Poetry (Lee Chang-dong, South Korea)
Films about artists or someone creating art are incredibly difficult to pull off. It has something to do with audience verification–if we just hear that someone is a great painter or writer, we can take the film’s word for it, but if we see them painting or them writing, suddenly the viewer can cast instant judgment on that work and thereby the character and thereby the honesty of the film itself. Lee’s film risks it all by including both artistic creation—we see our heroine thinking about and composing poetry—and the art too, since she eventually reads to us her composition. And the film wildly succeeds on both accounts, and at something even more challenging too, which is by painting Yun Junghee’s character as an almost simple-minded or daft free spirit, which makes the believability of composition, creation, and exposition something requiring terrific subtlety and nuance. That her work is moving even before she finishes her poem, simply in her looking at the world around her and the way her new observations start to trickle through he conversations, is a resounding accomplishment for director and actress.
Carlos (Olivier Assayas, France/Germany)
A lesson in how one way to be a (supposed) militant socialist revolutionary is by being an international playboy super star. Conflict of interest?
Outrage (Takeshi Kitano, Japan)
Kitano has come up with an increasingly scarce thing in cinema: new ways to hurt and kill people in films. How about swirling a dentist’s drill in a man’s mouth? Or perhaps putting a noose around a driver’s head, then tying the other end to a post by the road and hitting the gas? The life of the yakuza as an unconscious, unpretentious art of hurt and murder.