Assayas maps recent history with synaptic complexity, his perspective gradually shifting from the titular free radical to the modern world that works him out of its system.
#2 Wild Grass
The heart wants what it wants, unto death, a state of affairs which moviemaking cinephile Resnais is delighted to indulge. (A brighter flipside to #10.)
#3 Everyone Else
Praising its shade-perfect emotional veracity feels transparent: with this movie on my list, you probably know some things about me I wish you didn’t.
A self-contained allegory for religion, politics, patriarchy, or artmaking—the year’s most pickapartable film, and, with its repurposing of domestic-sphere familiars, the most dreamlike.
#5 White Material
Denis’s gift for rendering skin seemingly environmental—like Isabelle Huppert’s sundressed translucence—is made scarring as whites and blacks stake disputed claims on what they consider their home.
An investigation into the uses and limitations of art therapy to top Shutter Island; and, as trustworthy, unobtrusive Malmberg brokers a meeting between his subject and audience, a testament to basic documentary technique.
#7 The Father of My Children
For the second half even more than the breezily inexorable first, as Alice de Lencquesaing (thrower of the Summer Hours house party) explores a teen’s conditional autonomy in matters of adult relationships, culture and death, with a determined openness recalling... well, Hansen-Løve herself, in her future partner Olivier Assayas’s Late August, Early September.
James Murphy’s Nilsson-esque AM pop and Harris Savides’s smoggy telephoto lensing of a movie star walking (in Los Angeles!) conjure the appropriately anachronistic feel of movie-colony-based 70s auteur cinema at its most idiosyncratic.
#9 Black Swan
Stylish, silly symbolism, but grounded in Natalie Portman’s tendony, revulsed portrait of self-disciplined young womanhood.
#10 You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger
In contemplating the gap between artistic ambition and ability, the Wood Man stands shoulder-to-shoulder with a generation of filmmakers who’ve got all the time in the world—which is why he’s on this list and Lena Dunham’s not.