The best films of 2021 — part four

Glancing at this list before I post it, I remembered again why 2021 ruled. Such an imaginative bunch!

Click on hyperlinks for full reviews.

8. Procession (dir. Robert Greene)

I haven’t seen a scenario like the one Robert Greene capture in Procession: a half-dozen male sexual assault survivors collaborating on a film designed as revenge on the Catholic clergy who ruined their lives. Because he awaits adjudication in the courts, the sixth member — get this — will instead play one of those priests in a segment. Other than Drive My Car, no other 2021 film presses the case for art as a means of reconstructing lived experience which does not eschew pain.

7. Memoria (dir. Apichatpong Weerasethakul)

As they depict a more recognizable world, the films of Apichatpong Weerasethakul get stranger. Memoria has the touch of the numinous. Plagued with an obscure ringing in her head, Tilda Swinton (the first non-Thai actor he has cast) wanders a Medellín as alien in its familiarity as Milan was to Jeanne Moreau in La Notte. Figures with whom she has interacted vanish or trade identities. Depending on one’s attitude towards the material and Apitchatpong generally, the last fifteen minutes are visionary, ludicrous, or visionary-ludicrous; but the vigor with which the writer-director has rendered subtle emotional states remains as a thing to admire.

6. The Worst Person in the World (dir. Joachim Trier)

“Structured in twelve chapters like a novel, The Worst Person in the World has a formalistic rigor often indistinguishable from rigor mortis,” I observed last month. “Voice-over narration is of the “She walked into the room and sat down” variety or in the Godardian manner where the pensées don’t match what Trier shows. The film also can’t shake its familiarity: here we go, let’s watch the slow dissolution of a heterosexual couple.” While a second viewing did not rid me of my prejudices, I appreciated the craft of Trier’s flawed movie.

5. Titane (dir. Julia Ducournau)

Nauseating and playful, Titane is the year’s most original film. Julia Ducournau, who also wrote and directed Raw (2016), makes films whose vacillations between sadism and tenderness sends audiences scurrying for the exits (as I learned at my Saturday afternoon screening). But she keeps her promises. Titane is what the press material says it is: after a moment of undiluted passion, a young woman gets impregnated by a Cadillac. Giving a performance of minutely calibrated blankness, Agathe Rousselle holds Ducournau’s concept in her gnarled hands. She does terrible things. When she warms to the stubborn affections of an older grief-stricken man ready to believe the fictions he tells himself, she becomes less human, thus more pitiable. In short, Titane is flapdoodle, daring audience dismissal. But this is flapdoodle that cants the angles with which we perceive the world.” Oh — Vincent Lindon gives the year’s most heartbreaking supporting performance.

One thought on “The best films of 2021 — part four

  1. The Deux et Machina upon the character of Aksel is capricious and doesn’t define Julie as much as any first serious relationship would define everyone. Trier resorts to treacled old Hollywood tropes (desease! and for the “Wise” character!) that would make ron-com stereotypes blush. That he does it with some form of retraint we can thank his Scandinavian modesty. But it’s still a lame trope.

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