The best films of 2005

Brokeback Mountain, A History of Violence and The Holy Girl lead our poll in a year when a British horror film breached our top ten. Have the movies got richer, or are critical tastes diverging?

Sight & Sound contributors

frmo our January 2006 issue

Brokeback Mountain (2005)

Brokeback Mountain (2005)


The top 10

1. Brokeback Mountain

Ang Lee


=2. A History of Violence

David Cronenberg


=2. The Holy Girl

Lucretia Martel


=4. 2046

Wong Kar Wai


=4. Mysterious Skin

Gregg Araki


=6. The Consequences of Love

Paolo Sorrentino


=6. The Descent

Neil Marshall


=6. Moolaadé

Ousmane Sembene


=6. Tropical Malady

Apichatpong Weerasethakul


=10. The Beat That My Heart Skipped

Jaques Audiard


=10. Head-On

Fatih Akin


=10. Howl’s Moving Castle

Hayao Miyazaki


=10. Last Days

Gus Van Sant


=10. The Sun

Aleksandr Sokurov


Nick James introduces Sight & Sound’s films of 2005

About 20 minutes into Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain, after much studied, even-paced mooching about by the be-Stetsoned stars Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger, I remember thinking, “this is all very well but if something doesn’t happen soon I’m going to get very bored.” Something does happen, but, in the way of Lee’s films, it’s more the quiet accretion of meaning and mood that sweeps you away than the quick fumble of belts and zippers in a tent.

I mention this because Brokeback Mountain came out top when Sight & Sound asked 30 or so of our key anglophone contributors to list the five “most remarkable or intriguing” films seen by them in 2005 (it was, by the way, one of my own five choices). If an early bout of fidgets had taken me out of the cinema I would have missed our film of the year. Which goes to show, of course, how subjective these lists are: it depends on what you missed as much as what you saw. They represent an extraordinarily varied selection of films, for no less than 72 titles were chosen. This would suggest that either it was a particularly good year, or a year of collective competence, or that the tastes of reviewers and critics are diverging more than ever before.

Most contributors back the first view. “It was a very good year, in the sense of there being more than five exceptional films; a top 12 would have been easier,” said Amy Taubin. As if to prove her right, we couldn’t whittle our notional top ten down below the 14 listed here. “2005 is a terrific vintage,” said B. Ruby Rich. “Finally, the cinematic world is awakening from the state of shock and denial [of] a post-9/11 universe. It’s also beginning to shake off some of the confusions of the medium’s mutations and get back to basics.”

Looking at our top 14, you get a sense of ‘proper’ filmmaking. Brokeback Mountain is about as classical a film as you could imagine being made currently. A History of Violence, which Mark Kermode described as “nimbly negotiating the turns between light and dark, love and violence”, is probably David Cronenberg’s most conventional work. Speaking about Wong Kar-Wai’s gorgeous 2046, Graham Fuller said: “The more it tried to project into the future, the more it seemed to call up the past… returning to the very heart of pre-noir Paramount artifice and the ultimately exotic mythic state dreamed up by Josef von Sternberg in the 1930s.” Of The Holy Girl, Rich said: “It looks at the cusp of girlhood in a way we haven’t seen in years, if ever, and turns sexual attention inside out.” But she comments, too, on its “old-fashioned setting”.

In addition, there are such surprises as African master Ousmane Sembène’s feminist disquisition Moolaadé, Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s truly unique Tropical Malady, Gregg Araki’s astounding comeback Mysterious Skin, and that curious arthouse hit (“stylish, intriguing and ultimately thrilling”, in Liese Spencer’s words) The Consequences of Love. Also, you might not expect to find Neil Marshall’s British horror film The Descent riding high in a Sight & Sound poll, but there it is – a reflection, I think, as much of the broadening age range of our contributors as of its originality.

