A uniquely prolific and chameleonic figure of world cinema, Kon Ichikawa delivered a burst of stylistic bravado with this intricate tale of betrayal and retribution. Set in the cloistered world of nineteenth-century kabuki theater, the film charts a female impersonator’s attempts to avenge the deaths of his parents, who were driven to insanity and suicide by a trio of corrupt men. Ichikawa takes the conventions of melodrama and turns them on their head, bringing the hero’s fractured psyche to life in boldly experimental widescreen compositions infused with kaleidoscopic color, pop-art influences, and meticulous choreography. Anchored by a magnificently androgynous performance by Kazuo Hasegawa, reprising a role he had played on-screen three decades earlier, An Actor’s Revenge is an eye-popping examination of how the illusions of art intersect with life.
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.