It wasn't exactly a banner year for homegrown cinema, although the following half-dozen Minnesotans (current or former) did manage to premiere worthy indie work in '99: Sayer Frey (Eileen Is a Spy); Wes Jones (Apt. 6); Joanna Kohler (Witness); Roger Nygaard (Trekkies); Pattie Rhodes (When We Play For Real); and Reilly Tillman (Madison on Tour). (Props as well to Lisa Ganser and Benno Nelson for curating the "Women in the Rejected Chair" and "Sweet Emulsion" collections of local shorts, respectively.)
Ten Disappointing Directors
They have been great, and they will be again--but they weren't in '99: Robert Altman (Cookie's Fortune); Gregg Araki (Splendor); Jane Campion (Holy Smoke); Atom Egoyan (Felicia's Journey); Abel Ferrara (New Rose Hotel); Lasse Hallström (The Cider House Rules); Werner Herzog (My Best Fiend: Klaus Kinski); John Sayles (Limbo); Martin Scorsese (Bringing Out the Dead); and Oliver Stone (Any Given Sunday).
Best As-Yet-Unreleased Movie of the Year
Flowers of Shanghai. Featured at both the Cannes and New York film festivals in 1998, Taiwanese auteur Hou Hsiao-hsien's masterly study of late-19th-century brothel life in Shanghai screened last year as part of a comprehensive Hou retro at New York's Walter Reade Theater--and it would have appeared at the Walker as well, along with its maker, had he not chosen at the last minute to attend to preproduction issues with his next project. (Who could blame him?) In brief, the film is a beautiful, tantalizingly oblique, and thoroughly hypnotic portrait of four Shanghai "flower girls," with Hou subtly suggesting that their melodramatic downfall is that of imperial China in microcosm. Keep your fingers crossed that it'll show up--perhaps along with ten other Hou works--later this year.
Ten Best of the Decade
Since I recently submitted these ten modern classics to the Village Voice Film Critics' Poll, I'll endeavor to repeat them here (alphabetically): David Cronenberg's Crash; Krzysztof Kieslowski's The Decalogue; Errol Morris's Fast, Cheap & Out of Control; Jean-Luc Godard's Histoire(s) du cinéma; Werner Herzog's Lessons of Darkness; Jane Campion's The Portrait of a Lady; Zhang Yimou's Raise the Red Lantern; Todd Haynes's Safe; Abbas Kiarostami's Taste of Cherry; and Charles Burnett's To Sleep With Anger.
Ten Films of the Century
Again asked to compile an impossible list for the Voice poll, I imagined that an E.T. landed in my screening room and asked to see ten movies that would explain all humanity--or perhaps just myself (alphabetically): Bringing Up Baby; Citizen Kane; Histoire(s) du cinéma; Imitation of Life (1959); Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles; Lessons of Darkness; The Man With a Movie Camera; Rashomon; 2001: A Space Odyssey; and Within Our Gates.