Film Reviews
Image from "Anatomy of a Fall" courtesy of Neon

As is customary, I contemplate my top ten films of 2023. Each film, only one American, offers weighty insights. All include superb performances in technically and aesthetically impressive works.

1. “Anatomy of a Fall”: Writer/director Justine Triet’s intriguing, multilayered investigation of a man’s death—fall, suicide, or murder—interweaves psychological and societal layers, as elusive as they are profound.

2. “The Teachers’ Lounge”: German director İlker Çatak scrutinizes the unraveling of an entire school community with racism, bureaucracy, journalism, and responsibility versus individual rights all factors.  

3. “Monster”: Japanese director Kore-Eda Hirokazu presents the same events from conflicting perspectives (a gay middle school boy, his mother, his teacher, and the principal), thereby confirming the limitations inherent in all subjective experience.

4. “Past Lives”: South Korean/Canadian director Celine Song unobtrusively explores a friendship interrupted by time, different countries, careers, and relationships. Reunited, the friends’ deep, heartbreaking emotional bond persists.

5. “Afire”: German writer/director Christian Petzold communicates a struggling writer’s depths of emotion, struggling with insecurity and fear in a remote location, isolated with another man and a woman.

6. “The Taste of Things”: Vietnamese Anh Hung Tran involves all our senses in a delectable, visual treat with incisive, implicit commentary on late nineteenth century French aristocracy.   

7. “Return to Dust”: Writer/director Li Ruijun exquisitely conveys the dignity, morality, and evolving love of two middle-aged Chinese peasants in their inequitable, oppressive world.

8. “Perfect Days”: German director Wim Wenders depicts the dignity of a quiet Tokyo toilet cleaner who carefully observes, perceptively registers, and calmly counters the world around him.

9. “Stonewalling”: Chinese director Huang Ji and Japanese director Ryûji Otsuka profile twenty-year-old Lynn, training as a flight attendant, grappling with an unexpected pregnancy, and interviewing prospective adoptee clients. Modern China’s sobering reality dominates all interactions.

10. “The Holdovers”: American director Alexander Payne mines three complex personalities over Christmas break at a posh New England boarding school, 1970. As poignant as it is funny, the story captures the depths of shattering loneliness and crushed hope, as well as the difficult path to acceptance.

Here are ten worthy runners-up: "Maestro"; "Orlando, My Political Biography"; "All of Us Strangers"; "Rustin"; "The Zone of Interest"; "American Symphony"; "The Boy and the Heron"; "They Shot the Piano Player"; "Kokomo City"; and "Menus-Plaisirs—Les Troisgros," plus, for sheer fun, "Air." All international films have English subtitles. You may find my separate reviews of these online here at

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