Saturday, January 02, 2010

The Top Films of the Decade - #40-31...

40. P.T.U. – 2003 – Johnnie To
That’s PTU, not PCU! Johnnie To’s second entry into my top 50 is a taught, cerebral cop thriller set during one very long night for a police tactical unit. Sparse artistic lighting, desolate streets, haunting silhouettes, and elegant camera orchestrations capture both the beauty and apprehension of Hong Kong’s night environs, and showcase the director’s ability to captivate with music and images instead of dialogue that almost seems superfluous here. I can’t recommend it enough!

39. A Very Long Engagement (Un Long Dimanche de Fiancailles) – 2004 – Jean-Pierre Jeunet
Amber-hued beauty… that is what I think best sums up this loving, romantic, and heartbreaking tale from Jean-Pierre Jeunet. Set against the backdrop of the rarely explored World War I, the film follows a young woman’s relentless journey to search for her fiancé, who disappeared from the trenches of the Somme. Audrey Tautou is marvelous in the role of Mathilde, a woman of determination and vulnerability, who refuses to give up hope. Moreover, Jodie Foster makes one of the decades oddest cameo appearances as the wife of one of the French Soldiers. You would think that she would stick out like a sore thumb, but her years of study in France, and the fluency of her language made her fit right in. I could go on more and praise Jeunet, but I am going to save that for another movie in the list.

38. Naissance des Pieuvres (Water Lilies) – 2007 – Celine Sciamma
I’ve never felt like such a perv in a movie theatre. This is yet another film unearthed from the COLCOA festival. It is a coming of age story about the sexual awakenings of three teenage girls over the course of a single summer and is quintessentially French. The film has a slow, melancholy tone and relies heavily on music and imagery to set the mood and move the story along without a lot of dialog. It is a wonderful film and surprisingly had a theatrical run in America! I guess it is the power of hooters. I highly recommend you Netflix it or buy it from And don’t forget your raincoat!

37. Lust, Caution (Se, Jie) – 2007 – Ang Lee
My quip for this movie was that it should be titled “Caution, Boner.” Taiwanese Director Ang Lee’s return to the Chinese cinema is a brilliant WWII espionage thriller filled with tension and sexuality. Tony Leung Chiu Wai shines giving one of the best performances of his long, distinguished career, and Wei Tang is powerful and moving in the role of a girl torn between the awakening of her passion and the convictions of her duty. It is a meticulously made film, with stunning camera work and production design and was easily the best film Lee has made since “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.”

36. Tada, Kimi wo Aishiteru (Heavenly Forest) – 2006 – Takehiko Shinjo
Clearly, I wasn’t ready for what this movie did to me. It was a nightmare finding it on DVD (right case, wrong movie on disc), and an even bigger nightmare finding it digitally. Then one fortunate night, I found it on a website in full resolution, downloaded it in haste and started watching. Let’s just say a few hours later I nearly cried my eyes out of my head. Set in Japan and New York, Heavenly Forest is a junai (true love) story from author Ichikawa Takuji, and is based on his novel "Renai Shashin: Mo Hitotsu no Monogatari." It tells the tale of two unlikely friends and the bond they share while taking pictures in a quiet, peaceful forest. There is a lot more to the story, stuff that will simply break your heart in half. All I can say is that if you are in need of a good cry, this beautiful little movie is all you need.

35. Ensemble C’est Tout (Hunting and Gathering) – 2007 – Claude Berri
COLCOA festival, what would this decade be without you?! Another Gem from the 2007 festival is this small, personal story of a young cleaning woman (Audrey Tautou) and two very different men who become her roommates. It is a warm, funny film with pure charm and verve. I can’t say enough here about little Audrey Tautou, my favorite actress. She gives another excellent performance, as does the luckiest man on Earth, Guillaume Canet. He is disheveled and French and brilliant in the role of Franck, Chef and grandmother lover extraordinaire. Nevertheless, the standout performance of the movie comes from Laurent Stocker, who gives the film much of its comic charm. He is such a tragic clown that you can’t help but bust up when he is onscreen. This is a great film and I hope that you will be able to find it somewhere. It is available from Amazon France and on a Thai DVD from EBAY with English subtitles.

34. The Football Factory – 2004 – Nick Love
“Don’t get lemon Bill, it don’t suit ya!” Footie hooligans, blow, bangin’ birds, Primal Scream, could it get any better? Nick Love (former male model and trainers aficionado) really delivers here with a tough film that is all about football, but features none of it. It has a true amphetamine laced pace and leaves you with a Chelsea smile at the end. I think Danny Dyer best sums up what this film is all about, “What else are you gonna do on a Saturday? Sit in your fuckin' armchair wankin' off to Pop Idols? Then try and avoid your wife's gaze as you struggle to come to terms with your sexless marriage? Then go and spunk your wages on kebabs, fruit machines and brasses? Fuck that for a laugh! I know what I'd rather do. Tottenham away, love it!”

33. The 40-Year-Old Virgin – 2005 – Judd Apatow
“Name’s Gina…” I think this is still the best of all the Judd Apatow genre of movies. I use the lines from it constantly and think that Steve Carell will never be better than this. The moment where he lovingly sets up his room with candles and silk pajamas for a masturbation session is still one of the funniest things I have seen. I also think that “Boner Jams” is possibly the greatest title I have ever heard. I think I watched this 40 times on cable and it never stopped being funny.

32. Ping Pong – 2002 – Fumihiko Sori
For the better part of a year, I would go to Amoeba records and see a movie called “Ping Pong” sitting in their import DVD section. The DVD often called to me, asking me to buy it, but I would continually deny the urge. One lazy day, I finally decided to pull the trigger and took the film home. How happy I am that I did. Based on the Manga of the same name by Taiyo Matsumoto, Ping Pong is at times melancholy, at times hilarious, always moving, and always engaging. It also opened my eyes to a whole new era of Japanese cinema that exploded in the “noughties.” A two-disc special edition DVD is now available in America through Amazon and Netflix, so I think you should run out and get it!

31. Nos Jours Heureux (Those Happy Days) – 2006 – Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano
Of all of the COLCOA experiences I have had, none has been quite as joyous as this, and it was the perfect capper to a memorable day spent with my friend, Ted. How fitting that a film of such warmth, humor and sentimentality would be headline to that wonderful Saturday. Loosely based on the experiences of the film’s directors (both were summer camp councilors), Those Happy Days follows the exploits of a group of councilors running a summer camp in the French countryside. It is a hilarious film and a true crime that it never secured a release in America. Thankfully, Amazon Canada stocks it on DVD with English subtitles so that YOU can buy it and find your own Happy Days.

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