TOP FILMS OF [A] DECADE: None From Philippine Cinema's weird, ya know...

from top: Syndromes and a Century, Platform, Still Life, Beau Travail, and In the Mood for Love

We have "over sixty film curators, historians, archivists and programmers from festivals, cinematheques and similar organizations around the world participated... to pick the films they thought were the most important of the past decade." By the 'decade' Cinematheque Ontario means from 1999 to 2009. HarryTutle notes:
"Just a reminder, a decade doesn't start at zero until 9... There was no year zero at Jesus' birth. The calendar went from year -1 to year 1. The last millenium started on year 1001 and ended in 2000, just like the previous one started on year 1 and ended on year 1000. The XXth century started on year 1901 and ended on year 2000, thus the name "Twentieth" while all years start by 19." (here)

What I am talking about is the news released by Cinematheque Ontario last Monday, November 23, 2009, entitled TIFF Cinematheque's Best Of The Decade Poll Presents The Classics Of Today. November 25 when Girish published his reaction on the poll and from there news waves saturated the film blogosphere about its variety, appropriateness and neglect and marginalization of other cinematic traditions like popular cinema and documentary form mostly raised by Girish on his blog. This poll is organized by Cinematheque's Senior Programmer James Quandt during TIFF a few weeks ago.

| THE LIST | [from their site]

1 | Syndromes and a Century (Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Thailand) - 53 votes

2 | Platform (Jia Zhang-ke, Hong Kong, China/China/Japan/France) - 49 votes

3 | Still Life (Jia Zhang-ke, China) - 48 votes

4 | Beau travail (Claire Denis, France) - 46 votes

5 | In the Mood for Love (Wong Kar-wai, Hong Kong, China) - 43 votes

6 | Tropical Malady (Apichatpong Weerasethakul, France/Thailand/Germany/Italy) - 38 votes

7 | The Death of Mr. Lazarescu (Cristi Puiu, Romania) - 35 votes
Werckmeister Harmonies (Béla Tarr, Hungary) - 35 votes

8 | Éloge de l'amour (Jean-Luc Godard, Switzerland/ France) - 34 votes

9 | 4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days (Cristian Mungiu, Romania) - 33 votes

10 | Silent Light (Carlos Reygadas, Mexico/France/Netherlands) - 32 votes

11 | Russian Ark (Alexander Sokurov, Russia/Germany) - 31 votes

12 | The New World (Terrence Malick, USA) - 30 votes

13 | Blissfully Yours (Apichatpong Weerasethakul, France/Thailand) - 29 votes

14 | Le Fils (Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne, Belgium/France) - 27 votes

15 | Colossal Youth (Pedro Costa, Portugal/France/Switzerland) - 25 votes

16 | Les Glaneurs et la glaneuse (Agnès Varda, France) - 24 votes
In Vanda's Room (Pedro Costa, Portugal/Germany/Italy/Switzerland) - 24 votes
Songs from the Second Floor (Roy Andersson, Sweden/Denmark/Norway) - 24 votes

17 | Caché (Michael Haneke, France/Austria/Germany/Italy) - 23 votes
A History of Violence (David Cronenberg, USA) - 23 votes
Mulholland Drive (David Lynch, France/USA) - 23 votes
Three Times (Hou Hsiao-hsien, Taiwan) - 23 votes

18 | Rois et reine (Arnaud Desplechin, France) - 21 votes

19 | Elephant (Gus Van Sant, USA) - 20 votes

20 | Talk to Her (Pedro Almodóvar, Spain) - 19 votes

21 | The Wind Will Carry Us (Abbas Kiarostami, Iran/France)- 18 votes
YI YI (A One and a Two) (Edward Yang, Taiwan/Japan) - 18 votes

22 | Pan's Labyrinth (Guillermo del Toro, Spain) - 17 votes

23 | L'Enfant (Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne, Belgium/France) - 16 votes
The Heart of the World (Guy Maddin, Canada) - 16 votes
I Don't Want to Sleep Alone (Tsai Ming-liang, Taiwan/France/Austria) - 16 votes
Star Spangled to Death (Ken Jacobs, USA) - 16 votes