There are some equally mystifying exclusions. We were fairly elastic in our criteria, allowing any new film viewed in 2005. So, many titles that will not be released in the UK until early next year appear. And yet near-unanimous festival acclaim for such films as Michael Haneke’s Hidden, Cristi Puiu’s The Death of Mr Lazarescu and the Dardenne brothers’ The Child has not translated into votes. Perhaps we’ll see them on next year’s list. For myself, I am sorry the Werner Herzog vote was split between Grizzly Man and The Wild Blue Yonder – just keeping him out in his renaissance year; I wish The Beat That My Heart Skipped was nearer the top; and I regret the absence of Lucile Hadzihalilovic’s stunning debut Innocence.



How the critics voted

James Bell

  • Tropical Malady (Apichatpong Weerasethakul)
  • The Wild Blue Yonder (Werner Herzog)
  • Head-On (Fatih Akin)
  • 2046 (Wong Kar-Wai)
  • Brokeback Mountain (Ang Lee)

Roger Clarke

  • Tropical Malady (Apichatpong Weerasethakul)
  • The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (Wes Anderson)
  • Brokeback Mountain (Ang Lee)
  • Undertow (David Gordon Green)
  • Head-On (Fatih Akin)

Mark Cousins

  • Three Times (Hou Hsiao-Hsien)
  • Eli, Eli, lema sabachtani? (Aoyama Shinji)
  • Tropical Malady (Apichatpong Weerasethakul)
  • 2046 (Wong Kar-Wai)
  • House of Flying Daggers (Zhang Yimou)
  • Nobody Knows (Kore-eda Hirokazu)
  • 20 Fingers (Mania Akbari)
  • The Beat that My Heart Skipped (Jacques Audiard)
  • Pride & Prejudice (Joe Wright)
  • Hidden (Michael Haneke)
  • The Death of Mr Lazarescu (Cristu Puiu)
  • The Sun (Aleksandr Sokurov)
  • Mondovino (Jonathan Nossiter)
  • The Three Rooms of Melancholia (Pirjo Honkasalo)
North America:
  • Dominion Prequel to Exorcist (Paul Schrader)
  • Last Days (Gus Van Sant)
  • War of the Worlds (first half) (Steven Spielberg)
  • Batman Begins (Christopher Nolan)
  • The Aviator (first half) (Martin Scorsese)
  • A History of Violence (David Cronenberg)
  • Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (Shane Black)
  • Battle in Heaven (Carlos Reygadas)
  • Mooladé (Ousmane Sembène)

If I had to choose five they would be:

  • Moolade
  • Hidden
  • Three Times
  • The Beat That My Heart Skipped
  • Twenty Fingers

(please note that only the last five of Mark’s choices counted for the poll)

Graham Fuller

  • 2046 (Wong Kar-Wai)
  • A History of Violence (David Cronenberg)
  • The Holy Girl (Lucrecia Martel)
  • The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada (Tommy Lee Jones)
  • Match Point (Woody Allen)

The more 2046 tried to project into the future, the more it seemed to call up the past: not just in the way Mr. Chow’s pulp science-fictions function as evocations of his psychological history, but via Wong Kar-Wai’s fetishised images of Chow’s female acquaintances as phantoms aboard some Hong Kong Express returning to the very heart of pre-noir Paramount artifice and the ultimately exotic mythic state dreamed up by Josef von Sternberg in the 1930s. Even the perversity is perverse: the dreamy hotelier’s daughter (Faye Wong) who helps Chow (Tony Leung) with his stories is the least fatale of these femmes, yet in her unavailability she is the woman who seems to remind him most of the original Su Lizhen (Maggie Cheung) from In the Mood for Love, here reduced in Chow’s reveries as a supine masturbation object; Gong Li’s gambler — Madame Gin-Sling lives! — is powerless for all her spidery aura; and Zhang Ziyi’s pouting call girl, naive in her belief she can vamp Chow, proves so pathetically masochistic that he pities her. Still, if Zhang, once seduced, barely flickers on Chow’s radar, she dominates ours: hypnotically scored to Connie Francis’ yearning rendition of ‘Siboney’, the voyeuristic sequence that introduces her preening in front of the mirrors in room 2046 is as iconic as Dietrich’s entrances in The Blue Angel andBlonde Venus - and deeply Sternbergian in its recognition of the primacy of the erotic image in cinema.

