1. The New World (Terrence Malick)
B-side: The Intruder (Claire Denis)
Well, if you’ve been paying attention you knew it would end here. I’ve expended so much time and energy on praising THE NEW WORLD that its spot atop this list would be inevitable even if I hadn’t already given it prominent positions on my top 100 list and my recent piece on films that shaped me as a moviegoer. Here it is, and what a long journey it’s been leading up to its official unveiling as my favorite film of 2005. How fitting that this journey should end with two films that deal with voyages of discovery.
That both THE NEW WORLD and THE INTRUDER are jaw-droppingly gorgeous should go without saying, given their directors’ pedigrees. Likewise, neither Malick nor Denis has ever been particularly hung up on conventional narrative structure- Malick thinks nothing of dropping key characters from the action for long periods of time, and I believe it would take me at least another viewing or two of THE INTRUDER to even puzzle out everything that happens in the film. But like too few films out there, these two movies are purely cinematic experiences, unimaginable in any other art form. And that these films succeed so well in these terms makes them special.
Like my friend and fellow blogger Lee Walker- whose recent series on important films in his life pretty much wiped the floor with mine- I despair that cinema as we know it may soon run out of unique ideas (being an aspiring filmmaker that prospect is doubly frightening to me, as I fear that there will be nothing left for me). But both Malick and Denis are among the handful of filmmakers who are exploring the remaining options and boundaries of their chosen medium, and that these masters of cinema are still not only putting forth effort but are actually succeeding to provide us with new images is a reason for hope. The cinema may not have much time left, but with artists like these in its corner it’ll no doubt go down swinging.