24 |
The World (Jia Zhang-ke, China/Japan/France) - 14 votes

25 | Café Lumière (Hou Hsiao-hsien, Japan) - 13 votes
The Headless Woman (Lucrecia Martel, Argentina/Spain/France/Italy) - 13 votes
L'Intrus (Claire Denis, France) - 13 votes
Millennium Mambo (Hou Hsiao-hsien, Taiwan/France) - 13 votes
My Winnipeg (Guy Maddin, Canada) - 13 votes
Saraband (Ingmar Bergman, Sweden) - 13 votes
Spirited Away (Hiyao Miyazaki, Japan) - 13 votes
I'm Not There (Todd Haynes, USA) - 13 votes

26 | Gerry (Gus Van Sant, USA) - 12 votes

27 | Distant (Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Turkey) - 11 votes
Dogville (Lars von Trier, Denmark/Sweden/UK/France/Germany) - 11 votes
The Royal Tenenbaums (Wes Anderson, USA) - 11 votes

28 | Alexandra (Alexander Sokurov, Russia/France) - 9 votes
demonlover (Olivier Assayas, France) - 9 votes

29 | Atanarjuat, The Fast Runner (Zacharias Kunuk, Canada) - 8 votes
Goodbye, Dragon Inn (Tsai Ming-liang, Taiwan) - 8 votes

30 | Longing (Valeska Grisebach, Germany) - 7 votes
Secret Sunshine (Lee Chang-dong, South Korea) - 7 votes
Vai e Vem (João César Monteiro, Portugal) - 7 votes
Far From Heaven (Todd Haynes, USA/France) - 7 votes

| THE TALK | [being polemic and all!]


The classic argument: "Lists are a pig's thing. Personal tastes degenerates into rude generalizations." We know that there are 60 film buffs that participated on this poll, and most of them are critically lauded with achievements on film criticism and theory. And we don't know these guys exactly (the list of participants is available upon request), but we are certainly sure that their personal selection is marked with a certain critical balance (is there balance at all?). We are confident of their choices because we know they have expertise of their respective fields. So why 'a pig's thing'? Voting for the top films somewhat marginalize others, especially those which belongs to the 'uncirculated section', otherwise known as the Avant-Garde/Experimental films. Girish took a note on this:

"The list privileges narrative, feature-length films. Avant-garde/experimental cinema is almost wholly absent (save Ken Jacobs, and Apichatpong, whose work straddles narrative and avant-garde modes). Thus, for instance: no James Benning, Peter Tscherkassky, Nathaniel Dorsky, Michael Robinson, or (again) Jennifer Reeves. Also: no short films except Guy Maddin's The Heart of the World." (here)

It certainly cuts the rest from recognition. Even mainstream films are not represented at all. Girish again note:
"By explicitly advancing the cause of art cinema, a poll such as this automatically marginalizes the aesthetic merits of commercial cinema. So, from Hollwyood to Bollywood, popular cinema barely registers here." (here)
I don't seem to understand why they have polled it too soon. Isn't November of 2009 not December 2010?


In a general observation, Philippine Independent Cinema peaked during the start of the millennium, and the concentration of creative effort peaked a few years ago when Mendoza 's feature Serbis (2008) sent shocks on the international circuit. Soon to followed are Raya Martin's experimental films and Lav Diaz's magnum opus works. And the rest are history.

I am surprised by the neglect of Lav Diaz's works which, I think, have not reached Toronto at all. Historians must be aware of Lav's features because of their eminent scale (averaged from 5 to 7 hours long). Most of his films have eclipsed most of Tarr and Costa's work. Evolution of a Filipino Family (2004) is, i think, the best Filipino film of the decade. But this neglect is highly understandable: lack of circulation. Most Filipino independent filmmakers nowadays favored experimentation over canonical narration, a postmodernist stance practiced my Martin, Mendoza, Khavn dela Cruz and Diaz himself. We recently have Pepe Diokno's Engkwentro (2009) as an example of the overall tendency of Philippine cinema towards experimentalist approach. Also equally understandable is the lack of critical study to these features. But certainly, we cannot actually say that study equals greatness. However, it must be so that Citizen Kane (1941) have started the inquiry of film as art hence the start of film studies [if not without Andre Bazin this could not be possible].

I hope the Cinematheque Ontario post the individual list from " sixty film curators, historians, archivists and programmers".

I hope...

1) ...Brokeback Mountain was included.
2) Edward Yang's Yi Yi was shortlisted on the top 10 list.
3) David Lynch's Inland Empire.
4) Paul Anderson's features
5) Ozon and Dumont's features.
6) More documentaries and animated features...
7) Hou's Red Balloon.
8) Folman's Waltz with Bashir