In one of Ingmar Bergman’s most stylized and political films, three traveling actors are accused of taking part in a performance deemed pornographic by the state’s authorities. Before an intractable judge, they are forced to defend themselves and their art, but their own personal flaws and scandals also are brought to the fore. Taking place in a shadowy bureaucratic netherworld, The Rite confronts artistic censorship while also investigating such Bergman-esque themes as sexual violence and the nature of performance.
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.
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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.