Charles Gant

  • The Consequences of Love (Paolo Sorrentino)
  • The Aviator (Martin Scorsese)
  • The Descent (Neil Marshall)
  • Mysterious Skin (Gregg Araki)
  • Wallace and Gromit in The Curse of the Were-Rabbit ( Steve Box & Nick Park)

Ryan Gilbey

  • Brokeback Mountain (Ang Lee)
  • Moolaad é(Ousmane Semb ène)
  • The Spongebob SquarePants Movie (Stephen Hillenburg)
  • Team America World Police(Trey Parker)
  • Tropical Malady (Apichatpong Weerasethakul)

Jim Hoberman

  • A History of Violence (David Cronenberg)
  • Last Days (Gus Van Sant)
  • The Power of Nightmares (Adam Curtis)
  • Grizzly Man (Werner Herzog)
  • The World (Jia Zhang Ke)

Ali Jaafar

  • Head-On (Fatih Akin)
  • Good Night, and Good Luck. (George Clooney)
  • Lower City (Sérgio Machado)
  • The Beat That My Heart Skipped (Jacques Audiard)
  • Walk the Line (James Mangold)

Nick James

  • The Beat That My Heart Skipped (Jacques Audiard)
  • Brokeback Mountain (Ang Lee)
  • Innocence (Lucile Hadzihalilovic)
  • 2046 (Wong Kar-Wai)
  • The Wild Blue Yonder (Werner Herzog)

Sheila Johnston

  • Bubble (Steven Soderbergh)
  • The Sky Turns/El cielo gira (Mercedes Alvarez)
  • Moolad é(Ousmane Semb ène)
  • The Aura (Fabian Bielinski)
  • The Child/L’Enfant (Jean-Pierre Dardenne and Luc Dardenne)

Philip Kemp

  • The Consequences of Love
  • Moolaadé (Ousmane Semb ène)
  • Downfall (Oliver Hirschbiegel)
  • A History of Violence (David Cronenberg)
  • Hotel Rwanda (Terry George)

Mark Kermode

  • A History of Violence (David Cronenberg) — This brilliant graphic novel adaptation was not only the highlight of Cannes but also of the year, nimbly negotiating the turns between light and dark, love and violence, and boasting superb performances from the cast. I don’t care what anyone says — for me, Viggo Mortenson is the new De Niro.
  • Crash (Paul Haggis) — Wrongly dismissed by some critics as too contrived or ‘self conscious’, this cross-cultural drama blends down-to-earth politics with transcendent hope, and even the possibility of miracles. I saw it three times, and cried (and laughed) each time.
  • Vera Drake (Mike Leigh) — Contender for Best Leigh film. Imelda Staunton lends real heart to this surprisingly vibrant tale of a still controversial subject.
  • Wolf Creek (Greg McLean) — Nasty, nasty, nasty. Horror gets back to basics with this taut, intelligent, and impressively repugnant tale of an outback serial killer.
  • The Descent (Neil Marshall) — Best British horror movie in some years. A shocking opening and some extremely claustrophobic build up gives way to full blooded monster fun. An exceptionally well-made shocker, and miles better than the far more expensive rival The Cave.

