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At once a wuxia film, the tale of a spiritual quest, and a study in human nature, A Touch of Zen is an unparalleled work in Hu’s formidable career and an epic of the highest order.
Ten years after the liberation of the Nazi concentration camps, filmmaker Alain Resnais documented the abandoned grounds of Auschwitz and Majdanek in Night and Fog (Nuit et brouillard), one of the first cinematic reflections on the Holocaust.
Alain Resnais’s Muriel, or The Time of Return, the director’s follow-up to Last Year at Marienbad, is as radical a reflection on the nature of time and memory as its predecessor.
Fueled by elaborate stunt work and the laconic, naturalistic charms of its two stars, The In-Laws deserves its status as a madcap classic—and has continued to draw ardent fans in the years since its release.
A young woman in a small Kansas town survives a drag race accident, then agrees to take a job as a church organist in Salt Lake City. En route, she becomes haunted by a bizarre apparition that compels her toward an abandoned lakeside pavilion.
The Narrator Returns: “Malick, Lubezki, and Fisk; whaddya need, a road map?”
When a gifted but washed-up screenwriter with a hair-trigger temper—Humphrey Bogart, in a revelatory, vulnerable performance—becomes the prime suspect in a brutal Tinseltown murder, the only person who can supply an alibi for him is a seductive neighbor (Gloria Grahame) with her own troubled past.
A Hollywood studio executive with a shaky moral compass (Tim Robbins) finds himself caught up in a criminal situation that would be right at home in one of his movie projects, in this biting industry satire from Robert Altman.
In the middle of the 1970s, Wim Wenders embarked on a three-film journey that took him from the wide roads of Germany to the endless highways of the United States and back again.
This major early achievement by Michelangelo Antonioni bears the first signs of the cinema-changing style for which he would soon be world-famous.
Stanley Kubrick’s painfully funny take on Cold War anxiety is one of the fiercest satires of human folly ever to come out of Hollywood.
Jean Renoir’s ruthless love triangle tale, his second sound film, is a true precursor to his brilliantly bitter The Rules of the Game, displaying all of the filmmaker’s visual genius and fully imbued with his profound sense of humanity.
The Narrator Returns: “A great film, for reasons beyond the Juliette Binoche spit take. ”
Nothing else has ever looked or felt like director René Laloux’s animated marvel Fantastic Planet, a politically minded and visually inventive work of science fiction.
A sophisticated supernatural Hollywood comedy whose influence continues to be felt, Here Comes Mr. Jordan stars the eminently versatile Robert Montgomery as a working-class boxer and amateur aviator whose plane crashes in a freak accident.
Director Kaneto Shindo’s documentary-like, dialogue-free portrayal of daily struggle is a work of stunning visual beauty and invention.
Suffused with a lingering post–World War II disillusionment while also evincing the playfulness and fascination with theatrical performance and conspiracy that would become hallmarks for the director, Paris Belongs to Us marked the provocative start to a brilliant directorial career.
Set during the eighties, Barcelona explores topics both heady and hilarious while remaining a constantly witty delight, featuring a sharp young cast that includes Taylor Nichols, Chris Eigeman, and Mira Sorvino.
Seeking to invigorate the American documentary format, which he felt was rote and uninspired, Robert Drew brought the style and vibrancy he had fostered as a Life magazine correspondent to filmmaking in the late fifties.
A Poem Is a Naked Person is a work of rough beauty that serves as testament to Les Blank’s cinematic daring and Leon Russell’s immense musical talents.
Hailed around the world as one of the greatest movies ever made, the Academy Award–winning Bicycle Thieves, directed by Vittorio De Sica, defined an era in cinema.
The Narrator Returns: “Speak loooooooow / Darling, speak low”
This monumental mid-nineteenth-century epic from Jan Troell charts, over the course of two films, a Swedish farming family’s voyage to America and their efforts to put down roots in this beautiful but forbidding new world.
Charlie Chaplin and Jackie Coogan make a miraculous pair in this nimble marriage of sentiment and slapstick, a film that is, as its opening title card states, “a picture with a smile—and perhaps, a tear.”
A character study that never strays from its complicated central figure, while keeping us at an emotional remove, I Knew Her Well is one of the most overlooked films of the sixties, by turns funny, tragic, and altogether jaw-dropping.
Genius provocateur Nagisa Oshima, an influential figure in the Japanese New Wave of the 1960s, made one of his most startling political statements with the compelling pitch-black satire Death by Hanging.
This early smash for producer extraordinaire Dino De Laurentiis and director Giuseppe De Santis is neorealism with a heaping dose of pulp.
A young woman (Meiko Kaji), trained from childhood as an assassin and hell-bent on revenge for the murders of her father and brother and the rape of her mother, hacks and slashes her way to gory satisfaction.
Makavejev’s films about political and sexual liberation were revolutionary, raucous, and ribald. Across these first three films, he investigates love, death, and work; the legacy of war and the absurdity of daily life in a Communist state; criminology and hypnosis; strudels and strongmen.
These elegant, bawdy films, made before strict enforcement of the Hays morality code, feature some of the greatest stars of early Hollywood, as well as that elusive style of comedy that would thereafter be known as “the Lubitsch touch.”
These three independent films showed off Samuel Fuller’s genre diversity, gutter wit, and subversive force, and pointed the way to a controversial career in studio moviemaking.
Over the past four decades, Belgian director Chantal Akerman has created one of cinema’s most distinctive bodies of work—formally daring, often autobiographical films about people and places, time and space.
From the very beginning of his incandescent career, the New German Cinema enfant terrible Rainer Werner Fassbinder refused to play by the rules.
