With a small film crew, Wim Wenders accompanied his old friend Ry Cooder, who had written the music for Paris, Texas and The End of Violence, on a trip to Havana. Cooder wanted to record his material for Ibrahim Ferrer’s solo album at a studio there—following the recording of the first Buena Vista Social Club CD (which had not yet been released at that time). Wenders immersed himself in the world of Cuban music. Over the course of several months, he observed and accompanied the musicians—first at home in Havana; then, weeks later, in April 1998, on their trip to Amsterdam for the first public performance of the band (who had never played together outside a studio); then, still later, in July 1998, to their triumphal concert at New York’s Carnegie Hall. He thus followed the old heroes of the traditional Cuban son music on their path from being completely forgotten to becoming world famous—within the period of just a few months. “I thought, I’ll shoot a documentary,” Wenders has said, “and here we were, about to witness a fairy tale that no one could have imagined in this form.” The music documentary became a cinematic sensation and an international success. Along with an Academy Award nomination for best documentary film, Buena Vista Social Club won in the same category at the European Film Awards, the German Film Prize in Gold, Germany’s Golden Camera, and the Grand Prize for Film in Brazil, as well as garnering numerous other awards.
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.