1. Far from Heaven (Todd Haynes) My favorite film of the year. A Douglas Sirk-inspired melodrama that actually works without being campy. How does a director this young know so much?
2. La Chatte deux tetes (Jacques Nolot) This hilarious, entertaining, and authentic film takes place entirely inside a Parisian porn theater. Somebody! Please! Give this movie American distribution!
3. The Piano Teacher (Michael Haneke) Not since Salo have we had a shocker like this. Isabelle Huppert is God.
4. Y Tu Mama Tambien (Alfonso Cuaron) Diego Luna and Gael Garcia Bernal get my vote for screen couple of the year (even if they were drunk and don't remember a thing).
5. Merci pour le chocolat (Claude Chabrol) It's her again. Isabelle Huppert poisons her family, and Claude Chabrol tells her how to do it with cinematic perfection.
6. Gerry (Gus Van Sant) So slow, so formal, so ballsy, so fucking good. Don't sleep with anybody who doesn't love this film.
7. In Praise of Love (Jean-Luc Godard) Right in the middle of a scene the music rises, overlaps, and completely drowns out the dialogue. The most beautiful and radical sound mix of the year.
8. Storytelling (Todd Solondz) The director of Happiness leaves you squirming in your seat, feeling gloriously bad. What more do you want for a ten-dollar admission?
9. Read My Lips (Jacques Audiard) A drab female office worker with a hearing problem falls for French rough trade. Not getting laid never seemed so exciting.
10. Talk to Her (Pedro Almodovar) My kind of romantic comedy--a wise and kind love affair with a girl in a coma. To hell with the Oscars, award Pedro the Nobel Peace Prize.
* 1. Far from Heaven (Todd Haynes) A luscious Sirk pastiche and a thoughtful revival of liberal melodrama.
2. Heaven (Tom Tykwer) Krzysztof Kieslowski's last script suits Run Lola Run director Tykwer, romanticist of couples in flight. Giovanni Ribisi holds the screen with his eyes.
3. I'm Going Home (Manoel de Oliveira) This portrait of an aging actor has a Chekhovian tautness. Ideally seen with Oliveira's affectionate tribute Oporto of My Childhood.
4. Japon (Carlos Reygadas) An intimate study, on scorched 16 mm, of a suicidal outsider and the hatreds rearing at a Mexican village.
5. My Life as McDull (Toe Yuen) This cartoon starts out cute--a pig and his mother eke out a living in Hong Kong--but ends as a melancholy reflection on failure.
6. Russian Ark (Alexander Sokurov) What could have been a stunt--an eighty-plus-minute tracking shot through the Winter Palace--becomes deeply elegiac, gliding from mass spectacle to serenity.
7. Shaolin Soccer/Kung-Fu Soccer (Stephen Chow) Rowdy fun throughout, with CGI used to create live-action cartoons.
8. Spirited Away (Hayao Miyazaki) After a girl's parents turn into pigs, she enters a world of folk spirits. Animated in limpid, scary detail.
9. Take Care of My Cat (Jeong Jae-eun) Five working girls try to keep their high school friendship alive. Loose, heartfelt, and precise enough to characterize its heroines through their cell phone chimes.
10. Talk to Her(Pedro Almodovar) Is Almodovar the only director who cares about plot nowadays? Linking two couples by tragic accidents, he reinvents the medical melodrama (and throws in a bold silent-film pastiche).
* In alphabetical order
1. Spider (David Cronenberg) Adapted from Patrick McGrath's novel, Cronenberg's first-person masterpiece is a reverse ghost story set in a derelict corner of London haunted by the specters of its protagonist's traumatized psyche.
2. In Praise of Love (Jean-Luc Godard) An elegy for love and its failures, it's also an essay on history, memory, and resistance--as sad and beautiful as anything Godard has ever made. …