A lot has already been written — and Twittered — about TIFF Cinematheque’s Best of the Decade poll, in which a panel of 61 film experts from Vancouver to Vienna tabulated their votes for the essential films of the Aughts.
In addition to predictable philosophical grumbling about the validity of such “best of” inventories, some commentators argued that the final list of 50 was too high-handed, ignoring mainstream successes in favour of more obscure international fare.
Yes, a few major American films are conspicuous by their absence -- most notably There Will Be Blood and No Country For Old Men. And yes, a few of the titles here will be unfamiliar even to Criterion Collectors with stacked Netflix queues. But that shouldn’t be a disincentive.
With that in mind, here are five selections that you probably haven’t seen that are definitely worth checking out. Check out tiff.net/cinematheque for dates and availability.
Still Life: Jia Zhangke’s elegant drama about people searching for their loved ones in a town slated for government demolition is the most poetic and affecting cinematic response to China’s ruinous Three Gorges dam project.
The Gleaners and I: Agnes Varda’s characteristically charming and nimble essay film about the business of scavenging has lost none of its charm — and perhaps gained new resonance in light of the recent economic meltdown.
Songs from the Second Floor: If you like the twisted fantasias of Terry Gilliam or the deadpan absurdity of Monty Python, you may love this singular Swedish comedy, which does the apocalypse-now thing far better than 2012 (although that’s not exactly difficult).
L’intrus: Claire Denis’ mysterious, globe-hopping dream is a head trip to rival Mulholland Dr; a great movie to debate -- and defend -- over post-screening drinks.
Le Fils: There’s a thriller-like intensity to the Dardenne brothers’ tale of a Belgian carpenter nurturing a deep, unfathomable grief — and debating whether or not to take revenge on the person who caused it.