Mike Leigh announced himself as a unique, powerful new voice in British cinema with Bleak Moments, a stunning debut and a masterpiece of understated melancholy. Adapting his own theatrical play for the screen, Leigh follows Sylvia (Anne Raitt) through a life of quiet desperation in suburban South London as she attends to her developmentally challenged sister (Sarah Stephenson) and attempts to forge romances with her awkward professorial boyfriend (Eric Allan) as well as a shy, guitar-strumming newsletter duplicator (Mike Bradwell). Uncomfortable silences, botched flirtations, and fleeting hints of warmth and humor punctuate Sylvia’s aching descent into solitude, compassionately portrayed by Leigh as symptomatic of humanity’s struggle to communicate and connect.
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.