These are the most interesting conversations I had or overheard this year about film
1. Listening to Denis Cote talk about making a film a year for six years now after absorbing all of cinema for the 31 before that. “I had no life,” he said cheerily, implying just the opposite now.
2. Talking with Oliver Laxe about his film, You All Are Captains, as well as Kiarostami, semiology, and what it is to give back to the world from which his images come. (And how he can see the day when it may no longer be necessary to take images at all.)
3. Talking about Uncle Boonmee, Who Can Recall His Past Lives, that magical realist documentary account of a few strange Thai dreams, with so many people.
4, Discussing The Tree of Life, with everyone who saw it – a great film disliked by many. Malick had me at the first voiceover.
5. Listening intently to Thom Andersen, whose black duster and habit of elegant chain-smoking gave him badass points that none of his otherwise utterly thought-quieted politeness could alter.
6. Jane Goodall, who came to talk about her film, Jane’s Journey, and afterwards gave monkey hugs to everyone. In doing so she seemed to prove that our names sometimes become us.
7. The Illusionist. One of the handful of films out there I’m envious we didn’t play in our theaters. All this year’s praise for Hugo should be reserved for this small, perfect movie about the remote reaches of the world and imagination a certain kind of shabby, down-at-heels excellence can take you to.
8. Talking to Nicolas Pereda, another pioneer of the creative non-fiction fiction film, whose enigmatic work, made mostly in Mexico (and partly funded with Canadian grant money), extends the project begun by Antonioni.
10. The Descendants. Our Cary Grant now is George Clooney, and where he goes is, especially when he goes with the Ethan and Joel Coen or, as here, with Alexander Payne, where serious/popular American cinema goes. The second-best mainstream film I saw this year.
11. The conversation in my class about David Lynch and Gus Van Sant, whose films about crimes – Mulholland Drive and Elephant – brought out some of the best talk about cinema I heard this year.