Ed Lawrenson

  • Mysterious Skin (Gregg Araki)
  • Saraband (Ingmar Bergman)
  • Brokeback Mountain (Ang Lee)
  • A History of Violence (David Cronenberg)
  • Sideways (Alexander Payne)

Geoffrey Macnab

  • The Squid And The Whale (Noah Baumbach)
  • Capote (Bennet Miller)
  • Brokeback Mountain (Ang Lee)
  • The Sun (Aleksandr Sokurov)
  • Good Night and Good Luck (George Clooney)

Matthew Leyland

  • 2046 (Wong Kar-Wai)
  • 3-Iron (Kim Ki-deok)
  • Howl’s Moving Castle ( Miyazaki Hayao)
  • The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (Wes Anderson)
  • Star Wars Episode III Revenge Of The Sith (George Lucas)

Old fanboy habits die hard!

Kevin Maher

  • Undertow (David Gordon Green) — because it’s the best arthouse action movie of the year.
  • Me You and Everyone We Know (Miranda July) — because it restores faith in the beauty of human experience.
  • Tarnation (Jonathan Caouette) — because iMovie is scarily professional.
  • Who Killed Bambi? (Gilles Marchand) — because Laurent Lucas is the new Brando.
  • Le Clan (Gaël Morel) — because Nicolas Cazalé is really the new Brando.
  • The Intruder (Claire Denis)- because sometimes its nice not to know where you’re going.

Andrew Osmond

  • The Consequences of Love (Paolo Sorrentino)
  • The Aviator (Martin Scorsese)
  • The Descent (Neil Marshall)
  • Mysterious Skin (Gregg Araki)
  • Wallace & Gromit in The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (Steve Box & Nick Park)

Naman Ramachandran

  • 36 Quai Des Orfevres (Olivier Marchal) — The French doing what they do best — a wonderfully complex policier that gives more than a passing nod to the Infernal Affairs films. A superb world-weary, layered turn from Daniel Auteuil.
  • 3 Iron - (Kim Ki-doek) — Quiet, resonating, philosophical open ended work from the Korean master.
  • A Bittersweet Life (Ji-Woon Kim) — Ravishingly shot Korean tribute toLe Samourai. A triumph of style.
  • Batman Begins (Christopher Nolan) — Welcome return to Batman’s raw, gritty, complex origins. Thank God no nipples.
  • Anniyan (Shankar) — Big-budget colourful musical Tamil language blockbuster that deals with, hold your breath — multiple personality disorder!

Tim Robey

  • The Sun (Aleksandr Sokurov)
  • The Holy Girl (Lucrecia Martel)
  • Adam & Paul (Lenny Abrahamson)
  • Howl’s Moving Castle ( Miyazaki Hayao)
  • Kings & Queen (Arnaud Desplechin)

Jonathan Romney

  • Innocence (Lucile Hadzihalilovic)
  • Vendredi, ou un Autre Jour/Friday, or Another Day (Yvan Le Moine) — Hallucinatory reworking of the Robinson Crusoe story, via Michel Tournier’s novel.
  • The Intruder (Claire Denis)
  • Sin City (Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller)
  • The Holy Girl (Lucretia Martel)

B. Ruby Rich

  • Mysterious Skin (Gregg Araki)
  • Brokeback Mountain (Ang Lee)
  • Paradise Now (Hany Abu-Assad)
  • Darwin’s Nightmare (Hubert Sauper)
  • The Holy Girl (Lucrecia Martel)

and a 6th:

  • Good Night, and Good Luck. (George Clooney)

Five films plus one hollywood movie.

First things first: 2005 is a terrific vintage. Finally, the cinematic world is awakening from the state of shock and denial that it seemed to enter with a transition into a post-9/11, post-Bali, post-Madrid, not-yet-post-London-bombings universe. It’s also beginning to shake off some of the confusions of the medium’s mutations and get back to basics, however long they last. The films on my list are wildly different, but they share a preoccupation with the illogical, with secrets, with drives that are curtailed either too much or too little, with wounds from the past, with trauma, with social regulation and with the failure of social regulation. They are all powerfully influential films, or at least deserve to be, if only enough people see them. They sober me up and they give me hope.

