True/Fictions 2010

A Top 10 (11)

A quick note: It's all the rage to talk about "heterodox" or "films blurring the lines between real and fiction" and whatnot, so I guess add me to the pile. Except really who gives a shit? These debates are so old and tired. The main-streaming of the question about the relationship between documentary and fiction has, of course, only obscured the real issues and simplified the point. Blah blah blah: docs are works of semi-fiction. Let's move on.

Meanwhile, at last Tuesday's Cinema Eye Honors, the great Al Maysles excoriated the whole program by gently slapping down the idea that "reality" ain't good enough. (Apparently he's never heard his brother's voice calling from off-screen, imitating a character, delivering a key line of dialogue, but whatever.) Al's point was nice. There is Truth. It's not dead, it seems.

These 11 films in my top ten list got at the Truth in a bunch of different ways. Some of these aren't documentaries, but I'll be goddamned if they're fiction. I don't like those kinds of movies.

1. LE QUATTRO VOLTE (Frammartino)
A perfectly strange film that annihilates the already blurred lines of fact/fiction.

2. ON THE OTHER SIDE OF LIFE (Brockhaus/Wolff)
Viciously overlooked, controversial in some circles, truly mesmerizing and weirdly honest about it's own flaws.

A bit of an answer to the critics who say Curtis' writing is too confident in its own correctness. He shuts up and wins the argument anyway.

4. NY EXPORT: OPUS JAZZ (Lipes/Joost)
A record of the filming of a great dance. The details and sounds tell us the film is happening. The frame and pace is pure cinema.

5. RESTREPO (Junger/Hetherington)
Great cinematic reportage.

6. MARWENCOL (Malmberg)
Jeff Malberg found a zany, thoughtful, engrossing and genuinely talented subject and didn't fuck up his story. Very difficult, actually.

7. I'M STILL HERE (Affleck)
Phoenix gives an all-time great performance as himself and Affleck proves my GERRY-inspired adoration was not misplaced.

Infectious genius.

9. THE OATH (Poitras)
Laura Poitras is inventing and perfecting a brand of cinematic journalism that is character-based and beautiful and will influence documentary for generations.

(t) GASLAND (Fox)
Two magical "issue" films that understand "cinema" must come first or "message" is meaningless.