Saturday, December 5, 2009

The Year of Madness

2007 was a sleazy year, a year when screens were full of ugly nightclub colors and Asia Argento's (and Eva Mendes') thighs and shoulders. A year full of self-important films and important films that we didn't want to see. A year of madness, a year when we could make idiots of ourselves, a year of magnificent obsessions, films that'd make you seem half-crazy when you tried to describe them to your friends. A year of blinding darkness punctuated with little respites of gentle daylight courtesy of Hou and Anderson. The daylight was good, it set us right, but the dark, the murk, the confusion was better. Andre Techine struck a balance with his twilight, but I still prefer Gray or Ferrara's neon to his fading sunset. As beautiful as an evening shadow is passing over a young man's face, I prefer the stark and dark hallways of those imagined New Yorks -- one constructed in Cinecitta, as artificial and nightmarishly nostalgic as the city of Eyes Wide Shut, the other doubling for its past self with minimal set dressing.

Nylon stockings, sunglasses, mirrored ceilings and booming bass. It was Asia Argento's year. She's even better at making images than her father -- he has to try, set up lights, pick lenses, while she just contorts her body to fit any frame. She is the model who controls the picture. So 2007 mostly happened in Nighttown. You could smell the spilled beer and cigarette smoke in the images, pick up traces of sweat and cologne in the parks where The Witnesses would go cruising. Almost everyone worth watching was made up like a whore or carried himself like a hustler.

1. We Own the Night (James Gray)
2. Go Go Tales (Abel Ferrara)
3. The Witnesses (Andre Techine)
4. Boarding Gate (Olivier Assayas)
5. Flight of the Red Balloon (Hou Hsiao-Hsien)
6. The Last Mistress (Catherine Breillat)
7. Zodiac (David Fincher)
8. Eastern Promises (David Cronenberg)
9. The Duchess of Langeias (Jacques Rivette)
10. Mad Detective (Johnnie To) / The Darjeeling Limited (Wes Anderson)


Yoel Meranda said...

hi ignatiy, just discovered you have a blog... it's good news... i like the list.

for me, the "ballon rouge" is much greater than all the other films i've seen from your list.

have you seen "30 days of night"?

ah, i haven't seen the rivette yet...

my list is here (it's a list of "new" films seen on 2007):

Ignatiy Vishnevetsky said...


My intense love and admiration for Flight of the Red Balloon is, I think, well-documented, and it also gives a sense of just how crazy I am about the four films I placed above it.

I haven't seen 30 Days of Night -- a film I didn't hear the best things about -- but your placement of it in such good company makes me want to take a look. I'll tell you what I think.

Yoel Meranda said...


I believe you but to be honest I haven't read any words of yours on the film. A google search resulted in a few mentions at different places. I'll be very happy if you can send me links, if there are any, because I'd be very happy to read your words on a film I love so much.

I was very disappointed when I saw "Go Go Tales" but I might be wrong. Because if I'm not, it's the only Ferrara film I haven't fallen in love with for a very long time. If you care to read, my short comments are here:

I love what you write on Mann,


Yoel Meranda said...

About Assayas, I really didn't like "Demonlover" so I never checked his other works. I'm curious, do you like "Demonlover"?

Ignatiy Vishnevetsky said...


I've never written at length on the film, but I've found myself coming back to it while writing about other movies. I briefly described my position on the movie and what it meant as far as Hou's filmography back when I wrote my original 2007 overviews (it's here). I further expanded on some ideas about it while writing about The Limits of Control for my Auteurs column. As for demonlover -- it's my favorite Assayas of the 2000s, and I think he hasn't made any films that are any less than great this decade.