• All That Heaven Allows

    All That Heaven Allows

    Both a heartbreaking melodrama and a sharp indictment of hypocrisy in 1950s America, this epitome of layered Hollywood filmmaking follows the blossoming love between upper-middle-class suburban widow Cary (Jane Wyman) and her handsome, considerably younger gardener, Ron (Rock Hudson). Their romance, greeted with scorn by her selfish children and outright disgust by her snooty friends, reveals the class-based prejudices of small-town life. Sirk and renowned cinematographer Russell Metty bring a richly ambiguous emotional tenor to each shot with calibrated colors…

  • Back Street

    Back Street

    The second (of three) Universal adaptations of Fannie Hurst’s turn-of-the-19th-century-set novel stars Margaret Sullavan and Charles Boyer (possessors of two of the best voices in classic Hollywood: she with her musical rasp, he with his luxuriantly accented baritone) as adulterous lovers whose brief encounter stretches into a decades-long affair, with her forever living in the shadows as the “other woman.” One of the few films made under the Production Code to deal sympathetically with marital infidelity, this elegant tearjerker overflows…

  • Only Yesterday

    Only Yesterday

    The extraordinary 1930s soap operas of John M. Stahl marry a sincere belief in the power of melodrama with an almost Ozu-like stylistic purity. Based on the same Stefan Zweig novel that would later yield Max Ophüls’s Letter from an Unknown Woman, this startlingly pre-Code study of masochistic desire stars Margaret Sullavan (in her film debut) as the “one who does not forget,” a woman whose one-night stand with a callow World War I soldier (John Boles) leaves her with…

  • Colossal Youth

    Colossal Youth

    Being together again will brighten our lives for at least 30 years. Costa combined various Cape Verdean immigrants’ letters home and a note written by the surrealist poet Robert Desnos to his wife shortly before his death to create the letter at the center of one of his richest, most staggeringly complex films. Its author is Ventura, an aging Cape Verdean immigrant who spends his days visiting the residents of a neighborhood that no longer exists. His wife has left…

  • Touki Bouki

    Touki Bouki

    “Paris…Paris…Paris…” We hear Josephine Baker croon the capital’s name in a loop throughout Djibril Diop Mambéty’s postcolonial fever dream of a film, a constant refrain that punctuates the adventures of Mory, a herder who cruises around on a motorbike adorned with a cow skull, and Anta, a university student. This pair of outsiders, strangers in their own country, dream of leaving Senegal for a new life in France, and grift their way into the money for the voyage, but the…

  • Our Beloved Month of August

    Our Beloved Month of August

    The making of a film; the touring of a family pop group; the burgeoning romance between two cousins; the varieties of life, culture, and economy in rural Portugal: for his second feature, Miguel Gomes wove enough material for four or five films into a panorama that was at once relaxed and sprawling, poignant and seductive. Gomes himself plays a filmmaker arguing with his producers about the film we’re watching, which at first seems to be a documentary—people he meets across…

  • Putty Hill

    Putty Hill

    In Putty Hill, Matt Porterfield’s keenly observed portrait of young people in a Baltimore suburb coming together in the wake of a friend’s death, the actors play versions of themselves, dramatizing their plights and pleasures in the service of fiction. “I’m interested in regular teenagers in a certain milieu,” Porterfield explained in an interview. “They‘re a part of the environment just like the backyard swimming pool or playground or skate park. It’s all part of the mise-en-scène, real kids from…

  • Bad Boys

    Bad Boys

    To appear in his first fiction feature—a disjunctive, unruly portrait of juvenile reform school inmates—after making several documentaries, Susumu Hani sought out young amateurs who had passed through juvenile detention and encouraged them to improvise on set. At the center of the movie was Hiroshi Asai, an 18-year-old thief whose imprisonment becomes the occasion for a succession of harsh and riveting setpieces: confrontations between the boys and their officers and guards; military drills; bullying regimens; escape attempts; and flashbacks to…

  • The Other Side of Hope

    The Other Side of Hope

    Leave it to Aki Kaurismäki (Le Havre, NYFF 2011), peerless master of humanist tragicomedy, to make the first great fiction film about the 21st century migrant crisis. Having escaped bombed-out Aleppo, Syrian refugee Khlaed (Sherwan Haji) seeks asylum in Finland, only to get lost in a maze of functionaries and bureaucracies. Meanwhile, shirt salesman Wikström (Sakari Kuosmanen) leaves his wife, wins big in a poker game, and takes over a restaurant whose deadpan staff he also inherits. These parallel stories…

  • Twenty Years Later

    Twenty Years Later

    In 1964, Eduardo Coutinho was at work on a film about João Pedro Teixeira, who was murdered by the police as a result of his efforts to organize farm workers in northeast Brazil. The director cast non-actors in the production, including Teixeira’s widow, who plays herself, but shooting was cut short in the wake of the military coup that same year; footage was seized, a number of participants imprisoned. The project was resumed 20 years later, as the country was…

  • Oxhide

    Oxhide

    In Liu Jiayin’s first film, over the course of 23 carefully choreographed shots, we watch the young filmmaker, her parents, and their cat act out a thinly fictionalized version of the life they share in a cramped Beijing apartment, where her father makes leather handbags. Liu made Oxhide when she was 23 and still at the Beijing Film Academy, and the movie’s precise, immersive attention to working-class city life brought it wide international acclaim. It was followed by a longer,…

  • Longing

    Longing

    German director Valeska Grisebach takes her time. Since her 2001 debut Be My Star, she has made three films, including the recent NYFF55 selection Western, all of which star non-actors and involve extensive preparatory interviews with people from the regions in which she shoots. To write Longing, her wrenching portrait of love and betrayal in a small German town, she asked a number of couples from Berlin-Brandenburg about their personal lives. Out of their responses she crafted a rich story…