The crowning achievement of Orson Welles’s later film career, Chimes at Midnight returns to the screen after being unavailable for decades. This brilliantly crafted Shakespeare adaptation was the culmination of Welles’s lifelong obsession with the Bard’s ultimate rapscallion, Sir John Falstaff, the loyal, often soused childhood friend of King Henry IV’s wayward son, Prince Hal. Appearing in several plays as a comic supporting figure, Falstaff is here the main event: a robustly funny and ultimately tragic screen antihero, played by Welles with lumbering grace. Integrating elements from both Henry IV plays as well as Richard II, Henry V, and The Merry Wives of Windsor, Welles created an unorthodox Shakespeare film that is also a gritty period piece, one that he called “a lament . . . for the death of Merrie England.” Poetic, philosophical, and visceral—with a kinetic battle sequence centerpiece as impressive as anything else Welles directed—Chimes at Midnight is as monumental as the figure at its center.
This boldly cinematic trio of stories about love and loss, from Krzysztof Kieślowski was a defining event of the art-house boom of the 1990s. The films are named for the colors of the French flag and stand for the tenets of the French Revolution—liberty, equality, and fraternity—but that hardly begins to explain their enigmatic beauty and rich humanity. Set in Paris, Warsaw, and Geneva, and ranging from tragedy to comedy, Blue, White, and Red(Kieślowski’s final film) examine with artistic clarity a group of ambiguously interconnected people experiencing profound personal disruptions. Marked by intoxicating cinematography and stirring performances by such actors as Juliette Binoche, Julie Delpy, Irène Jacob, and Jean-Louis Trintignant, Kieślowski’s Three Colors is a benchmark of contemporary cinema.
The Hong Kong crime drama was jolted to new life with the release of the Infernal Affairs trilogy, a bracing, explosively stylish critical and commercial triumph that introduced a dazzling level of narrative and thematic complexity to the genre with its gripping saga of two rival moles.
The release of François Truffaut’s The 400 Blows in 1959 shook world cinema to its foundations.