Provocatively, one of the most eloquent feminist film-makers extant is an Iranian muslim, Samira Makhmalbaf. Her latest entrancing— and most expansive—movie is set in the rubble of Kabul, where a young woman dreams of becoming Afghanistan's first female president. Men—Taliban mullahs and foreign invaders—have ruined this country, is her subtext, but Makhmalbaf is too artful to be merely polemical.
While the US administration portray. Iran as hostile to culture and dissent, Samira Makhmalbaf's films suggest otherwise. Her 1997 debut, made when she was 17, tells the story of the Naderi family (played by themselves), whose daughters were kept unwashed and imprisoned until they were 12. Simple, painterly, weirdly engaging, it subtly reveals that excessive faith and the repression of women are outmoded concepts even in that 'axis-of-evil' capital Tehran.
Takeshi "Beat" Kitano goes blond as well as blind to resurrect the long-running samurai avenger, and has more fun with it than original star Shintarö Katsu ever imagined. Outrageously bloody, it's a kind of syncopated slice-'n'-dice.
Sure, Takeshi could have done it with his eyes closed—and does-but it's his most satisfying effort since Hana-bi.
Denys Arcand reunites the Quebecois characters who made '86's The Decline Of The American Empire so witty and engaging, and despite their age, disillusion and failing health, they're as intellectually provocative as before. Yes, it's talky, but as one lies dying, his friends reminisce about days of drugs and libido, and his son finds a backbone. A moving, note-perfect Oscar-winner.
Krzysztof Kieslowski's trilogy is one of the standard bearers for 'arthouse' cinema. And though the movies occasionally hint at self-importance (in Zbigniew Preisner's intrusive scores and the colour-coded shooting style), Kieslowski's steely control of storytelling always keeps the narratives fiercely compelling
Ten-year-old Paul (Harry Eden) is at home in a world of pimps and pushers, bargain basement hookers and fly-blown market cafés. He has to be—since his widowed mother traded mourning for a regular numbing dose of heroin, it's been Paul who has kept the family running, even if that means fetching Mummy her 'medicine'. Gillies Mackinnon's drama is admittedly bleak, but excellent performances and restrained direction make this a rewarding, if heart-wrenching, experience.
A single indiscretion with a besotted servant (a young Toshirô Mifune) starts an inexorable downward spiral for young noblewoman O-Haru. Disgraced, she and her parents are sent into exile, but it soon becomes clear that a woman with a tarnished reputation has very little chance of making good in 17th-century feudal Japan. With ravishing black-and-white cinematography and an austere formality in the direction, Kenji Mizoguchi's 1952 masterpiece is a beautifully crafted example of a past era in Japanese film-making.
Lou Ye's beguiling movie tells the hazy, cut-up tale of a motorcycle courier once hired to follow a woman he then fell for, who subsequently threw herself into the river but seems to have been reborn as a nightclub performer dressed as a mermaid. With its drifting, subjective camera capturing jump-cut collages of street life in the neon-splashed city, it's a fascinatingly intimate portrait of the Shanghai river front, wrapped around a mystery.
Krzysztof Kieslowski's 1979 satire charts the experiences of a Polish clerk who buys an 8mm camera to record the arrival of his new baby, but becomes increasingly consumed by his hobby. After his employers ask him to make a film to mark their company's 25th anniversary, he's propelled into the position of political film-maker. With Kieslowski's documentary background clearly on display, it's a wry, heartfelt contemplation of the film-maker's burden.