The Puppetmaster (1993)

‘The Puppetmaster’, directed by Hou Hsiao-hsien in 1993, is a Taiwanese biopic focusing on the life of Li Tian-lu, a celebrated puppeteer, from his birth in 1909 to the end of the Japanese occupation of the island in 1945. The film combines interviews with the real Tian-lu, in his eighties, whilst flashing back to events…

Close-Up (1990)

“This is a film that made itself” ‘Close-Up’, directed by  Abbas Kiarostami in 1990, is an Iranian drama based on the real life story of a man who posed as the notable Iranian director Mohsen Makhmalbaf (the man who made ‘Gabbeh’) and was arrested and charged with fraud. Kiarostami follows the story by using the…

Live Flesh (1997)

“Sancho: You’re aiming at your superior! David: No, I’m aiming at a lunatic and a drunk!” ‘Live Flesh’, directed by Pedro Almodóvar in 1997, is a Spanish adaptation of Ruth Rendell’s 1986 psychological thriller. In Madrid in 1970, a prostitute gives birth to a boy whilst on a bus. In 1990, the boy is now…

Best Films – 2017

2017 has been (another) year of political upheaval and personal wobbles. Life and work have meant that, towards the end of the year, I have stopped blogging once a day, but shifted to two or three times a week. Despite this, I continue to discover films that chime with me personally, emotionally and academically. Some…

The Wedding Banquet (1993)

“Wai-Tung Gao: I don’t know, we should have moved you out. Simon: I’ll survive. Wai-Tung Gao: Not if Wei Wei keeps cooking.” ‘The Wedding Banquet’, directed by Ang Lee in 1993, is a Taiwanese/American romantic comedy charting the lives of two gay men in New York, Wai-Tung Gao and Simon. Wai-Tung’s parents live in Taiwan…

Lone Star (1996)

“To run a successful civilization, you have got to have your lines of demarcation: between right ‘n’ wrong, between this’n ‘n’ that’n. Your daddy understood that. He was uh what-you-call-it… the referee of this damn menudo we got down here. He understood how most folks don’t want their salt and sugar in the same jar.”…

Hana-bi (1997)

‘Hana-bi’, directed by Takeshi Kitano in 1997, is a Japanese crime drama starring Kitano as Yoshitaka Nishi, a retired detective. Nishi was forced into retirement after a violent incident that lead to the deaths of two of his colleagues and the injury of others. Without a job and struggling to care for this sick wife,…

Princess Mononoke (1997)

“In ancient times, the land lay covered in forests, where, from ages long past, dwelt the spirits of the gods. Back then, man and beast lived in harmony, but as time went by, most of the great forests were destroyed. Those that remained were guarded by gigantic beasts who owed their allegiances to the Great…

The Apple (1998)

“Using a real-life family as both actor and subject, Makhmalbaf captures on film a fictional reality of two children first entering society at the age of twelve at the same time that the real-life children were first engaging with the world outside their home.” ‘The Apple’, directed by Samira Makhmalbaf in 1998, is an Iranian…

Coffee and Cigarettes (1986, 1992, 2003)

“Well, Nikola Tesla invented fluorescent light. Without him we wouldn’t have alternating current, radio, television… x-ray technology… induction motors, particle beams, lasers; none of that would even exist if it weren’t for him.” ‘Coffee and Cigarettes’, directed by Jim Jarmusch between 1986 and 2003, is an American anthology film featuring eleven vignettes in which characters…

A Summer’s Tale (1996)

“Some days I’d like to be stupid and ugly. I only meet guys who want to paw me. Never anyone I can just talk to. I think it’s a shame… that nine times out of ten, when a guy talks to a girl… he’s got another thought in mind.” ‘A Summer’s Tale’, directed by Éric…

The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994)

“That’s just what this country needs: a cock in a frock on a rock. ” ‘The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert’, directed by Stephan Elliott in 1994, is an Australian road movie and part of a cycle of films that included ‘Strictly Ballroom’ and ‘Muriel’s Wedding’ that made Australian cinema distinctive in the…

Caro diario (1993)

(On watching ‘Henry – Portrait of a Serial Killer) “I wandered around the city for hours trying to remember who was it that said good things about this film. I read a review in a paper. I read something positive about “Henry”. Suddenly, I remember… I find the review and I copy it in my…

The Player (1992)

“I was just thinking what an interesting concept it is to eliminate the writer from the artistic process. If we could just get rid of these actors and directors, maybe we’ve got something here.” ‘The Player’, directed by Robert Altman in 1992, is an American satire on Hollywood. Tim Robbins plays Griffin Mill, a studio…

Pola X (1999)

“Be careful! You dream of writing a mature work, but your charm lies in your thorough immaturity. You dream of setting fire to God knows what, of rising above your times like a dazzling cloud, leaving everyone terrified and admiring. But you weren’t born for that, Pierre! You don’t even believe it yourself.” ‘Pola X’,…

Saving Private Ryan (1998)

“I’m a schoolteacher. I teach English composition… in this little town called Adley, Pennsylvania. The last eleven years, I’ve been at Thomas Alva Edison High School. I was a coach of the baseball team in the springtime. Back home, I tell people what I do for a living and they think well, now that figures….

