Classic 'revisionist' western from '71, Peter Fonda's directorial debut is bookended by two acts of fumbling, clumsy yet brutally violent gunplay, but is otherwise concerned with the delicately evolving relationships between two wandering cowboys (Fonda and Warren Oates) and Fonda's once abandoned wife (Verna Bloom). The photography from Vilmos Zsigmond (McCabe & Mrs Miller) is worth the price of the DVD in itself.
Craig Lahiff's impassioned, if wearily familiar, courtroom drama is based on Australia's (apparently) infamous 1958 "Max Stuart Case"—where a rape and murder confession was beaten out of a young aborigine. It's got two crusading, system-shaking lawyers (Robert Carlyle and Kerry Fox), an oily Crown Prosecutor (Charles Dance) and plenty of rousing speeches about justice. Watchable.
Director/star Lucas Belvaux's ambitious triptych, set in Grenoble, consists of three films in different genres, with overlapping characters featuring to varying degrees. On The Run is a jailbreak thriller, An Amazing Couple is a serious rom-com, and After Life is a neo-tragic melodrama. You can watch them in the 'wrong' order and shake the kaleidoscope yourself, but it's innately dark.
Ten months, twelve pupils, one teacher, one documentarian and 300 hours of footage are mixed and tweaked to produce 100 minutes of gripping observational drama set in a rural French classroom. Here, the avuncular Georges Lopez instructs his students and dispenses wisdom in equal measure, while his soft baritone rolls from day to day, season to season, like the voice of God.
Todd Haynes' unforgivingly acrid blend of body horror and social satire sees Julianne Moore as the pampered Barbie-doll housewife who becomes violently allergic to the perms, sprays, snacks, Mercs, houses and parties that define affluent existence in the San Fernando Valley. Harsh attacks on crass materialism, dubious spiritualism and human frailty follow.
Utterly demented female assassin action from Korea's Je-gyu Kang, who comes across as the bastard son of John Woo and Luc Besson (without the flair of either). Kang chucks in a load of contemporary political context, which is interesting, but falls victim to the current vogue for assembling your final cut half an hour too long. Enjoyable but overlong and confusing.
From Shohei Imamura—one of several 'legendary Japanese masters' none of us have ever heard of—comes a genuinely surreal fable of a man searching for hidden treasure who finds a complex erotic gush-out with a lonely young woman who's turned on by water. It's often beautiful to look at, though the orgasmic writhing sections are unintentionally hilarious.
Ingmar Bergman's early films are often passed over. To Joy (1950) has hardly been seen in the UK, but it's highly personal, autobiographical even, totally involving, moving, and its theme of marital disharmony runs through much of his mature work. Marta and Stig meet, marry, he cheats, they reunite. Victor Sjöström and the Beethoven are unforgettable.
Bahman Ghobadi's gruelling account of Kurdish hardships on the Iran/Iraq border has none of the artful self-consciousness of Samira Makhmalbaf's remarkably similar Blackboards. Instead, this powerful story of eldest child Ayoub trying to smuggle his dying brother into Iraq features brutally uncompromising scenes of bareknuckle kiddie fistfights, savagely battered horses, and the casual physical abuse of a crippled child.
Sandwiched, chronologically, in between Jules Et Jim (1962) and Fahrenheit 451 (1964), La Peau Douce (The Soft Skin) is an intriguing anomaly in the François Truffaut canon. A neo-Hitchcockian tale of infidelity, it methodically observes the extra-marital deceptions of apathetic intellectual Pierre (Jean Desailly) before rashly culminating in a bizarre shotgun shootout courtesy of Pierre's hysterical wife. For Truffaut completists.