30. The Pervert’s Guide to Cinema (Sophie Fiennes, UK/Austria/Netherlands, 2006)
Your friendly neighborhood Lacanian, Slavoj Zizek, is your irrepressible guide on this immensely entertaining trip through the hidden psychological wormholes of such films as Hitchcock’s Vertigo, Psycho, and The Birds; David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive and Blue Velvet; Coppola’s The Conversation; The Matrix (“I want a third pill!”); and many others. Zizek is beautifully staged by director Sophie Fiennes in both the actual locations of the films he discusses, or in soundstage recreations. Even after two and a half hours, you’ll be left wanting more; you’ll never see these films in quite the same way again.
29. Of Time and the City (Terence Davies, UK, 2008)
Terence Davies’ exquisite reminiscence of his native Liverpool is a lyrical return for this great filmmaker whom we haven’t heard from since 2000's The House of Mirth. Blending archival footage with newly shot scenes, Davies connects it all with his riveting voiceover, depicting his love-hate (but mostly love) relationship with his city, and how the elements that gave Liverpool its character are nearly gone. Along the way, he recounts his contentious relationship with Catholicism and his first homosexual stirrings. Of Time and the City is a master class in montage and the use of music, most notably in an incredible sequence concerning the Korean War, set to the Hollies’ “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother.” Davies has a wicked and caustic sense of humor, for example in his description of Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation, or as he puts it, “The Betty Windsor Show.” And the way he dispenses of and dismisses the Beatles is priceless. Welcome back, Mr. Davies. You’ve been away far too long.
28. Rembrandt’s J’Accuse (Peter Greenaway, Netherlands/UK, 2008)
Greenaway’s examination of Rembrandt’s masterpiece The Night Watch is a compelling master class in visual analysis, art and political history, as well as a masterfully constructed detective story. Reviewed here.
27. Big Man Japan/Dai-Nipponjin (Hitoshi Matsumoto, Japan, 2007)
Japanese comedian Hitoshi Matsumoto took six years to write and direct this inventive debut film, which takes the grand tradition of kaiju eiga to deliriously surreal heights. Reviewed here.
26. Yasukuni (Li Ying, Japan/China, 2007)
Li Ying’s documentary on the politically contentious titular shrine in central Tokyo puts the viewer in the perilous place where history, memory, and political agendas violently collide, with searing and indelible results. Reviewed here.