Okay, then. Three films about sexuality and consequences:

1) Mysterious Skin takes two narratives that would appear to be thoroughly well-known, overdetermined and overexposed — pedophilia and UFO abduction — and makes them not only fresh but freshly cinematic, compellingly intertwined, and emotionally devastating. Araki was one of the most courageous voices of the early New Queer Cinema. He’s long been a daring stylist, even when his narrative play veered off the rails for a while. Now, forsaking his own original story in order to adapt Scott Heim’s novel, he may well be credited with breathing new life into whatever embers of New Queer Cinema fire may have been left burning, stoking the flames, and putting a vividly auteurist stamp on a stylistic investigation of drives and desires that leaves no stone in small-town America unturned, and no stone unthrown in the magnetic metropolis (a NYC as seedy as any that Ratso Rizzo navigated, and considerably more dangerous). It’s a masterpiece that transforms genres in such a way that neither childhood nor science fiction can be experienced the same way again.

2) Brokeback Mountain is so much more than “the gay cowboy movie” of its tag. I prefer, for once, a marketing tagline: Love Is A Force Of Nature. Good work there! Once again an adaptation, this time from an Annie Proulx story about cowboy love in Wyoming that appeared in The New Yorker prophetically in 1997, a year before the gruesome murder of Matthew Shepard in the same state for the crime of being gay. It’s an old-fashioned movie with a new-fashioned theme, giving the lie to the notion that pouring new wine into old bottles can’t work. Turns out that it works magnificently. And it turns out that Ang Lee, master of sublimation and heartbreak, the forensics specialist in matters of the heart, is ideally suited to fine-tuning a masculine love that dares not yodel its name. As I once wrote about Hilary Swank in Boys Don’t Cry: the good new is that she’s acting, the bad news is that she’s acting.

3) The Holy Girl is the third in this trinity of films exploring desire, expressed or constrained, forced or pursued. It looks at the cusp of girlhood in a way we haven’t seen in years, if ever, and turns sexual attention inside out, demonstrating that energy can be a force for agency or disaster no matter whence it comes or where it’s heading. Betrayal and deceit turn out to be as powerful and everpresent as ever, and the old-fashioned (again!) setting of a provincial hotel where a cast of characters convene, so familiar from classic French cinema, becomes an altogether different venue once relocated to the Argentine provinces. Wonderful, intoxicating filmmaking, with an almost unbearably subtle soundtrack.

And two or three films about politics, miscarriages of justice, and consequences:

4) Paradise Now shows Hany Abu-Assad at his very best, restaging the local and the global through the prism of the personal. Increasingly, the Middle East is the cradle of cinema, producing some of the most important and most urgent of films. Case in point is this almost Becketesque tragicomedy about a pair of dead-end pals, who could have been cast out of an early Kevin Smith film if they weren’t Palestinians, tapped to carry out a suicide bombing in Israel. Gallows humor, to be sure, but deployed with laser accuracy. Shot in Nablus under combat conditions, Abu-Assad sticks close to his mission to make cinema, not news, and he succeeds admirably in capturing a subjectivity that usually gets little chance for expression. It’s neither an attack nor an apologia, just an increasingly rare examination, with eyes wide open, of motivation and behavior that are anything but mad.

5) Darwin’s Nightmare could be the poster child for a globalization movement if only filmmaker Hubert Sauper were not so intensely committed to a complex view of humanity that refuses simple heroes and villains. His investigation of an ecological disaster — the introduction of Nile Perch into Lake Victoria in Tanzania — turns into an epic story that spans the geopolitics of capitalism and the micropolitics of tribalism, with effects that touch on everyone from Tanzanian streetchildren to those dying of AIDS, from African politicians to prostitutes, from widows to Russian pilots. Sauper’s eye is everywhere, peering into every corner of complication without blinking, and forcing us to consider the ever-widening circles of responsibility. It’s a documentary which, in this day of box-office-driven “docutainment,” might just redefine the category.

