Make Way for Tomorrow
Celluloid souvenirs and the best films of 2005
<<The revelation of the year was Getting to Know the World (1978), screened in the Walter Reades Kira Muratova (pictured) retrospective organized by Alla Verlotsky of Seagull Films.
BY IOANNIS MOOKAS
The year in cinema proved as wondrous as the events surrounding it were dark. If the clash of fundamentalisms, mounting avian influenza, and fast-forward global climate change werent troubling enough, dire prophecies of box-office ruin have been ritually sounded since the sluggish summer, as one Hollywood fiasco after another tanked upon release.
Final tallies will likely see the studios in profit, of course, with earnings from ancillaries and international markets. But the marked decline in movie attendance is as symptomatic of audiences displeasure at the dreck issuing from Hollywoode.g., The Dukes of Hazzard, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, Fantastic Fourand the brutalization of todays theater-going experience, as it is of consumer dispersal across proliferating wireless, on-demand, and other new delivery platforms.
Here in Nueva York, arthouse, museum, and nonprofit screens were continuously enlivenedfrom Januarys choice Mexican cinema series at the Guggenheim, to late Decembers openings of watershed new features by Euro-titans Claire Denis and Michael Haneke. In a year less crowded with genius, several other films would have joined my best of 2005 lists, compiled below. Some of the closest runners-up include A History of Violence, Á Tout de Suite, Forty Shades of Blue, and The New World.
In repertory programming, the Film Society of Lincoln Center hosted a remarkable stretch of retrospectives, from Kira Muratova in winter, to the Michael Powell centennial tribute in spring, to Louis Malle in summer, crowned by his The Fire Within. Sydney Pollacks neo-noir They Shoot Horses, Dont They? was deservedly lauded at the Tribeca Film Festival, and the most welcome theatrical revival was Antonionis sleek doppelgänger parable, The Passenger. Perhaps the single loveliest moment regained was Warhols scarcely seen Blue Movie, introduced by Viva at the New York Film Festival.
The repertory slate also brimmed with Asian cinema, with Maggie Cheungs appearance at the Asian American International Film Festival like a pendant between, on the early side, Anthologys Hou Hsiao-Hsien/Edward Yang salutes and the Museum of the Moving Images Asian City Films primer, and on the later side, the Mikio Naruse retrospective at Film Forum and MoMAs weighty series of early Chinese and Japanese cinema.
The revelation of the year, however, was Getting to Know the World (1978), screened in the Walter Reades Kira Muratova retrospective and organized by Alla Verlotsky of the estimable Seagull Films. Getting to Know the World makes my best dozen films of 2005 because, virtually unseen here for the last quarter-century, its handful of screenings were effectively a New York debut, and because it did more than almost any other to enlarge my senses, comparable only to The Intruder for visionary astonishment.
From the unpromising Socialist Realist outline of a youthful romantic triangle set against the construction of a new Soviet factory-town by its future residents, Muratova conjures a carnivalesque improvisation between the plasterer Liuba, and two truck driversmanic, abusive Nikolai, to whom shes attached, and the soulful newcomer Misha. Muratova goes from an uproarious Komsomol group wedding, where Liuba reads a faltering toast from a pickup truck flatbed, to Misha and Liubas haute-hippie nuptials, everything festooned with shambolic whimsy and aglow with the voluptuous ornamentalism gleaned from her Ukranian forebear Sergei Paradjanov.
While counting the hours until the DVD release of Getting to Know the World, here are some of the years best DVDsthe selected short documentaries of Cuban supremo Santiago Álvarez, on Extreme Low Frequency; the seven-disc Unseen Cinema digest of early American avant-garde films; the Krzysztof Kiéslowski box from Kino, including his essential Blind Chance; Peter Watkins never-timelier Punishment Park on New Yorker; and the Val Lewton collection from Warner Brothers, with I Walked With a Zombie and the original Cat People. Cheers to Other Cinema DVD for making available Mike Kuchars underground milestone Sins of the Fleshapoids, the perfect follow-up to the Kuchar brothers restorations showcased last March at Anthology.
2005 yielded so many treasures that the customary ten wont do. So heres the dozen best, plus the top ten documentaries listed separately. My sole criterion was a single theatrical performance in New York in 2005, and even this was bent to include Stanley Kwans Everlasting Regret, which simply couldnt keep until the next round. Of the rest, Ilya Khrzhanovskys 4, will be released in New York on April 7 by Leisure Times Features, while Televisa Cine, the U.S. theatrical arm of Mexican media giant Grupo Televisa, is biding its time with Beto Gómezs comic gem Pink Punch, yet to open stateside.
Best dozen films of 2005:
4 directed by Ilya Khrzhanovsky
Caché directed by Michael Haneke
The Death of Mr. Lazarescu directed by Cristi Puiu
Everlasting Regret directed by Stanley Kwan
Getting to Know the World directed by Kira Muratova
The Holy Girl directed by Lucrecia Martel
Instructions for a Light and Sound Machine directed by Peter Tscherkassky
The Intruder directed by Claire Denis
My Summer of Love directed by Pawel Pawlikowski
Pink Punch directed by Beto Gómez
Tropical Malady directed by Apichatpong Weerasethakul
The World directed by Jia Zhangke
Top ten documentaries of 2005:
The Birdpeople directed by Michael Gitlin
Detail directed by Avi Mograbi
Mouths of Ash directed by Juan Manuel Echavarría
Oh! Uomo directed by Yervant Gianikian and Angela Ricci Lucchi
States of UnBelonging directed by Lynne Sachs
To the Other Side directed by Natalia Almada
Troop 1500 directed by Ellen Spiro and Karen Bernstein
Wetback: The Undocumented Documentary directed by Arturo Perez Torres
Why We Fight directed by Eugene Jarecki
William Eggleston in the Real World directed by Michael Almereyda
In memory of producer Humbert Balsan (19542005), actor and activist Ossie Davis (19172005), screenwriter Gyula Hernádi (19262005), experimental filmmaker Mark LaPore (19522005), screenwriter Ernest Lehman (19152005), actress Brigitte Mira (19102005), director Pastor Vega (19402005), and actress Teresa Wright (19182005).