Still from Guy Maddin’s My Winnipeg courtesy of Cinematheque.
Last month we reported that the first few weeks of the Best of the Decade programme currently unfolding at the TIFF Cinematheque (née Cinematheque Ontario) are jam-packed with arty noodle-scratchers and slow-moving snoozers.
Well, as January begets February and the temperature drops even lower, things seem to be warming over at the ol’ Cinematheque, with “Best of the Decade: An Alternative View” unveiling some of the aughts’ livelier masterpieces.
If the meditative filmmaking of Apichatpong Weerasethakul leaves you starved for not only some in-your-face arterial spray, but studied reflection on said arterial spray, this Thursday sees Michael Haneke’s nasty family drama Caché double-billed with David Cronenberg’s GTA-shot A History of Violence.
Speaking of double features, this week also offers twofers from first lady of the French arthouse Claire Denis—Beau Travail and L’Intrus screen Friday—and golden boy of the Taiwanese New Wave Hou Hsiao-Hsien, whose Ozu homage Café Lumière and brooding Millennium Mambo screen on Saturday.
Probably sensitive to the fact that watching two Pedro Costa films back-to-back would be a Herculean labour for even to the critically hailed Portuguese director, the programmers accordingly stagger screenings of Costa’s Colossal Youth and In Vanda’s Room, both of which clock in at almost three hours, over Sunday and the following Monday. Both are fantastic films, abundantly rewarding any viewer whose patience (and bladder) can endure the marathon running times.
As “Best of the Decade: An Alternative View” rolls on throughout February, there’re loads of chances to see all kinds of things that have made the TIFF Cinematheque’s decisive list of the best of the 2000s. There are two from Gus Van Sant, in the form of his “swear-it’s-not-a-Columbine-movie” Elephant (meh) and his tedious Damon and (Casey) Affleck flick Gerry (boo), both screening February 11.
This month also sees many of the programme’s finest features at Jackman Hall. Béla Tarr’s Werckmeister Harmonies is as masterful and intriguing a film as you’re likely to have seen last decade. While its title is reflected in Tarr’s melodious long takes—which Van Sant himself has acknowledged influencing both Gerrry and Elephant—its story of a bizarre carnival (featuring a no-show prince and a gigantic stuffed whale) poisoning a rural Hungarian village with the seeds of fascism betrays a social chaos that somehow works in conjunction with the formal unity of Tarr’s images. It also has one of the saddest and most beautiful opening scenes of any film, released in the 2000s or otherwise.
Screening February 19, David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive is, alongside A History of Violence and Malick’s The New World, the closest thing this “Alternative View” comes to commercial cinema. It’s also a exemplary masterpiece from a premier American filmmaker pretty prone to making masterpieces. It may not be as audacious and uncompromising as Lynch’s later opus INLAND EMPIRE, but the tale of the Hollywood Dream Machine churning an eager starlet (Naomi Watts) through its nightmarish mechanisms is top shelf Lynch: alopecia-stricken cowboys and all. It’s also about a thousand times prettier (and more straightforward) than INLAND EMPIRE. (Mulholland Drive was voted the best film of the 2000s by the Reverse/Shot blog. Read Michael Koresky’s thoughtful defence of the film here.)
Throw in two films from the Dardennes Brothers, a short and a feature from Winnipeg’s Guy Maddin, and gems like Cristian Mungiu’s 4 Months, 3 Weeks And 2 Days and Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s Distant, and you’ve got a Best of the Decade retrospective that ends on some pleasing high notes.
For more info, and a complete schedule, make sure to check out the TIFF Cinematheque website. And if you need a little cinematic comfort food to cleanse your palate of this series’ more self-consciously artful indulgences, there’s always the Great Digital Film Festival, kicking off this Friday at the Scotiabank Theatre.