Mulholland Drive (2001)
Lynch’s film is so gorgeous and so painful, so mysterious and, in many ways, so recognisable that, whatever theory you ascribe to it, the picture does indeed reflect a reality that moves beyond southern California and parks itself in our brains, tapping into our dreams, deepest fears, inscrutable natures, and erotic desires.
– Kim Morgan, Sunset Gun, US
In the Mood for Love (2000)
Wong Kar-wai is one of world cinema’s most notorious perfectionists, but he earned every moment of editing-room indecision with In the Mood for Love, the rare movie that draws much of its melancholy power from what it leaves off-screen.
We never see the faces of the spouses whose affair pulls two lonely neighbours into their delirious romantic spiral. We never see the sex scene that Wong shot but omitted, all the better to heighten the erotic charge of every swaying hip and every voluptuous swirl of the camera.
And we never hear the lost, whispered words at the climax, which would be superfluous in any case: never before has a film spoken so fluently in the universal language of loss and desire.
– Justin Chang, Los Angeles Times
There Will Be Blood (2007)
From its near-wordless opening scene, Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood feels like something forged, not filmed.
Daniel Day-Lewis, as turn-of-the-century prospector Daniel Plainview, grunts, spits and scrapes his way into a hole under baked Western earth; he strikes silver, drags his half-broken body to certify his claim, winds up discovering oil.
The rest of the movie – a sprawling, half-mad testament to greed, industry, moral hypocrisy and ballyhoo at their most elementally American – could be watched with no sound at all and still be perfectly understood.
– Ann Hornaday, The Washington Post
Spirited Away (2001)
It’s hard to place any one of Studio Ghibli’s sweet, passionate animated films above the others, but Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away does particularly stand out for its visual sophistication and elaborate themes of determination, courage and good cheer.
Miyazaki’s story of a young girl trying to rescue her parents, feels like a throwback to an earlier age of hand-drawn animation. Made at a point where CGI was taking over animated features in theUS, Spirited Away has a lovingly handmade feel. It’s a traditional fairy tale turned into an exciting narrative of transformation and discovery.
– Tasha Robinson, The Verge, US
This 21st Century masterpiece took most of the 21st Century to make. For more than a decade, Richard Linklater spent a few weeks each year chronicling the life of Mason.
Watching the cast, which also includes Ethan Hawke and a remarkable Patricia Arquette, age before our eyes, adds an extra layer of poignancy to every single scene.
In an era when every aspect of society was accelerating, Linklater slowed down to tell the one of the definitive stories of our time.
– Matt Singer, ScreenCrush, US
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
The story of a breakup gone wrong, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind could easily have gone wrong itself. But this wasn't your average whimsical tale of romantic yearning.
Jim Carrey boldly pushed against type to portray a perennially sad man literally trapped by his grievances and eager to let them unravel.
But the movie belongs just as much to Kate Winslet, whose character's decision to erase her own memories of the ex-couple's time together sets the drama in motion.
– Eric Kohn, Indiewire, US
The Tree of Life (2011)
Like a great poem, The Tree of Life opens itself to a thousand interpretations, as director Terrence Malick takes a spiritual and lyrical journey through time, from a dusty 1950s childhood in Texas back to the beginnings of the cosmos itself.
This strange new pillar in the cathedral of US cinema stars Brad Pitt as an authoritarian father and Jessica Chastain as a tender and deeply religious mother of three sons.
Emmanuel Lubezki’s cinematography is sun-dappled, or oozes images of boiling lava, dinosaurs and exploding planets, all to a soundtrack of Preisner’s Requiem — in this case a requiem to a dead son. The joys and aching losses of parenting become transcendent, even Biblical, in Malick’s hands.
– Kate Muir, The Times, UK
A Separation (2011)
If there is a film that makes you take a deep look at yourself in the mirror again and again, this is it. Asghar Farhadi’s searing relationship drama does not make a judgement about its characters. Rather, it pitches the situations so realistically that the viewer ends up sympathising with both protagonists even though they are pitted against each other.
– Utpal Borpujari, Freelance, India
No Country for Old Men (2007)
Readers of Cormac McCarthy’s No Country for Old Men put down the novel possessing a distinct image of its villain. The Anton Chigurh on the page became vividly seared into our consciousness. That image, though, is not Javier Bardem in the Coen Brothers’ Oscar-winner for best picture.
Yet Bardem’s film characterisation is so powerful, so splendidly overwhelming in his random application of violence, that he manages to extinguish whatever preceded it in the mind of the audience.
Set in West Texas in 1980, No Country for Old Men’s sense of time and place are unparalleled. There’s a hypnotic quality to the movie’s pace, watching characters you can’t help but like make a series of catastrophic decisions that bring each into Chigurh’s universe, a world soaked in blood with a predetermined outcome.
– Ben Mankiewicz, Turner Classic Movies, US
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