This strange, haunting film follows a middle-aged man who arrives in a remote Mexican village where he plans to commit suicide. Heavily indebted to Tarkovsky, the film strains for arthouse credibility with pretentious religious symbolism and achingly slow pace. Still much of the imagery is arresting, and its glimpses of rural life are raw and underpinned by an earthy comedy.
One of the most revered of Krzysztof Kieslowski's "10 commandments" series, the late director's determinedly bleak parable investigates a pointless murder and a lawyer's subsequent near-existential defence. Out the same year ('88) as A Short Film About Love, its intensity made the Polish maestro a global name.
Veteran Georgian director Otar losseliani cobbles together this amiable slice of menopausal whimsy, following middle-aged factory worker and wannabe painter Vincent (Jacques Bidou) as he breaks his blue-collar routine and flees to romantic Venice. There he encounters other eccentric middle-aged men, spies on some skirt-lifting nuns, climbs a roof, drinks some wine, and then returns home, a wiser man.
DVD EXTRAS: Interview with director losseliani, trailer, filmography.
Keaton-esque Palestinian comedian Elia Suleiman's sporadically successful and loosely-bound compendium of sketches Divine Intervention features two lovers, from Ramallah and Jerusalem, who pass their romance at an Israeli checkpoint while a surreal world of humorous vignettes pass before them—some of which are sublime (like the Yasser Arafat balloon), others unsophisticated (like the Palestinian ninja who dispatches five Israeli henchmen).
Bertrand Tavernier's epic (almost three hours) looks back at France's period of Nazi occupation from a movie-lover's perspective. A young screenwriter tries to subvert the German-controlled studios while juggling three women, and a director doubles as a Resistance fighter. It's a beautifully detailed and honest piece.
Echoes of Jean De Florette only add to the charm of Christian Carion's bucolic visit to the Alpine French countryside. A young woman bored with life in the capital decides to become a farmer; cranky old neighbour Michel Serrault doubts whether she can hack it. Pretty scenery, yes, but also a perceptive study of mismatched spirits learning to rub along.
A monumental 150-minute attempt at tracking China's cultural transition from Mao-ish uniformity to the eccentricities of Deng Xiaoping's quasi-capitalism, Platform (1990) follows four wannabe performers from Fenyang over a long and turbulent decade (1979-1989). Unlike director Jia Zhang-ke's excellent 1997 drama Xiao Wu, Platform has a bizarre disregard for character and narrative coherence.
A morbidly slow but ultimately touching vignette from France, starring the legendary Michel Piccolia an ageing actor whose wife and kids are killed in a car crash. He mopes around Paris, but is persuaded by an American director (John Malkovich) to take a movie part. He muffs his lines, ensuring no feel-good ending. It earns its melancholia.
DVD EXTRAS: Interviews, trailers, production notes, filmographies
Jane Campion's second film (1990) tells the life story of Janet Frame, a New Zealand author who overcame poverty, chronic shyness and (misdiagnosed) schizophrenia to achieve international acclaim. Kerry Fox stars, while Campion hones her own stylistic match of trippy fantasy and gauche intimacy. Earnest, with detours into the ethereal.
DVD EXTRAS: Three interviews with Campion, filmographies, trailer, biography of Janet Frame.