Months and, *ahem*, maybe, just maybe, years back, I had promised 1995. Well… here it is! Better late than never, right? And an interesting year at that. Not memorable for heavyweight masterpieces that are largely part of the mainstream discourse today, with perhaps the exception of Heat and Seven. In fact, I’d call it a rather passive year. Those movies that have stayed with me certainly are the ones that relish in the languid. Lyrical experiments, if you must. I mean, just take a look at Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise. It’s about as antithetical as you can get when it comes to a romantic drama. And yet, it is one of the most astounding of its kind because it’s so naturally disarming. It almost appears too easy when so many others of its ilk toil for conventionality. And lyricism can also be a manner to describe a handful of other gems that came close to making the cut. I’m talking to you, Sense and Sensibility, Persuasion, and Smoke. There’s even an unsettling peacefulness all throughout Claude Chabrol’s La Cérémonie that is painfully effective in its layered observation about class. It’s all so wonderfully macabre. That, along with an essay length discourse I could easily have regarding its perfect summation, are reasons it lands at my number one.
1. La Cérémonie (Claude Chabrol)
2. Before Sunrise (Richard Linklater)
3. Heat (Michael Mann)
4. Safe (Todd Haynes)
5. Underground (Emir Kusturica)
6. Seven (David Fincher)
7. The White Balloon (Jafar Panahi)
8. Toy Story (John Lasseter)
9. Fallen Angels (Wong Kar-Wai) and La Haine (Mathieu Kassovitz)
10. Carrington (Christopher Hampton)
Safe is Todd Haynes doing Kubrick, while Underground is Kusturica channeling Fellini. The White Ballon still renders emotional power through its simplicity, something Middle Eastern films were insanely attuned in achieving at this peak period. Then there’s Toy Story, which is quite possibly the most influential film to this day, ushering a new mode of animation that has seldom seized to desist. Carrington beats out the Jane Austen flicks because beyond its entrancing oddness, it covers the Bloomsbury Group, a topic you NEVER see covered anywhere. Then there’s Fallen Angels and La Haine. The former, heroin for the film-crazed, while the latter comes to show just how the French New Wave method of moviemaking, with things like La Cérémonie, was beginning to look old-fashioned. Hell, the Kassovitz film had Vincent Cassel practically yanking the baton away from his father, Jean-Pierre Cassel, in the Chabrol flick.
Others that almost made the cut include Living in Oblivion, To Die For, Strange Days, and Dead Man Walking. In a recent viewing, I was surprised to discover just how dated Leaving Las Vegas has become. And Casino and Clockers are lower tier works from solid filmmakers. As for Jim Jarmusch’s Dead Man. That there’s a movie that would have probably made the list had I watched it recently. But ten years has made it a bit of a haze, which is no fault of the film whatsoever.
Interesting stuff beyond that include Devil in a Blue Dress, Kicking and Screaming, The City of Lost Children, and The Addiction. But what I don’t miss is The Usual Suspects.
Next time: 1923… Yeah, yeah. I had promised that one too.