La France (Serge Bozon, 2007) Two things make this especially noteworthy. One is the musical element, the other is the fact that Bozon is working in a classical idiom, at least as regards mise-en-scène, without resorting to "pastiche" in any robust sense. It's nice to see somebody doing this without playing up the homage/recreation elements.
Bamako (Abderrahmane Sissako, 2006) Required reading: the first chapter in the first volume of Ruiz's Poetics of Cinema. There's conflict, here, all right, but it's not to be found in the narrative. I wouldn't call it a great work, but I'm flummoxed by all the nitpicking that a film about Africa & globalization that isn't a documentary would have the gall to not have a strong narrative propulsion. Can't things just be interesting because they're interesting? (And I saw this at an outdoor screening, with delicious food, by the East River, so there was plenty to occupy us.)
Go Fish (Rose Troche, 1994) T. Wendy McMillan deserves to be in more films! I can't find any substantial information on her, but she's the black lesbian scholar. She's also at the center of the funniest moment in the film, when she's walking down the street and, slow motion, we hear somebody on the soundtrack yell out a homophobic "dyke" comment. McMillan turns her head, as she keeps walking, and (still in slo-mo) yells back, "Heyyyyy, fuuuuck yooooouu!" An interesting amalgamation of cheap indie narrative with meta-discursive framings, occupying several pairs of shoes (romantic comedy, navel-gazer, queer film manifesto, discussion of queer film manifestos) with an apparent effortlessness that's easy to miss. This was Luc Moullet's choice (for Film Comment) on 'Film of the Nineties,' an unusual pick to be sure, but if you sit a bunch of cinephiles around to watch this you could perhaps get a good debate going.
House of Bamboo (Samuel Fuller, 1955) Racist imperialist lunacy, no doubt: I don't see a strong authorial response resisting or mediating a pretty bald ideological operation. But the climax, and elements prior, are all Fullerian flourish, and there's enough here to keep the cinephile following along. Girish has written very well on this film's strengths. Moullet again: "The young American filmmakers have nothing to say, Sam Fuller even less than the others. He has something to do, and he does it, naturally, without forcing it. This isn't a small compliment." (Robert Ryan remains, of course, unassailable.)