By Catherine Wagley
By Channing Sargent
By L.A. Weekly critics
By Amanda Lewis
By Catherine Wagley
By Carol Cheh
By Keegan Hamilton
By Bill Raden
The idea was simplicity itself: Who would matter in the next movie century? Not in terms of power lists or box-office returns -- the noisome distractions the machine insists are paramount -- but in the essential reality of film. By way of example: Although Steven Spielberg and Martin Scorsese have been the most influential American directors of the past three decades, it’s arguable that only Spielberg will continue to shape our native cinema. In spite of -- perhaps because of his mediocrity -- Spielberg will matter to American film in ways Scorsese will not. For while both are visionaries, only one man has absorbed the logic of the industry he works in. Spielberg, in other words, is a true believer, while Scorsese remains, to his credit and his undoing, a doubter, an agnostic, an outsider. All of which doesn‘t mean that his greatest work isn’t ahead of him -- though only if he continues to challenge himself, as he did with Kundun -- but that these new films will never matter the way Mean Streets, Taxi Driver and Raging Bull have. That, crudely put, is what we were getting at when we asked who would matter in the next movie century, albeit with an eye toward world cinema, not just American. The idea seemed simplicity itself; as to be expected, our choices were anything but. - -Manohla Dargis
When Entertainment Weekly declared Irma Vep -- Olivier Assayas‘ rapturous meditation on movie-love, star worship, cultural appropriation and the filmmaking process -- an example of the ways in which recent French cinema “sucks,” you knew the director must be doing something, probably many things, just right. A single step in the director’s ongoing exploration of the ways popular culture and individual emotional lives become helplessly interwoven, Irma Vep may be Assayas‘ best-known film, but his continuing importance to film culture extends well beyond it. Take, for example, 1997’s HHH: A Portrait of Hou Hsiao-hsien, a lovingly crafted study of the Taiwanese filmmaker who was recently recognized, in the pages of Film Comment and elsewhere, as one of the most important directors of the last decade. Hou has yet to have a single one of his films picked up for U.S. distribution, but he suffers no similar lack of recognition in France, where, on the heels of Assayas‘ documentary, his 1998 masterpiece Flowers of Shanghai became one of the highest-grossing Asian films ever exhibited in France. In the “suck”-dom of French cinema, where psychologically engaging, emotionally complex and vibrantly cinephilic filmmaking still reigns supreme, Assayas -- writer, director, film lover -- remains in the center of the vortex. --Chuck Stephens
It was tragic and unbearably poignant that Robert Bresson died in the last month of the Movie Century. He was born in 1901, even as the movies themselves were still being born. Raised in a bourgeois French family, he directed his first film, Les Affaires Publiques, in 1934, a short musical that until recently was believed lost. He subsequently made 13 others -- they are, simply, some of the greatest films in the history of cinema. Last May, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art paid tribute to the director with a retrospective that originated at the Cinematheque Ontario. I count as one of my more thrilling moviegoing experiences the image of Angelenos literally racing up the museum stairs to make a rare screening of Bresson’s 1966 masterpiece Au Hasard Balthazar. Francois Truffaut once wrote about Bresson‘s 1956 film A Man Escaped, “To think that Bresson will be an influence on French and foreign contemporary filmmakers seems highly unlikely. Nonetheless, we clearly see the limitations of the other cinema to the advantage of this film.” The same could be said for each of his films. Years later, it still seems unlikely that Bresson will cast a shadow, save for the fact that without his vision, cinema would be nothing. --M.D.
Both men are among the most talented to have worked in Hollywood. Both have been lightning rods for controversy, to the extent that their achievements have been eclipsed. Neither artist is mentioned when purveyors of mass-market opinion such as Premiere tout their lists of the Top 100 whomevers. And yet, of the generation of filmmakers born adjacent to World War II, Cimino and Polanski will have the most to offer filmmakers who have yet to be born.
My championing of Cimino is complicated by friendship, but even so I’m confident of my objectivity: For 10 years prior to knowing him, I was an ardent partisan of The Deer Hunter, Heaven‘s Gate, Year of the Dragon and The Sicilian. Cimino’s great subject (one that has cost him with critics) is the mystery of aggression: the tragic law of life as he sees it, even the mainspring of love, the toxin dividing the world into upper and lower classes.“Fight long enough and you end up marrying the enemy” was a line cut from Year of the Dragon, and it can be felt, unstated, under his every film. As the gap between the world‘s haves and have-nots widens violently in the 21st century, Cimino’s vision will seem prophetic.