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Auteur land?

‘Film Culture’ in 2007
December 17, 2007 4:20:39 PM

071221_intothewild_main
INTO THE WILD: A grand, glorious, tragic road story.

Granted, Sweeney Todd is a grim, violent, misanthropic musical. But having seen it performed on stage doesn’t prepare you for a movie far more malevolent and unrelentingly despairing: a slasher noir, a devil’s dance of throat slitting and blood spurting. Don’t bring the kids! What’s amazing is that DreamWorks is the Hollywood production company financing it. Sugar-sprinkled Spielbergland! Nobody at the studio put a tootsie down and confronted Tim Burton: “This picture is far too depressing and violent! We can’t release it this way!”

In 2007, a year more like freaky 1978 than corporate 2006, Burton as director is, again, the king. He’s an auteur whose vision — no matter how risky and unusual, and, perhaps, poisonously noncommercial — is not only respected but greenlighted. It’s Tim Burton’s Sweeney Todd, with a nod to Stephen Sondheim. These are strange days at the moviehouse, with an abundance of uncompromising, director-dominated films: Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood, Noah Baumbach’s Margot at the Wedding, Todd Haynes’s I’m Not There, Julian Schnabel’s Le scaphandre et le papillon|The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, David Cronenberg’s Eastern Promises, Ang Lee’s Lust, Caution, Andrew Dominik’s The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, Brian DePalma’s Redacted, Francis Ford Coppola’s Youth Without Youth.

Will this auteurists-gone-wild trend continue into 2008? I’m skeptical. Wait till the box office is tallied. There’s not a Bee Movie in the bunch, and nothing anywhere to challenge the infantilized appeal of guy-on-guy Judd Apatow comedies. Can only advanced Dylanists appreciate I’m Not There? Will any regular folk get into the three-hours, one-note, oil-well obsessiveness of There Will Be Blood?

Still, it was a very good year.

BEST FILM OF 2007: Sean Penn’s Into the Wild. As I wrote last August after its world premiere at Telluride, this grand, glorious, tragic road story is the perfect film to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the publication of Kerouac’s On the Road.

REST OF THE TEN BEST: I’m Not There, The Savages, Starting Out in the Evening, 3:10 to Yuma, Rocket Science, Margot at the Wedding, Grindhouse, This Is England, Le scaphandre et le papillon|The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM: Pavel Lungin’s The Island

RUNNERS-UP: The Host, Lady Chatterley et l’homme des bois|Lady Chatterley, Climates, La faute à Fidel|Blame It on Fidel.

BEST DOCUMENTARY: Deep Water

REST OF THE TEN BEST: The King of Kong, Autism: The Musical, Crazy Love, Jack Smith and the Destruction of Atlantis, The Trials of Darryl Hunt, The Devil on Horseback, The Cats of Mirikitani, No End in Sight, Lake of Fire

BEST ACTOR: Frank Langella, Starting Out in the Evening

BEST ACTRESS: Nicole Kidman, Margot at the Wedding

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Ben Foster, 3:10 to Yuma

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Cate Blanchett, I’m Not There

BEST DIRECTOR: James Mangold, 3:10 to Yuma

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY: Ed Lachman, I’m Not There

BEST ANIMATION: Persepolis

MOST UNDERRATED FILMS: The Last Winter, Year of the Dog, Broken English, Rendition, Day Night Day Night

MOST OVERRATED FILMS: There Will Be Blood, Eastern Promises, Michael Clayton, Control, The Darjeeling Limited

BEST BOSTON-AREA FILM: Four documentary features are so uniformly excellent, and of such diverse subject matter, that it seems folly to rank them: Allie Humenuk’s Shadow of the House, Barry J. Hershey’s Casting About, Bill Haney’s The Price of Sugar, John Gianvito’s Profit Motive and the Whispering Wind.

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