Best 20th century relics I saw this year? Before all else, A-number-one, The Best of Ernie Kovacs (2-disc DVD), and then such treasures as Senso (Visconti, '54), Beware of a Holy Whore (Fassbinder, '72), Talking to Strangers (Tregenza, '87), Metropolitan (Stillman, '90), Le Cri du hibou (Chabrol, '87), Berlin Horse (Le Grice, '70), Das Kino und der Tod (Bitomsky, '88), Treasure Island (Ruiz, '85), Dirty (Dwoskin, '65), Sur un air de Charleston (Renoir, '27), The Phenix City Story (Karlson, '55), and various others.
Some honorable mentions for favorites from the Aughts that I only caught up with this past year: Eros (2004, Antonioni’s segment most of all, but Wong’s is a strong honorable mention; Soderbergh’s is the dud in the bunch but, at least, cute), Histoire de Marie et Julien (heartbreaking, no?), Triple Agent (another beaut from a New Wave master I only, sheepishly, just saw recently), Cantico das Criaturas (Miguel Gomes, 2006), and perhaps also Young Adam, which had the virtue of both seeming inevitable, neat, elegant and being completely unpredictable, meandering, organic.
I don't know if I saw a great 2009 film, but that's largely because I saw not-that-many films. If one's counting Two Lovers then I'd argue there was at least one masterpiece released commercially in US theaters this past year. (Assayas maybe has a claim as well...) The most sublimely idiotic 2009 release I saw was Law Abiding Citizen. Again, though, I saw relatively few new films, as usual.
Below: images from my '09 viewing. Some are reminders of impressive films or good scenes; some are striking images; some just indicate the workaday aspects of watching lots and lots of a/v material ...