Johnny Ray Huston’s top 10 viewing experiences of 2006

Pub date December 26, 2006
SectionFilm FeaturesSectionFilm Review

(1) Syndromes and a Century (Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Thailand) on Oct. 3 at the Vancouver International Film Festival. Yes, it dug deeper into male-male romance than any hopelessly blinkered creation made and marketed as "gay," but I wasn’t as amazed by Apichatpong’s Cannes coronation creation Tropical Malady as I’d expected to be, especially given the hypnotism of Blissfully Yours. This time, though, he’s created a masterpiece — I get misty just thinking of the mysterious shot at its very center.

(2) Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait (Douglas Gordon and Philippe Parreno, France/Iceland). I spend spare time in a world where nicknames like Guga and Rafa and Momo and Chucho reign. I think Venus Williams’s 2005 Wimbledon final victory was opera of a kind no one has seen or heard since Maria Callas sang La Traviata at Covent Garden (not Lisbon). Sports is today’s ultimate live theater, Zidane was its most compelling star in 2006, and Douglas Gordon and Philippe Parreno’s portrait of him is a doc even better than William Klein’s look at Muhammad Ali. A big thanks to the Balboa Theater’s Gary Meyer for helping me even get a look at Zidane — knowing that Apichatpong loves Parreno’s The Boy from Mars makes me want to rocket to that planet if I have to in order to see it.

(3) The Descent (Neil Marshall, UK) at an April 29 midnight screening at the SF International Film Festival. Nothing is more fun than sharing extreme claustrophobia with a theater full of screaming horror fans.

(4) The Host (Bong Joon-ho, South Korea) and Bongmania at the Sept. 30 screening at the Vancouver International Film Festival. Nothing tops my Descent experience except watching a great monster movie with a theater full of fans who mobbed the director afterward.

(5) San Francisco moviemaking: Call Waiting (Cathy Begien); The Dennis Wilson Story and Leonard Cohen in Alberta (David Enos); Lot 63, Grave C (Sam Green); Lovelorn Domestic (Sarah Enid Hagey); Rumsfeld Rules (Bryan Boyce); Song and Solitude (Nathaniel Dorsky).

(6) dünya dinlemiyor video installation by Phil Collins, still on view at the SF Museum of Modern Art. A Smiths fan’s dream come true, indeed.

(7) TV Carnage’s A Sore for Sighted Eyes DVD. Long before Donald Trump foolishly challenged Rosie O’Donnell to a caged wrestling match, TV Carnage revealed just what she was capable of in this, one of the funniest and scariest things I’ve seen in my life, a video mashup that somehow makes Girl Talk’s Night Ripper seem puny and eager to please.

(8) Doomed pilgrimages: Battle in Heaven (Carlos Reygadas, Mexico/Belgium/France/Germany) and The Death of Mr. Lazarescu (Cristi Puiu, Romania). My favorite scene in 2006 is the subway sequence in Reygadas’s second film. The title character in Puiu’s movie never quite completes a marathon journey to the heart of the medical profession — a place called death.

(9) A Short Film about the Indio Nacional (or the Prolonged Sorrow of Filipinos) (Raya Martin, Philippines) on May 1 at the SF International Film Festival and Colossal Youth (Pedro Costa, Portugal/France/Switzerland ) on Oct. 2 at the Vancouver International Film Festival. When Khavn de la Cruz’s piano score for Martin’s film broke down, the director reappeared and put on different music, and the movie took on yet another life. Costa’s film is entirely lit by mirrors and natural rays and beams — what else do you need to know?

(10) Somnambucinema. No one likes to admit that some of the best cinema being made today lulls you to or near to sleep. Why? There should be no shame in shifting states of consciousness and drifting into dreams during this panic-stricken age. Somnambucinema deserves an essay, but for now I’ll just mention a recent fave example of the form — Paz Encina’s Hamaca Paraguaya, which spends 90 minutes or so showing a hammock in sun and shade while a couple bickers about it, their son, and their country. There you have it: a critical, two-way filmic window into many people’s awareness of Paraguay and its history, if they even have one.