Czechoslovak New Wave iconoclast Juraj Herz’s terrifying, darkly comic vision of the horrors of the Nazi racial ideology stars a supremely chilling Rudolf Hrušínský as the pathologically morbid Karel Kopfrkingl, a crematorium director in 1930s Prague who believes fervently that death offers the only true relief from human suffering. When he is recruited by the Nazis, Kopfrkingl’s increasingly deranged worldview drives him to formulate his own shocking Final Solution. Blending the blackest of black gallows humor with disorienting expressionistic flourishes—queasy point-of-view shots, distorting lenses, jarring quick cuts—Herz’s controversial, long-banned masterpiece stands as one of cinema’s most trenchant and disturbing portraits of the banality of evil.
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.