It was a long year of looking at the lives of others, and even one’s own life, as if through a glass pane, or a warped lens, the recognizable contorted into the surreal or the uncanny. A sprint to what was once quotidian and comfortingly banal tainted by a hideous awareness of the effort of it all to do just that. As what was considered, various privileges notwithstanding, “normal” melts memories of smiles into clownish rictuses mocking the very idea, the only solace left is understanding what little solace is left, and that it’s found in strange in-between spaces of not being the subject or the object so much as in the action itself. Looking, gazing, seeking.
Forgive the histrionics of making broad statements about the world or whatever, but, as others smarter than myself have observed, the pandemic was just an accelerated version of what was already happening. It is then, most dishearteningly, something from which we have learned so little, other than to be swept up in temporal and phenomenological slippages and distortions. Everyone is along for the ride. Yearning, desiring, wanting.
I suppose I was most drawn towards films about looking this year, or the ones that yank you out of that state to force you to evaluate what you’ve been looking at or looking for. It’s a push and pull between dream states, the process of looking the only haven, the only escape. It is ongoing and ceaseless. It’s all that’s left.
Here’s 21 films from 2021.
21. The Tragedy of Macbeth // Directed by Yaël Farber
20. Together Together // Directed by Nicole Beckwith + Shiva Baby // Directed by Emma Seligman
19. A Cop Movie // Directed by Alonso Ruizpalacios + The Card Counter // Directed by Paul Schrader
18. The Night House // Directed by David Bruckner
17. Censor // Directed by Prano Bailey-Bond
16. Old // Directed by M. Night Shyamalan
14. The Lady and the Dale // Directed by Nick Cammilleri and Zackary Drucker
13. The Power of the Dog // Directed by Jane Campion
12. Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn // Directed by Radu Jude + The Meaning of Hitler // Directed by Petra Epperlein and Michael Tucker
11. Listening to Kenny G // Directed by Penny Lane + Wojnarowicz: Fuck You Faggot Fucker // Directed by Chris McKim
9. Who You Think I Am // Directed by Safy Nebbou
8. Memoria // Directed by Apichatpong Weerasethakul + Days // Directed by Tsai Ming Liang
7. Mare of Easttown // Created by Brad Ingelsby and Directed by Craig Zobel + Search Party – Season 4 // Created by Sarah-Violet Bliss, Charles Rogers, and Michael Showalter
6. Passing // Directed by Rebecca Hall
5. Saint Maud // Directed by Rose Glass
4. Lamb // Directed by Valdimar Jóhannsson + Petite Maman // Directed by Céline Sciamma + Cryptozoo // Directed by Dash Shaw
3. The Woman in the Window // Directed by Joe Wright + The Voyeurs // Directed by Michael Mohan
2. Barb and Star Go to Vista del Mar // Directed by Josh Greenbaum
And you can find the year, roughly ranked, on Letterboxd.