Julie Dash – Daughters of the Dust [+Extras] (1991)

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A film of spellbinding visual beauty and brilliant resonant performances, Julie Dash’s Daughters of the Dust has become a landmark of independent film. With great lyricism, Daughters tells the story of a large African-American family as they prepare to move North at the dawn of the 20th Century. Using this simple tale, the film brings to life the changing values, conflicts and struggles that confront every family as they leave their homeland for the promise of a new and better future. Continue reading

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Kaneto Shindô – Gogo no Yuigon-jo AKA A Last Note (1995)

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Veteran Japanese filmmaker Kaneto Shindo was 82 when he directed this meditation on life, death, and loss. Following the passing of her husband, elderly former actress Yoko Morimoto (Haruko Sugimura) travels to her summer home in the mountains of Central Japan. Upon her arrival, her servant Tokoyo (Nobuko Otowa) has sad news for her — her long-time gardener has recently committed suicide. Adding to Yoko’s sorrow is the arrival of Tomie, an old friend from her days in the theater, who is traveling with her husband Tohachiro Urshikuni (Hideo Kanze), also an actor. Tomie has grown senile, and Tohachiro no longer has the money to support them; he informs Yoko that they’ve chosen to kill themselves rather than entering an old age home that they can’t afford anyway, and they are taking this final trip to say goodbye to their friends. As Yoko deals with this troubling news, Tokoyo has a confession to make — she had an affair with Yoko’s late husband, who was the biological father of Tokoyo’s daughter. A Last Note received the Critics Award at the 1995 Moscow International Film Festival. Continue reading

Michael Winterbottom – Butterfly Kiss AKA Killer on the Road (1995)

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Winterbottom’s theatrical feature debut Butterfly Kiss was released into UK theatres in August 1995. Set in a dystopian environment limited almost entirely to motorways, service stations and motels, it charted the dysfunctional lesbian relationship between the violent and erratic Eunice (Amanda Plummer) and the credulous Miriam (Saskia Reeves). In so doing it offered up a portrayal of Britain that had not previously been seen on its cinema screens. Although the film garnered mixed responses, a couple of reviewers such as Derek Malcolm seized on it as heralding the arrival of a remarkable new talent in British cinema (2). Indeed, the film was to lay out many of the themes and techniques that would come to define Winterbottom’s oeuvre.
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Claude Berri – Germinal (1993)

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Germinal

Release Date: 1993

Ebert Rating: ***

By Roger Ebert Mar 18, 1994

I I n 1884 the French author Emile Zola traveled to a poor rural district of France to observe the living and working conditions of striking coal miners. The novel he wrote about that experience, Germinal, was instrumental in winning justice for the workers, who existed in a condition little better than slavery.

Claude Berri’s ambitious new epic “Germinal” recreates Zola’s story. Zola, who began as a writer at a time when most novels were inspired by imagination and romance, helped pioneer a style of detailed realism, piling fact upon fact so that his books seemed drawn from real life. Berri’s film has been made in the same spirit, and the elaborate sets showing the villages and mines are so convincing the movie almost seems shot on 19th century locations. Continue reading

Eric Khoo – Mee Pok Man (1996)

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IMDb Description: A painfully shy noodle-shop owner and a prostitute have a chance encounter when destiny arrives in the form of a car accident.

Variety Review:
In terms of raw power, the new Singaporean film “Mee Pok Man” can be described as “Taxi Driver” without the latter’s cathartic violence and Scorsese’s visual pizzazz. Eric Khoo makes an impressive directorial debut in a rather depressing tale of two alienated youths whose lives fatefully intertwine. Though damaged by a last reel that is unnecessarily long and a bit indulgent, pic deserves berths in festivals and perhaps even limited theatrical release if only for its novelty, being a rare export from Singapore.

The lead performers, Joe Ng as the slow-witted man and Goh as the world-weary prostitute, are decently credible if not totally engrossing. Still, pic’s overall impact is disturbing, showcasing a new director who is seriously intent on documenting the malaise of contemporary life in Singapore. Continue reading

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