...on all my movie watching, that is. What I saw this week:

THE SON: I only made it halfway through the Dardenne Brothers’ first film (THE PROMISE) and have spent years avoiding making time for the second (Cannes Palme D’or Winner ROSETTA). So, I watched this in its entirety, but not without fidgeting. I could make Bresson comparisons with the leisurely pace and reliance on non-actors, but the Dardennes’ ideology doesn’t mesh with the master of spiritual transcendence. I’m reluctant to describe any of this film’s plot, because it would take a dozen words and spoil everything for you. I’ll only say it’s about the desire to understand why someone commits a crime that directly effects you, and that desire alone is a crutch and maybe also a sickness, but unavoidable nonetheless.

LAST LIFE IN THE UNIVERSE: Still piecing together this puzzling film, but that alone doesn’t frustrate me. I was so delighted by what perplexed me that I can imagine re-watching it as I did with MULHOLLAND DRIVE, discovering more clues each time out but not being able to fully explain them—and why does everything need a rational explanation? This is a film of moods, sight gags and interior emotions worn inside out, of seeing the Thai shore for the first time and finding unlikely pleasure in cleaning out a sink overloaded with dirty, rotting dishes. One scene where an apartment seemingly clean itself is the most rapturous I’ve seen all year next to the finale of BEFORE SUNSET.

MARGARET CHO REVOLUTION: This one didn’t receive a theatrical release like the last two, and that makes sense. I’M THE ONE THAT I WANT was a landmark in combining stand-up with autobiography, and it was a story that needed to be told. This film is simply stand-up, lighter on the polemics than NOTORIOUS CHO (funny, given this film’s title), but way too heavy on indulgent, near-incoherent ramblings. But Cho’s so gifted a comedienne she’d have to try really hard (or be drunk) to make an unfunny concert film, and this had me in hysterics at least 65% of the time. Who else could make an account of shitting in ones pants so worth hearing and relishing?

HERO: Zhang Yimou’s long-delayed (in the US, anyway) martial arts epic is stunning, at least technically. Cinematographer Christopher Doyle outdoes himself, the awesome color-coding even more sensual than IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE’s rain-drenched streets and intricate, congested apartments. The sound design also impressed—never has an arrow punctuating a surface so viscerally affected me. And although I appreciated the all-star cast and could even follow along with the story, it alone didn’t really move me. Certainly nowhere near other Yimou films like TO LIVE and NOT ONE LESS. If there’s only one film you want to see in theatres this year, make it this one (I can’t imagine it having anywhere near the same impact on a smaller screen), but I hope that Yimou’s new film, HOUSE OF FLYING DAGGERS (another martial arts epic due this Christmas) will possess a soul to match its outer beauty.

THE BROTHER FROM ANOTHER PLANET: I’ve wanted to check out John Sayles’ oeuvre for some time, having only seen LONE STAR (pretty damn good) and SUNSHINE STATE (pretty damn boring). The premise of this one has always intrigued me: black alien slave crashes into the Hudson River and takes refuge in Harlem. Although the main character (wonderfully played by Joe Morton) doesn’t speak, this is as dialogue-centered as any Sayles film, with lots of talky, unhurried scenes set in bars, social services offices and rough-hewn Harlem streets. Without really knowing he came from outer space, the neighborhood comes to the alien’s aid when his captors arrive—it’s as clever as it is obvious, full of non-sequiturs you could never get away with in a studio film. That alone at least gives it some shaggy charm.