Directed by Rainer Werner FassbinderWest Germany | 1969
What these scenes, and indeed most of the film, point towards is an excruciatingly closed-off, claustrophobic world that negates the desire for freedom that Franz’s character explicitly wishes for and the other characters implicitly wish for. We never get the sense these characters have other options; every location Fassbinder takes us, mostly during Bruno’s search for Franz and Johanna, is populated by pimps, prostitutes, and thieves.
Directed by Joel CoenUnited States | 1990
It’s perhaps an exaggeration but who could resist playing up the crookedness of a world where alcohol was illegal? Prohibition-era America made many of its citizens criminals purely for indulging in some tipple and handed both business and legitimacy to criminal empires. This is the world of Miller’s Crossing where the political and the criminal are, in something of an open secret, one and the same.
Directed by Akira KurosawaJapan | 1948
Born of the considerations of postwar Japan, Drunken Angel marks the first major breakthrough and the opening of an era for Akira Kurosawa. Many consider it to be his “first film,” in the sense that the distinct elements that color the oeuvre we know so well came together for the first time. It incisively and cohesively epitomizes an era of the human condition and it’s amazing the film turned out the way it did. It was filmed in 1948 during the occupation and, though there is no depiction of soldiers, the physical and social ruin of war is visible—in fact it forms the very fabric of the film.
Directed by Kim Ji-woonSouth Korea | 2005
“If the boss says you’re wrong then you’re wrong… even if you didn’t really do it.” The rules of the game, codified daily in the visceral, dog-eat-dog world of organized crime are here bluntly stated as a matter of fact. Director Kim Ji-woon seems to be aiming at satire while never indulging in it, the sporadic comedy sprinkled throughout this film hurled at the entire enterprise, mocking it at a distance. But a true satire would likely only blunt the sharp edge so skillfully honed here, that is the reality of the tragedy unfolding in the most violent ways imaginable.