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6. White Material (Claire Denis)
The sense of suspension in Claire Denis's work, partly sustained through their intuitive rhythms, well suited the gathering storm of civil war in her latest. The tragedy of embattled homelands plays out its endgame (with Isabelle Huppert as dug-in colonial), yielding a macabre counterpart to the family affairs of 35 Shots of Rum.
7. Wild Grass (Alain Resnais)
In his late eighties, Resnais continued his career-long inquiry into themes of memory, time and love with a frisky, inevitable collision of two middle-aged people who find some solace in chance and the dreamlike fantasies of the cinema.
8. Shutter Island (Martin Scorsese)
The latter-day B-movie homage is always a showcase, and much has already been written about the filmmaking flair of Scorsese, a director with, at last, nothing less to prove—but Shutter Island is most notable for the star turns by the two collaborators most indispensable to Marty this century: human release valve Leonardo DiCaprio, of course, but also editor Thelma Schoonmaker, who cuts with such bullying speed, and with such subtle disregard for matching, that she can turn a day player drinking a glass of water into a moment of haunting ambiguity.
9. Our Beloved Month of August (Miguel Gomes)
Concert footage, local testimonials, and a warped Partridge Family-esque melodrama overlap in Portuguese director Gomes's second feature, a totally beguiling investigation into the porousness of fiction and nonfiction. The film is pretty much sui generis, but its casual evolvement and frequent peeks behind its own scenes suggest nothing less than vintage Kiarostami.
10. Black Swan (Darren Aronofsky)
You can read a lot about what Aronofsky's psycho-ballet thriller "really" is beneath all of his seriousness and grainy film and following shots: a gussied up horror movie, porny lipstick lesbianism, faux-genius that isn't fit to tie The Red Shoes, and so on. But one of Aronofsky's greatest strengths—his fusion of high-minded art-film seriousness with genre exploitation—is at its peak here, spinning a simple story into hypnotic, operatic hysteria. The good kind. The movie kind.