I love Margaret , but I love a movie called House of Pleasures even more. (It’s known elsewhere under the less porny title House of Tolerance.) Like Margaret, Bertrand Bonello’s dreamy look at a tony, turn-of-the-century Parisian brothel was initially hated, with some at Cannes calling it the fest’s worst. It fared better at Toronto, where its fans succumbed to its opium-induced vibe, its fearless silliness (anachronistic use of the Moody Blues, plus a moment involving, well, “semen tears”) and its deeply sad look at an era on the wane. In a year stacked silly with films about end times (Melancholia, Take Shelter, etc.), this mini-apocalypse was my favorite.
Divorce fueled the calm and exacting Romanian film Tuesday, After Christmas, as well as the forthcoming Iranian A Separation, which resembles the rock solid drama of Ibsen and is essentially perfect. Meanwhile that country’s undisputed master, Abbas Kiarostami, was bumbling about Italy with Juliette Binoche, making the old school mindfuck Certified Copy.
Like Copy, a personality crisis also afflicted the titular hero of the unbearably intense Martha Marcy May Marlene , while that film’s leaps through time were nearly as accomplished as the ones in another wondrously imperfect beast, The Tree of Life. While Terrence Malick’s Cannes-winner exhumed the past—not just the ’60s, but the beginning of the universe and the era of dinosaurs—Nicolas Winding Refn brought back the ’80s with Drive, which is Michael Mann by way of John Hughes and as awesome as that sounds.
Death reared its head in Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, Thai master Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s trance-y meditation on death and nature—a fantasia where the deceased come back as animal-man hybrids and women receive cunnilingus from talking catfish. And then there was Rubber, aka the “killer tire movie”—a hilarious non-sequitur that people mistakenly assumed was actually a “killer tire movie.”