Produced by Humphrey Bogart’s Santana Productions, Nicholas Ray’s In a Lonely Place (1950) uses a murder mystery to delve into the questionable side of Hollywood violence and the potentially dangerous turmoil beneath Bogart’s tough surface.
The cornerstone of the career-long exploration of cinematic time by director Richard Linklater (Boyhood), this celebrated three-part romance captures a relationship as it begins, begins again, deepens, strains, and settles over the course of almost two decades. Chronicling the love of Celine (Julie Delpy) and Jesse (Ethan Hawke), from their first meeting as idealistic twentysomethings to the disillusionment they face together in middle age, The Before Trilogy also serves as a document of a boundary-pushing and extraordinarily intimate collaboration between director and actors, as Delpy and Hawke, who cowrote two of the films, imbue their characters with a sense of raw, lived-in experience, and as they age on-screen along with them.
A movie truly ahead of its time, Ace in the Hole (also known as The Big Carnival) turned out to be too bitter and cynical for moviegoers in 1951. An unrelenting portrait of media sensationalism and the human obsession with tragedy that propels it, the film is based on a true story that also spawned Robert Penn Warren’s novel The Cave.
One of France’s greatest and most popular filmmakers, François Truffaut was never as overtly political as his contemporary Jean-Luc Godard. Truffaut was the subject of some criticism for his apolitical stance, particularly amidst the social upheaval of the 1960s; his response to the idea that art should have an expressly political purpose did not come until the end of his career, with 1980’s Le Dernier Métro (The Last Metro).
Alain Resnais’s classic Hiroshima, Mon Amour is uncompromising from the get-go: In the ominous opening sequence, as a pair of lovers embrace, their flesh shrivels and glistens, and a man’s voice intones, “No, you saw nothing at Hiroshima.” From there, the floating non-narrative becomes an original and eye-opening contemplation of World War II, underscored by the bizarre, often mutating forms that love and memory take.
Lust, greed, and corruption lurk around every corner in director John Huston’s The Asphalt Jungle, the definitive caper movie. The film distinguishes itself from other examples of the genre not merely through its intricate plotting but in the complex web of relationships it portrays among cops and criminals alike. Depth of characterization is Huston’s strong suit, and it shows: Every role is brilliantly cast; every performance a gem.
Writer/director Noah Baumbach takes a major step forward as a filmmaker with The Squid and the Whale. Perhaps it’s the combination of revelatory autobiographical content and producer Wes Anderson’s formal influence, but this is Baumbach’s most emotionally potent and visually coherent film to date.
Based on the best-selling manga series, the six intensely kinetic Lone Wolf and Cub films elevated chanbara to bloody, new heights. The shogun’s executioner, Itto Ogami (Tomisaburo Wakayama), takes to wandering the countryside as an assassin—along with his infant son Daigoro (Akihiro Tomikawa) and an infinitely weaponized perambulator—helping those he encounters while seeking vengeance for his murdered wife.
A sweet yet anti-romantic comedy sharing some of the quirky sensibilities of The Royal Tenenbaums, Punch-Drunk Love marks a major creative step for both writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson and star Adam Sandler. The story centers on regular schlub Barry Egan (Sandler), who is so beaten down by life and his seven sisters that he is prone to obscene fits of rage.
Mexican filmmaker Guillermo del Toro returns to the phantasmagorical cinema that defined such early fare as Cronos and The Devil’s Backbone with this haunting fantasy-drama set in the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War and detailing the strange journeys of an imaginative young girl who may be the mythical princess of an underground kingdom. Her mother, Carmen (Ariadna Gil), recently remarried to sadistic army captain Vidal (Sergi López) and soon to bear the cruel military man’s child, shy young Ofelia (Ivana Baquero) is forced to entertain herself as her recently-formed family settles into their new home nestled deep in the Spanish countryside.