This achingly gorgeous emotional epic from the incomparable Kenji Mizoguchi is one of the triumphs of Japanese cinema. The Story of the Last Chrysanthemum follows the journey of a young actor who breaks away from his wealthy kabuki troupe family to marry his parents’ former servant; cruelly estranged, he and his wife descend into poverty and disillusionment on society’s margins. Featuring the kind of delicate yet dexterous camera movements for which Mizoguchi would forever be known, this patiently observed nineteenth-century drama is a poignant tale of tragedy and redemption and a moving depiction of the potency of love in the face of rigid social strictures.
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.