6) This list is only supposed to have five, but I can’t help it: George Clooney’s Good Night, and Good Luck deserves to be here, something I haven’t said about a Hollywood actor-driven project since, well … ever. This is the movie that tries to make it sexy to stand up to conservative thugs. Ed Murrow and Fred Friendly and their pals drink and smoke and enjoy the tight camaraderie we usually only see in war movies or dragnet police shows. It all happens in black and white, which helps. So, damn it, does the magical singing of Dianne Reeves, who seems to float in a parallel universe full of yearning. It’s a movie that is nostalgic for decency, not a bad thing for our very bad times.

What a great year to be going to the movies. What an impossible task to choose five. Or six.

Liese Spencer

  • Downfall (Oliver Hirschbiegel) — Somber subject, brilliant performances. Captured the full human horror of the Nazi madness without turning its main players into monsters or caricatures.
  • Sideways ( Alexander Payne) — Terrific acting and a full-bodied, funny sad screenplay.
  • Battle in Heaven (Carlos Reygadas) — Devastatingly cinematic, political film-making that provokes a flow of ideas and images that run through your head for days afterwards.
  • The Consequences of Love (Paolo Sorrentino) — Stylish, intriguing and ultimately thrilling. Takes you into another world.
  • The Edukators (Hans Weingartner) — A smaller film than the others but a really well-crafted drama of youthful idealism and relationships. Unpredictable and sexy too in an off-beat German way.

Amy Taubin

  • A History of Violence (David Cronenberg)
  • 2046 (Wong Kar-Wai)
  • The Holy Girl (Lucrecia Martel)
  • Last Days (Gus Van Sant)
  • The New World(Terrence Malick)
  • Syriana (Stephen Gaghan)

It was a very good year, in the sense of there being more than five exceptional films. A top twelve would have been easier. After that, however, it was mostly garbage.

PS Oh dear, this is impossible. Syriana is a terrific, mostly tough thriller with one serious flaw. Malick’s The New World is as delirious as Flaming Creatures. It’s absurd and a genuine work of art, even though it’s not necessarily my favorite kind of art (all that natural man romanticism). Absurd. Still, will you replace Syriana on my list with The New World?

Linda Ruth Williams

A list of best kids films of 2005 (for parents who don’t get out much)

  • Howl’s Moving Castle(Hayao Miyazaki) — Visually dazzling and thematically adventurous animation from Miyazaki with another strong young female lead.
  • The Corpse Bride (Tim Burton, Mike Johnson) — A bewitching undead romance melding ethereal emotions with cadaverous slapstick.
  • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Mike Newell) — The darkest development of the franchise, laudibly leaving behind on Platform 91/2 all traces of a feelgood factor.
  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Tim Burton) — Containing the campest impersonation of a disgraced celebrity ever seen in a children’s film.
  • Racing Stripes (Frederic Du Chau) - Babe meets Seabiscuit, with a cute baby zebra, a feisty heroine and lots of poo-jokes.

Jessica Winter

  • Brokeback Mountain (Ang Lee)
  • The Holy Girl (Lucrecia Martel)
  • Kings & Queen (Arnaud Desplechin)
  • Last Days (Gus Van Sant)
  • Tropical Malady (Apichatpong Weerasethakul)


The following lists from Sight & Sound contributors arrived too late to be included in the overall poll

