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Saturday, January 24, 2009

Cahiers du Cinema

By Luke
Cahiers du Cinema is the famous French film magazine that back in the 60's launched the careers of critics-turned-directors Francois Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard. While it's reputation isn't quite as lofty today as it once was, I assume it's still an interesting place for film criticism (not that I can find English translations of their articles anywhere on the internets).

Anyway, Cahiers has made their top 10 of 2008:

1. Redacted (DePalma)
2. Colossal Youth (Costa)
3. Cloverfield (Reeves)
4. No Country for Old Men (Coens)
5. Two Lovers (Gray)
6. Waltz with Bashir (Folman)
7. Dernier Maquis (Ameur-Zaimeche)
8. Hunger (McQueen)
9. A Short Film about the Indio Nacional (Martin)
10. On War (Bonello)

It's an interesting departure from the usual top 10 lists we see, and it raises some interesting questions. First of all, "Redacted"? I haven't seen it, but that's because it got almost universally brutal reviews. To provide a little context, Cahiers favors specific directors like no other. "Mission to Mars" was their #4 of 2000, "Snake Eyes" was their #9 of 1998, "Mission Impossible" was their #7 of 1997, and "Carlito's Way" was their #1 of the 1990's! I wonder if even DePalma thinks those recent efforts were worth such high rankings. Somewhere, Armond White is smiling.

One of the major criticisms of "Redacted" in America was the bad acting, and I wonder if a French audience is less inclined to care about the performances in an English speaking movie. It's also interesting to see "Cloverfield" at #3, since from what I know of "Redacted," the two movies use similar "handheld" techniques, exploring the possibility that characters within the film are shooting the action. I doubt even "Cloverfield"'s biggest supporters in the US would make a case for it being a "greater" movie than "No Country for Old Men," but it's an interesting juxtaposition.

Candid photo of a French audience as they watch Brian DePalma take a dump.

The recently announced Oscar nominations have shown, at least to me, that the US hasn't quite figured out what the "best" movies of a given year are; they favor Hollywood-produced prestige dramas ("The Reader," "Frost/Nixon," "Benjamin Button") over more interesting, innovative movies. Why are we so quick to dismiss a movie like "Cloverfield"? I would have found that a much more satisfying Best Picture nominee. And are there other ways of seeing movies that Americans can't grasp, hence the love for "Redacted" and "Lady in the Water" (another recent Cahiers favorite). I want to live in a world where film criticism isn't in such lockstep, where top 10 lists aren't just the last 10 movies those critics saw in December. I don't know whether or not I'll like "Redacted," but I applaud Cahiers for finding a way into that movie and for being willing to put it at the top.


Rob said...
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Rob said...

To see ALL of their articles (translated in English or as it is in French) you might have to subscribe. I had some free time and was able to read at least one issue:

1. Go to

2. Click "The Kiosk"

3. Click "View the excerpt and editorial" (to the right of an issue)

Every page loads eventually, although it can take a few seconds.