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Pixar grew up this year, making an intimate little movie about a reclusive old widower trying to cope with the suddenly very real (3D, even) prospect of his own mortality. Sure, there was a talking dog, a floating house, an aerial battle and a Skittles-colored emu, but Up's actually a superior, animated remake of About Schmidt.
Starring Tilda Swinton in a galvanic, often horrifying, lead performance as an aging barroom queen, Julia unfolds as both ludicrous character study and nutso thriller. But it's so committed to its wonky absurdities and ultimately so grounded in a great abyss of human need that it demands to be taken seriously.
17. Night and Day
Gentler with age, Hong continues his Godardian-Rohmerian rumba through modern triangulated romantic warfare, this time relocating to Paris, following after a half-assed Hongian man as he dallies amid art students and experiences love as a series of painful and self-contradictory revelations. Kinda unforgettable.
18. You, the Living
Andersson builds both the desolation of his down-and-out urbanites and the darkly humorous nature of their plight directly into the letter-perfect framings of his miserablist tableaux. Music and dreams provide Andersson's grotesques with their only escape, but it's in showing us how to adapt an absurdist's perspective that the director teaches us how to accept our own world of woe.
The blunt title translates as Revenge, and the plot pivots on a robbery gone wrong, but the pulp is merely the surface. Austrian writer-director Spielmann slowly, assuredly takes his smoldering film into unexpected terrain. This nominal scuzz effortlessly doubles as a study in the corrosive effects of revenge and guilt, triples as a nuanced character piece, etc.
20. Police, Adjective
Romanian filmmaker Porumboiu likes a challenge—or is that a gamble? After the dribbling on-air debates of 12:08 comes this longest of wind-ups: a police procedural reworked twice—first with the interminable imagery of surveillance, then with a dive into language and its grip on reality.
Senior L writers present their year in film.
Dec 24, 2009