In this warmhearted comic yarn from Aki Kaurismäki, fate throws the young African refugee Idrissa (Blondin Miguel) into the path of Marcel Marx (André Wilms), a kindly old bohemian who shines shoes for a living in the French harbor city Le Havre. With inborn optimism and the support of his tight-knit community, Marcel stands up to the officials doggedly pursuing the boy for deportation. A political fairy tale that exists somewhere between the reality of contemporary France and the classic French cinema of the past, Le Havre is a charming, deadpan delight and one of the Finnish director’s finest films
La promesse is the breakthrough feature from Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne, who would go on to become a force in world filmmaking. The brothers brought the unerring eye for detail and the compassion for those on society’s lowest rungs developed in their earlier documentary work to this absorbing drama about a teenager (Jérémie Renier) gradually coming to understand the implications of his father’s making a living through the exploitation of undocumented workers. Filmed in the Dardennes’ industrial hometown of Seraing, Belgium, La promesse is a brilliantly economical and observant tale of a boy’s troubled moral awakening.
The Belgian filmmaking team of brothers Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne turned heads with Rosetta, an intense vérité drama that closely follows a poor young woman struggling to hold on to a job to support herself and her alcoholic mother. It’s a swift and simple tale made revelatory by the raw, empathetic way in which the directors render Rosetta’s desperation, keeping the camera nearly perched on her shoulder throughout. Many have copied the Dardennes’ style, but few have equaled it. This ferocious film won big at Cannes, earning the Palme d’Or for the filmmakers and the best actress prize for the indomitable Émilie Dequenne.
This sensual, remarkably observed, beautifully acted wonder is the breakout feature from British writer-director-editor Andrew Haigh. Rarely has a film been as honest about sexuality—in both depiction and discussion—as this tale of a one-night stand that develops into a weekend-long idyll for two very different young men (exciting screen newcomers Tom Cullen and Chris New) in the English Midlands. It’s an emotionally naked film that’s at once an invaluable snapshot of the complexities of contemporary gay living and a universally resonant portrait of a love affair.
A buried treasure from Hollywood’s golden age, Lonesome is the creation of a little-known but audacious and one-of-a-kind filmmaker, Paul Fejos (also an explorer, anthropologist, and doctor!). While under contract at Universal, Fejos pulled out all the stops for this lovely, largely silent New York City symphony set in antic Coney Island during the Fourth of July weekend, employing color tinting, superimposition effects, experimental editing, and a roving camera (plus three dialogue scenes, added to satisfy the new craze for talkies). For years, Lonesome has been a rare treat for festival and cinematheque audiences, but it’s only now coming to home video. Rarer still are the two other Fejos films from his Universal years included in this release: The Last Performance and a reconstruction of the previously incomplete sound version of Broadway, in its time the most expensive film ever produced by the studio.