A Romanian girl helps her friend get an abortion. Daniel Day-Lewis will drink your milkshake. Wes Anderson has returned. Sarah Polley remains a consistent favorite, this time as director. My top 10 films of 2007.
1. 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days
The winner of this year's Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival, Cristian Mungiu's devastating drama 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days tells the story of a young woman who helps her friend obtain an illegal abortion in 1980s Romania. It's a riveting, wrenching, horrifying and beautifully told story. Don't worry: it will be released in the U.S. in January.
2. There Will Be Blood
The intensity of Paul Thomas Anderson's There Will Be Blood is unlike anything seen on a screen this year: the outstanding, over-the-top performances by Daniel Day-Lewis and Paul Dano, the sprawling landscape, the screeching music. Time after time, Day-Lewis takes down his younger nemesis Dano; watching them spar is thrilling.
3. The Darjeeling Limited
Wes Anderson's story of three brothers on a train trip across India to find spiritual enlightenment filled me with delight. It was almost enough to look at the spectacle of Jason Scwartzman, Adrien Brody, and Owen Wilson filling the frame, but it got even better when they spoke. The Darjeeling Limited features wonderful luggage, the debut of Amara Karan, a poisonous snake, a six thousand dollar belt, and an abundance of unprescribed pharmaceuticals. More importantly, in the end, the brother's manic journey is moving.
Joe Wright's Atonement, adapted from Ian McEwan's novel, creates that mythic, rarely-achieved movie magic: total immersion. The score is menacing, the cinematography gorgeous, and the cast (Keira Knightley, James McAvoy, and newcomer Saoirse Ronan) are marvelous to look at all - and also more than a little bit talented. A near perfect film.
5. Away From Her
Canadian actress Sarah Polley is a master of remorse. She made my top ten last year in The Secret Life of Words, portraying a rape survivor and nurse who works on an oil rig in Iceland, and the year before as a young mother dying of cancer in My Life Without Me. Polley's decision to adapt and direct an Alice Munro short story about the steady and ravaging effects of Alzheimer's disease on a marriage came as no surprise. Away From Her, Polley's directorial debut, is an assured, moving piece of film making - exactly what I would expect from her.
Marjane Satrapi's graphic novel Persepolis made an enormous impression on me. The books depict Satrapi's girlhood: growing up during the Islamic Revolution and the Iraq-Iran War, her unhappy teenage years of exile in Vienna, and her eventual return to Iran and her final departure for France at the age of 24. Satrapiri's story is both extraordinarily moving and wildly informative. The gorgeous and faithful film adaptation, which Satrapi co-directed with artist Vincent Paronnaud, is no less remarkable.
7. After The Wedding
Susanne Bier's film about a man who returns to Copenhagen after twenty years at an orphanage in India is a family drama full of secrets, manipulation, and shocking revelations. The film features wonderfully rich performances by Mads Mikkelsen, Rolf Lassgard and Sidse Babett Knudsen. Bier is a genuine master of the melodrama; the Danish After The Wedding is far superior to her other release in U.S. theaters this year, Things We Lost in the Fire.
8. Blame It On Fidel
Julie Gavras' Blame It On Fidel depicts a Parisian family's political evolution through the eyes of a nine-year-old girl. The tiny drama is one of the least sappy, most knowing portrayals of childhood I've seen. Anna (the marvelous Nina Kervil) is undoubtedly cute, but for the the majority of the film, her expression is fixed in a permanent, worried scowl. The little girl might as well be a bulldog.
9. Talk To Me
Kasi Lemmons' Talk To Me takes the stale biopic formula and keeps the film steadily moving, from the raucous beginning to the bittersweet end. Don Cheadle practically bounces off the screen with a high energy, hilarious, and heartrending performance where every unexpected word keeps his audience--and that includes us--spellbound.
10. Lust, Caution
Going into Ang Lee's sexually explicit two-and-a-half-hour Taiwanese spy thriller, I had no idea that I'd love it. Lust, Caution is a classic coming of age tale. Wong Chia Chi (Tang Wei), a dreamy, beautiful, and motherless girl, discovers her gift as an actress performing in a student theater production. Before long, she's using her skills for the Chinese resistance, working as seductress. In her first film, the transformation of Tang Wei is spectatular.