Geoff Andrew

Films released in the UK in 2005:
  • Saraband (Ingmar Bergman) — The master proves he’s lost none of his insight, honesty, courage or brilliance with a profoundly clear-eyed assessment of human vanity, vengeance and frailty.
  • A History of Violence (David Cronenberg) — This terrific comedy-thriller comes complete with fascinating subversive subtexts about identity, violence and the smalltown American Dream as a form of stultifying prison.
  • Factotum (Bent Hamer) — A wonderfully warm, witty, wise and and non-judgmental Bukowski adaptation, boasting a probably career-best performance from Matt Dillon as the writer with an undeniable yen for wine and women.
  • Familia Rodante (Pablo Trapero) — Yet another Argentinian gem, Pablo Trapero’s latest about an unruly extended family en route to a wedding in a cramped camper van has the freewheeling narrative audacity and wry comic humanism of Altman at his best.
  • Last Days (Gus Van Sant) — Van Sant refines the narrative and visual experiments that marked (and marred) Gerry and Elephant to create his finest film yet, an elegant, empathetic head-movie that makes a gentle foray into a life defined and destroyed by an addiction to drugs and rock ‘n’ roll.
Films made in 2005 but (I hope) awaiting release in 2006:
  • The Child/L’Enfant (The Dardenne Brothers) — The Dardennes tread by now fairly familiar territory — the lives of the alienated, marginalised and impoverished on the noisily industrialised streets of Seraing — and miraculously produce, yet again, something wholly fresh, wholly moving.
  • The Death of Mr Lazarescu (Cristi Puiu) — An extraordinarily engrossing second feature from Romania’s Puiu, chronicling the last few hours of a lonely, semi-alcoholic and none too lovable old man, hauled from hospital to unwelcoming hospital by conscientious paramedics. That very rare thing: an honest film about death.
  • Hidden (Michael Haneke) — A superb film about a TV Lit celebrity (Daniel Auteuil) plagued by an anonymous, vaguely threatening voyeur with a video camera covers countless issues of contemporary life — less a crime mystery than a gripping metaphysical meditation.
  • Bubble (Steven Soderbergh) — Shot in digital Scope with non-professional actors, Soderbergh’s largely dedramatised study of the lives of three factory workers in West Virginia feels like no other American film, thanks largely to the becalmed quality of the camera’s compassionate gaze.
  • Three Times (Hou Hsiao-hsien) — This triptych charts the troubled path of (largely unrequited) love in the 60s, the early twentieth century and the present, producing a memorably beautiful Ars Amoris as well as a lovely summation of his own cinematic development to date.

Nick Roddick

In a year often characterised by very impressive but slightly self-satisfied films — among which I count Michael Haneke’s Hidden (which I somewhat reluctantly admire) and George Clooney’s Good Night, and Good Luck(which I admire with a lot less reluctance) — I find myself remembering and wanting to go to bat for a quintet of passionate films. The only exception to this in the list is The Death of Mr. Lazarescu, which is not so much passionate as compassionate — an extraordinary celebration of the human spirit in extremis — literally in the case of the title character, figuratively with regard to the Romanian health system and the harried professionals who run it. Mysterious Skin because it is the most beautiful film I saw all year (I actually first saw it in 2004), and because of its paradoxical celebration of small-town life and rampant sexuality — the result of a wonderful and probably unique combination of the brash visual style of Gregg Araki, the poetic texture of Scott Heim’s original novel and the raw beauty of Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s central performance. The Descent because of its exceptionally skilful handling of genre material and the in-your-face way it gets maximum bang for what, I am sure, was very limited bucks. A lesson to us all The Proposition and Walk the Linebecause they are passionate, packed with energy yet intelligent and very cleverly constructed at the same time; because they have great musical scores (the former by screenwriter Nick Cave the latter, of course, by another, older Man in Black); and because the former almost achieves the hallucinatory power of Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia (which I not only managed to see on a big screen in Karlovy Vary but also finally to get on DVD).

Demetrios Matheou

  • The Beat My Heart Skipped (Jacques Audiard)
  • Innocence (Lucile Hadzihalilovic)
  • A History of Violence (David Cronenberg)
  • The Holy Girl (Lucrecia Martel)
  • Sideways (Alexander Payne)

Kim Newman

  • A History of Violence (David Cronenberg)
  • King Kong (Peter Jackson)
  • Downfall (Oliver Hirschbiegel)
  • Batman Begins (Christopher Nolan)
  • Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (Steve Box & Nick Park)

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