The small transit town of Nouadhibou lies between the desert and the sea in the African state of Mauritania. Here, Mauritanian director Abderrahmane Sissako explores the tug between modernity and tradition, adopting an image-heavy poetic style to examine themes of migration and exile, centred around the character of Khatra, a young man caught between two cultures.
Revered by film-making legends from Alain Resnais to Martin Scorsese, the Japanese director Yasijuro Ozu specialised in minutely observed and exquisitely composed domestic dramas. Made in 1959, Floating Weeds was one of Ozu's last features, a remake of one of his early silents about backstage politics and romantic turbulence among a troupe of travelling Kabuki theatre players. The subject may sound alien but Ozu makes their problems timeless and universal.
Eight Quebecois intellectuals, four boys and four girls, discuss sex, history, the state of the world, sex, each other and sex as they prepare for a weekend together in the country. Gabby, but engrossing in a My Dinner With André sort of way, this 1986 movie marks the first appearance of the old friends who are reunited in Denys Arcand's The Barbarian Invasions.
Cynical lapsed communist Daniel Auteuil gets lost driving through a dark forest, and encounters haughty bilingual seductress Kristin Scott Thomas. An episodic shaggy dog story ensues, sprayed with romance and bleak jokes. Pascal Bonitzer writes/directs a unique, odd mystery which is splendidly acted by all. Let's face it, if you're casting a haughty bilingual seductress, Kristin's your woman.
A Kyoto skyscraper is contrasted with a crematorium chimney, gravestones abound, as do sinister black crows. And yet despite the lugubrious undertow of this, Yasujiro Ozu's penultimate movie (made two years before his death), there's a warmth to the tale of the Kohayagawa family, their ailing business and their eccentric patriarch that somehow transforms post-war angst into sublime acceptance.
Imagine Ghost replayed as a slow, spiritually-charged polemic set in the bleak housing complexes of martial law-era Poland, and you're close to Krzysztof Kieslowski's 1984 drama. The spirit of a dead lawyer watches over as his young wife descends into grief and one of his former clients is pushed toward compromise to save his neck. In cinema terms, food for the soul—but it really needed Whoopi Goldberg and a potter's wheel to make it a hit.
In this quasi-autobiographical account of the tortured filming of A Ma Soeur's sex scenes, formerly dour feminist director Catherine Breillat holds tongue firmly in cheek as she demolishes the petty vanities of 'movie people' (including, gamely, her own honed auteur persona) while simultaneously celebrating the alchemy of movies themselves.
Takeshi Kitano delicately intertwines three stories of endless love, inspired by traditional Japanese puppet theatre. In the main strand, a young man returns to his spurned lover following her suicide attempt, and the two roam the country, bound together by a red rope. Intersecting stories concern a yakuza pining for the girl he deserted, and a reclusive, disfigured pop star, stalked by an obsessive fan. A strange, visually ravishing film, with Takeshi's meditative, minimalist style as hypnotic as ever.
Seamus McGarvey is proving himself to be the UK's finest director of photography, and this visual poem owes its beauty to his eye. A fable following a man as he looks back over his life, from rural Ireland to modern London, it's like Cronenberg's Spider with the imagination turned up to 11.
Already a by-word for meaningfully ambitious technical accomplishment, Alexander Sokurov's epic was shot in St Petersburg's Hermitage Museum in one unbroken steadicam shot. Moving through the rooms, we're tossed across history, from Peter the Great to Catherine the Great. And it IS great: saying much about Mother Russia then and now, but also visually gorgeous.