Titanic (1997)

“It’s been 84 years, and I can still smell the fresh paint. The china had never been used. The sheets had never been slept in. Titanic was called the Ship of Dreams, and it was. It really was…” ‘Titanic’, directed in 1997 by James Cameron, is an American historical romance. Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio…

The Sweet Hereafter (1997)

“I didn’t know. I was in a panic. I guessed she’d been bitten by an insect, but there was no doctor. The nearest hospital was forty miles away, and Zoe was continuing to swell. Klara took her in her arms and tried to breast-feed her, while I dialed the hospital. I finally got a doctor…

La Haine (1995)

“Heard about the guy who fell off a skyscraper? On his way down past each floor, he kept saying to reassure himself: So far so good… so far so good… so far so good. How you fall doesn’t matter. It’s how you land!” ‘La Haine’, directed by Mathieu Kassovitz in 1995, is a French drama…

Ratcatcher (1999)

“Goodbye, Snowball!” ‘Ratcatcher’, directed by Lynne Ramsay in 1999, is a Scottish drama set in the poor areas of Glasgow during 1973. Two friends James and Ryan run to play near the canal. During a mock-fight, Ryan falls in and drowns, leading to James feeling remorse for his inability to help. Through the film, James…

Indochine (1992)

A review first published on wearecult on the 31st of January 2017 ‘Indochine’, directed by Régis Wargnier in 1992, is a lavish historical epic telling the story of the anticolonial unrest in the country that eventually became North and South Vietnam during the 1930s to 1950s. Catherine Deneuve plays Éliane Devries, a wealthy single woman…

Deconstructing Harry (1997)

“Harry: The ironic thing is that the school that kicked me out is honouring me soon. Shrink: Why did they kick you out? Harry: Because I wasn’t interested in college. I wanted to be a writer and that’s all I cared about. Also, I tried to give the Dean’s wife an enema. They didn’t take…

The Wind Will Carry Us (1999)

“No. the good go to Heaven, and the evil go to Hell. Hurry in and write that, then come back.” ‘The Wind Will Carry Us’, directed by Abbas Kiarostami in 1999, is an Iranian movie about four journalists, posing as engineers, who travel to a small Kurdish village to cover the rituals of mourning in…

Funny Games (1997)

“You’re on their side, aren’t you? So, who will you bet with?” ‘Funny Games’, directed in Michael Haneke in 1997, is an Austrian home invasion thriller. A wealthy family, Georg, Anna and their son Georgie, arrive at their holiday home for a break. When they arrive they meet Peter and Paul, who claim to be…

Robinson in Space (1997)

“Like its predecessor this is an offbeat, verbose, witty mix of documentary, fiction and essay: are we really a poor, terribly provincial nation plagued by industrial decline, or are our hardships and low morale the outcome of choices made by self-serving politicians?” ‘Robinson in Space’, written and directed by Patrick Keiller in 1997, is second…

Rosetta (1999)

“Your name is Rosetta. My name is Rosetta. You found a job. I found a job. You’ve got a friend. I’ve got a friend. You have a normal life. I have a normal life. You won’t fall in a rut. I won’t fall in a rut. Good night. Good night.” ‘Rosetta’, directed by the Dardenne…

Chungking Express (1994)

 “We split up on April Fool’s Day. So I decided to let the joke run for a month. Every day I buy a can of pineapple with a sell-by date of May 1. May loves pineapple, and May 1 is my birthday. If May hasn’t changed her mind by the time I’ve bought thirty cans,…

The Match Factory Girl (1990)

“Nothing could touch me less than your affection.” ‘The Match Factory Girl’, directed by Aki Kaurismäki in 1990, is a Finnish drama that completes the ‘Proletariat Trilogy’ that included the director’s 1988 movie ‘Ariel’. In this film, Kati Outinen plays Iris, a factory worker who is supporting her stepfather and mother. She works, brings home…

London (1992)

“Life is a hospital where every patient is obsessed by the desire of changing beds. One would like to supper opposite the stove another is sure he’d get well beside the window.” ‘London’, directed by Patrick Keiller in 1992, is the first of a trilogy of documentary films that include ‘Robinson in Space’ and ‘Robinson…