Fassbinder’s The Marriage of Maria Braun, Lola, and Veronika Voss—the BRD (Bundesrepublik Deutschland) Trilogy—would garner him the international acclaim he had always yearned for and place his name foremost in the canon of New German Cinema.
Years before Akira Kurosawa changed the face of cinema with such iconic works as Rashomon, Seven Samurai, and Yojimbo, he made his start in the Japanese film industry with four popular and exceptional works, created as World War II raged.
Amid Japan’s economic collapse and U.S. occupation, Kurosawa managed to find humor and redemption existing alongside despair and anxiety in this series of pensive, topical dramas.
One of the first French films to address the issue of collaboration during the German occupation, Louis Malle’s brave and controversial Lacombe, Lucien traces a young peasant’s journey from potential Resistance member to Gestapo recruit.
A timeless evocation of childhood innocence corrupted, René Clément’s mythical and heartbreakingly real Forbidden Games tells the story of a young girl orphaned by war and the farm boy she joins in a fantastical world of macabre play.
With its lewd abandon and sketch-comedy perversity, Makavejev’s cult staple Sweet Movie is a full-throated shriek in the face of bourgeois complacency and movie watching.
In Seijun Suzuki’s tragic love story, Harumi, volunteering as a “comfort woman” on the Manchurian front, where she is expected to service hundreds of soldiers, is commandeered by the brutal Lieutenant Narita but falls for the sensitive Mikami, Narita’s direct subordinate.
Reggae superstar Jimmy Cliff is Ivan, a rural Jamaican musician who journeys to the city of Kingston in search of fame and fortune in The Harder They Come, which brought the catchy and subversive rhythms of the Rastas to the U.S. in the early 1970s.
The Narrator Returns: “A masterpiece of modern cinema. The scene in which the child asks if Schwarzenegger has a tumor will stay with me forever.”
Shotgun weddings, kidnapping, attempted murder, emergency dental work—the things Don Vincenzo will do to restore his family’s honor! Pietro Germi’s Seduced and Abandoned was the follow-up to his sensation Divorce Italian Style, and in many ways it’s even more audacious.
Maverick filmmaker Paul Morrissey’s Flesh for Frankenstein reevaluates the horror film, infusing it with satiric wit and sexuality. Morrissey’s tale of the mad Baron Frankenstein and his perverse creative urges was heavily edited upon initial release; this is the restored director’s cut.
In Paul Morrissey’s brash mixture of humor, horror, and sex, Blood for Dracula, the infamous count searches Italy for virgin blood.
Benjamin Christensen’s legendary silent film uses a series of dramatic vignettes to explore the scientific hypothesis that the witches of the Middle Ages suffered the same hysteria as turn-of-the-century psychiatric patients. Häxan is a witches’ brew of the scary, gross, and darkly humorous.
In his three fiction features—Who Are You, Polly Maggoo?, Mr. Freedom, and The Model Couple—William Klein skewers the fashion industry, American empire, and governmental mind control with hilarious, cutting aplomb.
The Man Who Fell to Earth is a daring exploration of science fiction as an art form. The story of an alien on an elaborate rescue mission provides the launching pad for Nicolas Roeg’s visual tour de force, a formally adventurous examination of alienation in contemporary life.
These three groundbreaking films helped usher in the Polish School movement and have often been regarded as a trilogy. But each boldly stands on its own—a testament to the resilience of the human spirit and the struggle for personal and national freedom.
One of the all-time comedy classics, René Clair’s À nous la liberté tells the story of Louis, an escaped convict who becomes a wealthy industrialist. Unfortunately, his past returns (in the form of old jail pal Emile) to upset his carefully laid plans.
Director Jean-Luc Godard’s sly, playful “neorealist musical—that is, a contradiction in terms” finds his signature wit and intellectual acumen applied to the story of an exotic dancer attempting to have a child with her unwilling lover.
Louis Malle’s critically acclaimed Murmur of the Heart gracefully combines elements of comedy, drama, and autobiography in a candid portrait of a precocious adolescent boy’s sexual maturation. Both shocking and deeply poignant, this is one of the finest coming-of-age films ever made.
Oscar winner for Best Foreign Language Film, Nights of Cabiria is the tragic story of a naive prostitute searching for true love in the seediest sections of Rome.
In Pietro Germi’s hilarious and cutting satire of Sicilian male-chauvinist culture, Baron Ferdinando Cefalù (Marcello Mastroianni) longs to marry his nubile young cousin Angela (Stefania Sandrelli), but one obstacle stands in his way: his fatuous and fawning wife, Rosalia (Daniela Rocca).
The Narrator Returns: “StudioCanal had to take the best titles, didn't they?”
An inspired rendering of Jim Thompson’s pulp novel Pop. 1280, Bertrand Tavernier’s Coup de torchon (Clean Slate) deftly transplants the story of an inept police chief turned heartless killer and his scrappy mistress from the American South to French West Africa.
In Luis Buñuel’s deliciously satiric Oscar winner, an upper-class sextet sits down to dinner but never eats, their attempts continually thwarted by a vaudevillian mixture of events both actual and imagined.
A frank exploration of voyeurism and violence, Michael Powell’s extraordinary film is the story of a psychopathic cameraman—his childhood traumas, sexual crises, and murderous revenge as an adult.
Chow Yun-fat stars as a killer with a conscience in John Woo’s exquisite dissection of morals in a corrupt society. Replete with balletic, slow-motion gun battles on the streets of Hong Kong, The Killer mixes genres from both the East and the West.
With Jubilee, legendary British filmmaker Derek Jarman channeled political dissent and artistic daring into a revolutionary blend of history and fantasy, musical and cinematic experimentation, satire and anger, fashion and philosophy.