SHADOWS
1958, AGFA, 87 min, USA, Dir: John Cassavetes

With its low budget, seemingly improvised style, naturalistic acting and progressive view of racial politics, Cassavetes’ groundbreaking directorial debut kickstarted not only a career, but an entirely new way of thinking about American cinema. Set in beatnik Manhattan (a locale commonly associated with the New York native), the film follows three African-American siblings who share a close bond despite their various goals, whether it be hitting it big as a musician, frequenting the local bars, or falling in love. With the free-flowing quality of jazz, a genre which dominates the soundtrack, SHADOWS remains one of the most influential films of the 1950s.


IRMA VEP
1996, Janus Films, 97 min, France, Dir: Olivier Assayas

Olivier Assayas’ live-wire international breakthrough stars a magnetic Maggie Cheung as a version of herself: a Hong Kong action-movie star who arrives in Paris to play the latex-clad lead in a remake of Louis Feuillade’s classic 1915 crime serial LES VAMPIRES. What she finds is a behind-the-scenes tangle of barely controlled chaos as egos clash, romantic attractions simmer and an obsessive director (a cannily cast Jean-Pierre Léaud) drives himself to the brink to realize his vision. Blending blasts of silent cinema, martial arts flicks and the music of Sonic Youth and Ali Farka Touré into a hallucinatory swirl of postmodern cool, Assayas composes a witty reflection on the 1990s French film industry and the eternal tension between art and commercial entertainment.


SUMMER HOURS
L’HEURE D’ÉTÉ
2008, IFC Films, 108 min, France, Dir: Olivier Assayas

Juliette Binoche stars in this haunting family drama from director Olivier Assayas, which follows three siblings as they grapple with the death of their mother (Edith Scob). Tasked with dispersing their mother’s valuable assets, Adrienne (Binoche) and her brothers, Frédéric (Charles Berling) and Jérémie (Jérémie Renier), begin to realize their deeply personal attachments to their inheritance, as their childhood memories flood back into focus only to fade once more. “In spite of its modest scale, tactful manner and potentially dowdy subject matter, [the film] is packed nearly to bursting with rich meaning and deep implication.” - A. O. Scott, The New York Times.


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