The first shot shows students descending a staircase in calm, orderly fashion, then the second details the same action as a chaotic rush. Separated by slates and Kiarostami’s voice intoning, “Sound, camera,” subsequent sequences describe the same dichotomous behavior in a schoolyard, on a school bus, and in the haphazard traffic of Tehran. Kiarostami described this as “a truly educational film,” but it plays more like a quirky philosophic aside.
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.