10/10: Sean Price Williams

The director of photography behind Good Time, Kate Plays Christine, Marjorie Prime, and Listen Up Philip, among numerous others, shares his ten favorite films from the last ten years.

– in chronological order –

1. L’histoire de Richard O. (Damien Odoul, 2007) I have been a lonely devotee of Damien Odoul ever since I saw Le Souffle at the New York Film Festival shortly after September 11, when I was savagely hungry for hope in cinema. I saw each of his films over the years as worthy and crazed. I understood that he was alienating himself from many facets of the French film industry and saw each film as more and more solitary bursts of unwelcome expression. And this film was perhaps a personal apocalypse. I saw it three times in the Brady Cinema in Paris, a true dungeon. Wonderful place. I have watched it several times since and never with subtitles. I understand it my own way, and I think it’s a generous enough movie that it can exist comfortably this way.

2. “Merde” (Sequence from Tokyo!; Leos Carax, 2008) Incredible character, obviously. One that we could watch for eight seasons on television. But all we have is this film and a portion of Holy Motors — for now. Carax threatened a Merde in New York sequel years ago. I wouldn’t count it out. This short contains the best parody of Oshima’s Death By Hanging. Maybe the only one, actually.

3. 35 Shots of Rum (Claire Denis, 2008) Arguably the greatest, most wonderful filmmaker of our time. (Who would argue?) It’s the best father-daughter movie I can think of. And it’s one of the greatest romances, too. Doses of Ozu. But without the dozes. The dance sequence to “Night Shift” by the Commodores is not able to be described. We are witness to the most magical thing that can happen between two people. We witness as ourselves and then we witness as a father. A gift. I love you, Claire.

4. Two Lovers (James Gray, 2008) James Gray seemed to step outside of his butthole to give us this most incredible “dick flick” (incredibly dumb name for the male equivalent of a “chick flick”) foolishly released and marketed as a Valentine’s Day movie. I sat there opening night at the Beekman Theater uptown and heard three women complaining to their dates about how horrible the movie was and how they wanted to leave. The men were glued. Joaquin is the mirror for all of us boys who inevitably make the mistake of falling for the wrong girl. Falling for any girl. Falling at all. The inevitable punishment that we can see a mile away and our inevitable hurdle toward the pain inside.

5. Black Swan (Darren Aronofsky, 2010) Aronofsky stepped out of his butthole to give us a wonderful potpourri of greater films’ better elements at a time when there was absolutely nothing worth seeing and during the season when all the 35mm projection of first-run movies was being extinguished in NYC. I saw this one five times at Lincoln Plaza. It was a funeral. But I just couldn’t get enough of the dark eyeballs and terrific choreography between image and music. Even with such overplayed material, and the constant Polanski thefts, I was in heaven. 35mm heaven (shot on super 16).

6. Promises Written in Water (Vincent Gallo, 2010) I hate that no one can see this film. I swear I have not included it to show off. Every scene in the film is invention. Never seen a better shot of a man pacing a room. Gallo’s face is its richest. Gray and full of stories. It contains a scene in a café where he repeats his lines over and over until he gets them right. The most simple fantasy of a person who knows he can never truly express himself as he wants to. It’s painful and playful as no one has the nerve to be. Humiliating and human in a way we are not allowed to be, especially on a screen. Still?

7. The Ghost Writer (Roman Polanski, 2010) I am not a film critic. When the living master of suspense makes a great thriller, what is there to say? It’s nearly perfect. The direction is so masterful and sly. Should be taught to students.

8. Aurora (Cristi Puiu, 2010) I have only seen it once. I have the DVD and pull it out every year or so with the idea of putting it in the player. But can I watch this singular Romanian performance in my shitty apartment in Bed-Stuy? I would never invite Puiu into my home. For fear that the real-life him would feel shame for me. Or that the character he plays in Aurora would have to shoot me. For me, he is by far the greatest of the very great crop of Romanian filmmakers. He is not the leader, because he cannot be followed. I think he is very alone and probably hard to be friends with. The fact that I even talk this way about him is because of the humanity and communication he exposes in this film. A similar expression (though very different stylistically) would be that of Reygadas in Post Tenebras Lux.

9. Goodbye to Language (Jean-Luc Godard, 2014) Godard succeeds, and your head pops off. Our beloved punk. I love you, JLG. I hope I never meet you in person because if you are human, then we all have no excuse for being as we are.

10. Elle (Paul Verhoeven, 2016) The old guy’s still got it. Smarter filmmaker for sure. And twisted in all the best ways. I never expected to see a good movie again, and then I saw Elle three times. Huppert gives the greatest screen performance of all-time. There is no competition. Brando in Last Tango is close. At the NYFF screening I had the biggest smile the whole time and I laughed out-loud twice at parts that seemed to only tickle me and one other older fellow nearby. I wondered if I could become friends with him, but then decided not to.


10/10 is an ongoing series in which we ask cinephiles to name their ten favorite films from the last ten years (currently, between 2007 and 2017).