Sharunas Bartas – Laisve AKA Freedom (2000)

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A handful of strangers hoping to find freedom discover it is no easy quarry in this metaphoric drama. Four people stand near the shore of a seaside community and board a small boat hoping to sail away; they are soon attacked by border guards, and one of them does not survive. The three remaining sailors — two men (Axel Neuman and Valentinas Masalskis) and a woman (Fatima Ennafloui) — wash up on the beach of an island strewn with rocks. None of them speak the same language, and they struggle to make their way on the unforgiving coastline, often at odds with each other. They find they are not alone on the island — an Arab settlement and a cadre of soldiers are already living there; the military men attack them, and the Arabs refuse to come to their aid. Freedom was shown in competition at the 2000 Venice Film Festival. (by Mark Deming,) Continue reading

Yimou Zhang – Yao a yao yao dao waipo qiao AKA Shanghai Triad (1995)

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Summary:
“Country boy Shuisheng (Wang Xiaoxiao) is brought to 1930s Shanghai by his uncle who wants the boy to become a member of the powerful gang ruled by manipulative Tang (Li Baotian). In fact, Shuisheng will serve Tang’s capricious mistress Bijou (Gong Li), a nightclub singer whom the boss proclaimed “the Queen of Shanghai.” When the boy’s uncle and the gang’s several other members die during a rival gang’s unsuccessful attempt on Tang’s life, the latter retreats to a remote small island, taking both Bijou and Shuisheng with him and thinking of revenge. The film’s English-language title is a little bit deceiving (the original Chinese title translates to “Row, Row, Row to Grandmother’s Bridge,” a line in Tang’s favorite song performed by Bijou), as this drama centers more on the boy’s coming of age and Bijou’s disillusionment than on Shanghai gang wars. The film is slow-paced and sometimes lacks a narrative drive, but Zhang Yimou’s images are striking as ever and Gong Li’s beauty shines throughout.” -AMG Continue reading

Pedro Almodóvar – Carne trémula AKA Live Flesh (1997)

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Quote:
Curious, seeing this after the smash hits of “Todo Sobre Mi Madre” and “Hable con Ella”, because this movie sort of prepared the viewers to what was coming. Grabbing a solid and original story, Pedro Almodovar creates a movie that revolves around a strange set of characters, and on the process gives an excellent essay on the effect time has on people’s lives. All the actors are top notch, specially the commanding Javier Bardem, who would later become an Oscar nominee with “Before Night Falls”. Great music, cinematography and direction give this movie an even more satisfying look, and make this a well-achieved movie that ends up being the first part of an unofficial trilogy of Almodovar’s best works. Continue reading

Alan Zweig – Vinyl (2000)

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Alan Zweig investigates the wacky world of record collecting. An odd film made by a Toronto filmmaker who interviewed record collectors in their homes and in their favourite haunt – the record store. For those who enjoyed High Fidelity and thought that Nick Hornsby’s novel was a rip off of their life story, wait until you see this one! The director’s thesis is that record collectors are obsessive compulsive and are using this pursuit to make up for something that is inherently missing from their lives. Continue reading

Tom Tykwer – Die tödliche Maria AKA Deadly Maria [+Extras] (1993)

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Synopsis by Sandra Brennan
This German psychodrama looks into the events that lead an introverted woman into taking extreme action against her oppressors. Poor Maria has spent her life being ignored and pushed around by men. First there was her invalid father whom she waited on hand and foot. Then there was her cold and emotionally distant husband. Maria has been internalizing her rage for years. Her anger finally erupts when her husband takes the little bit of money she’d been secretly saving over the last few years. She kills both her husband and her father. The film ends with her new boyfriend’s distressed facial expression as he learns of her murders. Continue reading

Cheryl Dunye – The Watermelon Woman (1996)

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From IMDB:
Cheryl is young, Black, and lesbian, working in Philadelphia with her best friend Tamara and consumed by a film project: to make a video about her search for a Black actress from Philly who appeared in films in the 30s and was known as the Watermelon Woman. Following various leads, Cheryl discovers the Watermelon Woman’s stage name and real name and surmises that the actress had a long affair with Martha Page, a White woman and one of Hollywood’s few female directors. As she’s discovering these things, Cheryl becomes involved with Diana, who’s also White. The affair strains Cheryl’s friendship with Tamara. More discoveries bring Cheryl (and us, her audience) to new realizations. Continue reading

Victor Nieuwenhuijs & Maartje Seyferth – Venus in Furs (1995)

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allmovie:
This Dutch film, based upon the classic 19th century S&M novel, chronicles the relationship between a dominatrix and her slave. Much of the soundtrack includes works by Mahler and Tchaikovsky. Wanda has a number of sado-masochistic encounters with Severin in a variety of locations including a crypt. In the end, he is left branded by another man while she leaves with a woman. Continue reading