affair given the big-budget Malick treatment in this atmospheric, impressionistic recounting of the pioneering Jamestown Expedition to Virginia of 1607. It’s a demanding film by Hollywood standards – lingering shots of nature, oblique poetical narration, hesitant climax – but the rewards are bountiful and Malick’s transcendental, almost literally trickle-down style of direction and editing builds a rhythmical visual language that delivers an artless allegory on progress and what the Old World swiftly fashioned from an earthly paradise. Farrell has never been better, Christopher Plummer, Christian Bale and David Thewlis all rein in their usual thespian excesses while Kilcher is simply otherworldly as the displaced native princess. ALDRead the Time Out review
27. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002, US/NZ)Directed by Peter JacksonOrcs! Fahsands of 'em!There are many cast-iron reasons why this remains many people’s pick of the ‘Rings’ trilogy: the massive wave of good-will engendered by ‘Fellowship’ meant everyone was hungry for more; director Peter Jackson had already established Middle Earth and was freed up to really let rip; people had gotten used to the alterations the filmmakers were busy making to Tolkein’s text; down and dirty second-act grit made everything feel a little more realistic than the pastoral idyll of the majority of the first film (and less plasticky and custard-coloured than the third); the first real appearance of pasty, madballs ring-bearer Gollum… All of this and more go into making ‘The Two Towers’ – here it comes! – the ‘Empire Strikes Back’ of Jackson’s colossal triptych. ALDRead the Time Out review
26. Milk (2008, US)Directed by Gus Van Sant The mayor of Castro streetAt the time of ‘Milk’s’ release there was speculation that had the movie come out earlier, California’s Proposition 8 to outlaw gay marriage might not have been passed. That’s a lot to ask of a movie. But ‘Milk’ is no ordinary movie, just as Harvey Milk was no ordinary man. See this movie. Remember Harvey Milk. Remember his message of hope. ‘Milk’ is an extraordinary, Oscar-worthy film, with a stunning performance from Sean Penn and an equally strong supporting turn from James Franco as his lover. I watched it and I wept. PB
Gus Van Sant on ‘Milk’: ‘Originally it was a pretty big-budget movie. Robin Williams was set to play Harvey Milk. The film I wanted to make gave more of a sense of character and identity and less information about city hall and the political workings of the time. I wanted to tell the story of the birth of The Castro (San Francisco’s gay village) and the gay movement. The story of Harvey’s politics is told through his personal actions.’Read the Time Out review
25. Amélie (2001, Fr)Directed by Jean-Pierre JeunetKookier than Phoebe from 'Friends'Some people would rather have the skin flayed off their back with various homemade torture instruments than have to endure the supercharged tweeness of Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s swooning smash hit romance, but seeing as it has still managed to dent the top 25 of our list, those folk remain in a strict minority. Emily Watson was initially earmarked to star as the black-bobbed Parisian nymph whose Poppins-like mission was to spread joy to each and everyone (not herself, mind!), but her pulling out at the last minute led Jeunet to take a gamble on one Audrey Tautou, and the rest, as they say, was history. Incorporating a host of tics from his earlier work (especially his short film ‘Foutaises’) such as the gliding, featherlight camerawork, the artificially archaic production design and a fondness for cushioning the main narrative on lots of tiny observational ‘moments’, few films manage to pull off what ‘Amélie’ undoubtedly does, and that’s to channel the spirit of classic, mainstream European cinema into a defiantly modern template. DJRead the Time Out review
24. Capturing the Friedmans (2003, US)Directed by Andrew JareckiThe meaning of memoryAndrew Jarecki was making a documentary on clowns who work at children’s parties; his discovery that one of them, David Friedman, had had a brother and father accused of child abuse, radically changed his focus. The result is the opposite of a sensationalist, ‘Got ‘em!’-style indictment of paedophilia in a wealthy Jewish suburb; instead, it’s a careful examination of many interpretations of what happened to whom and how, that somehow – despite extraordinary footage provided by David, who videoed his family as it imploded – offers remarkably few conclusions. With one exception: nobody may know what happened, but the damage the scandal wreaked on everyone affected is there for all to see. NCRead the Time Out review
23. Mulholland Dr. (2001, Fr/US)Directed by David LynchLynch catches the big fishIt says plenty that when you type ‘Mullholland Drive’ into Google, it auto-prompts you towards ‘Mulholland Dr. explained’, for which there are nearly one million results all of which escape the point of David Lynch’s glorious mind-frag of a movie. This is a film to absorb, not understand: relish the series of stand-out setpieces – Naomi Watts’s rereading of an exploitative audition piece; Mark Pellegrino’s bungling hit man; Billy Ray Cyrus’s cuckolding pool guy; the ogre behind the dumpster – and leave some guy on the internet to fret about the meaning of the blue box . PWRead the Time Out review
22. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004, US)Directed by Michel GondryCarrey attempts to wipe audience memories of 'Bruce Almighty'Memory was one of the decade’s sub-themes – see ‘The Bourne Identity’ or ‘Memento’ - and was here used by Charlie Kaufman and Michel Gondry to explore those issues of fate and ethics usually tackled by time travel. Tom Wilkinson plays a scientist who has developed a machine that wipes memories; Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet the former lovers who use the service. Terrific performances and visual and narrative pyrotechnics never obscure what may be one of the most tender – in every sense – love stories of the decade. PWRead the Time Out review
21. Pan's Labyrinth (2006, Sp/Mex)Directed by Guillermo del ToroAll that's missing is David Bowie in lycra tightsPerhaps only someone with the wit, flair and emotional hardihood of del Toro could have hoped to take that hoariest of standards - young girl reaches spiritual maturity while flitting back and forth to a darkly bucolic fantasy world to escape the privations of the Spanish Civil War – and breathe new life into it. It’s a testament to his storytelling ability that both elements of the film - the shocking brutality of the war scenes and the grim, perverted logic of the fantasy sequences – would each make for a movie in their own right yet combine to form a wholly organic viewing experience. ALD
Guillermo del Toro on ‘Pan's Labyrinth’: 'I first pitched the movie to (producer) Alfonso Cuarón in London, while I was doing post-production on “Hellboy”. And as I was telling him the end of the story, I just started crying. Then he started crying, and we were both there crying like babies. There's something so primal about it. I don't understand it, but I know that it's true. I like making movies where I don't have all the answers, but the story seems to have them.’Read the Time Out review
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