I always enjoy lists of people’s favourite films, books and CDs. You might not agree with everything they say, but the list will usually make you pick up something you haven’t come across before. They might also lead you to question whether you were right in your own choices.
Rather late to the “top films of the decade” game comes Erik Hagen – perhaps reflecting the convention that the decade runs 2001 – 2010 rather than 2000 – 2009. And while there are some familiar titles, in his list there are no fewer than five films which didn’t make it into anyone else’s list: JSA, King and the Clown, Welcome to Dongmakgol, Voice of a Murderer and Crossing.
Voice of a Murderer is one of the more recent films that I haven’t got around to watching yet, so I’ve now put it higher on my priority list. But for me, the most interesting of these is Crossing, a film which I vaguely registered when it came out but paid no real attention to. By the same director as one of my guilty pleasures – Volcano High – Erik confesses that it’s the most depressing in his list. “Crossing makes you realize how low humanity can go, how cruel we can be, how willing we are to strip dignity and life from other people.” Dealing with the fate in store for North Korean border-crossers both successful and unsuccessful, it’s not the sort of film for everyday viewing – and indeed it’s currently only available on DVD in an expensive Japanese version.
Another depressing, but incredibly rewarding, film on his list is his top choice: Lee Chang-dong’s Secret Sunshine. I included Lee’s Oasis in my own top 10 list, but probably the film I most want to re-watch is Milyang, if only to see the passage where Jeon Do-yeon visits the prison to meet the person who kidnapped her child. All the top three directors in the list – Park Chan-wook, Bong Joon-ho and Lee Chang-dong – make films which stay with you for a long time, and while you might have your personal favourite judged on criteria you think are objective, the less favoured films often clamour for attention. Thus, although the Park Chan-wook film I included in my top 10 was Oldboy, the one I most want to re-watch right now is the one I liked least at the time of watching it: I’m a Cyborg. Similarly, while my top Bong Joon-ho film is Memories of Murder I really want to rewatch Barking Dogs Never Bite.
The upshot of Erik Hagen’s list is some minor changes to the league tables I prepared a few weeks ago based on the top 10 lists of 11 other critics. The films at the very top don’t change, but Secret Sunshine and Lady Vengeance come in at numbers 8 and 9, pushing Chunhyang and A Good Lawyer’s Wife out of the top 10. And with his inclusion of two Park Chan-wook films in his list, Park now noses ahead of Bong Joon-ho in the director league table.
Updated lists below.