In Kaurismäki’s drolly existential crime drama, a coal miner named Taisto (Turo Pajala) attempts to leave behind a provincial life of inertia and economic despair, only to get into ever deeper trouble. Yet a minor-key romance with a hilariously dispassionate meter maid (Susanna Haavisto) might provide a light at the end of a very dark tunnel. Ariel, which boasts a terrific soundtrack of Finnish tango and Baltic pop music and lovely cinematography by Kaurismäki’s longtime cameraman Timo Salmimen, put its director on the international map.
With his lush and sensual visuals, pitch-perfect soundtracks, and soulful romanticism, Wong Kar Wai has established himself as one of the defining auteurs of contemporary cinema.
“No one sees anything. Ever. They watch, but they don’t understand.” So observes Connie Nielsen in Olivier Assayas’s hallucinatory, globe-spanning Demonlover, a postmodern neonoir thriller and media critique in which nothing—not even the film itself—is what it appears to be.
DCP, Blu-ray, DVD
An intoxicating, time-bending experience bathed in the golden glow of oil lamps and wreathed in an opium haze, Hou Hsiao-hsien’s gorgeous period reverie traces the romantic intrigue, jealousies, and tensions swirling around a late 19th century Shanghai brothel, where the courtesans live confined to a gilded cage, ensconced in opulent splendor yet forced to work to buy back their freedom.