Donna Deitch’s swooning and sensual first film, Desert Hearts, was groundbreaking upon its 1986 release: a love story about two women, produced and directed by a woman. In the 1959-set film, an adaptation of a beloved novel by Jane Rule, straitlaced East Coast professor Vivian Bell (Helen Shaver) arrives in Reno to file for divorce, but winds up catching the eye of someone new, the younger free spirit Cay (Patricia Charbonneau), touching off a slow seduction that unfolds against the breathtaking desert landscape. With smoldering chemistry between its two leads, an evocative jukebox soundtrack, and vivid cinematography by Robert Elswit, Desert Hearts beautifully exudes a sense of tender yearning and emotional candor.
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.