The tragic aftermath of human carelessness travels around the world in this multi-narrative drama from filmmaker Alejandro González Iñárritu. Richard (Brad Pitt) and Susan (Cate Blanchett) are a couple from the United States who have traveled to Morocco in Northern Africa on a vacation after the death of one of their children has sent Susan into a deep depression. Richard and Susan's other two children have been left in the care of Amelia (Adriana Barraza), their housekeeper. Amelia is originally from Mexico, and her oldest son is getting married in Tijuana. Unable to find someone who can watch the kids, or to obtain permission to take the day off, Amelia takes the children with her as she travels across the border for the celebration. Around the same time, in Morocco a poor farmer buys a hunting rifle, and he gives it to his sons to scare off the predatory animals that have been thinning out their goat herd. The boys decide to test the weapon's range by shooting at a bus far away; the shot hits Susan in the shoulder, and soon she's bleeding severely, while police are convinced the attack is the work of terrorists. In Japan, Chieko (Rinko Kikuchi) is a teenage deaf-mute whose mother recently committed suicide. This despairing, confused girl experiences such rage and frustration that she causes her volleyball team to lose a match, and later yanks her underwear off and begins exposing herself to boys in a crowded restaurant. Chieko's father then struggles to reach past the emotional distance which separates him and his daughter. Babel earned Alejandro González Iñárritu the prize for Best Director at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival.
Lindsay Anderson's If…. is a daringly anarchic vision of British society, set in a boarding school in late-sixties England. Before Kubrick made his mischief iconic in A Clockwork Orange, Malcolm McDowell made a hell of an impression as the insouciant Mick Travis, who, along with his school chums, trumps authority at every turn, finally emerging as a violent savior in the vicious games of one-upmanship played by both students and masters. Mixing color and black and white as audaciously as it mixes fantasy and reality, If…. remains one of cinema’s most unforgettable rebel yells.
Like George Lucas' American Graffiti, Richard Linklater's Dazed and Confused is an affectionate look at the youth culture of a bygone era. While Lucas took aim at the conservative 1950s, Linklater jumps ahead a generation to the bicentennial year of 1976 to celebrate the joys of beer blasts, pot smoking and Frampton Comes Alive. Set on the last day of the academic year, the film follows the random activities of a sprawling group of Texas high schoolers as they celebrate the arrival of summer, their paths variously intersecting at a freshman hazing, a local pool parlor and finally at a keg party.
Director Sandi Simcha DuBowski makes his feature-length film debut with the documentary Trembling Before G-d, a look at gays and lesbians in Hasidic and Orthodox Judaism. Made over several years in New York, California, Israel, Britain, and Florida, the film follows the lives of several people struggling to express both their faith and their sexuality. In L.A., pianist David is an Orthodox gay man who has been through over ten years of therapy to supposedly "cure" his homosexuality. He visits the Chabad rabbi whom he first came out to over 20 years before. Michelle is a Hasidic lesbian who lives in Brooklyn. Having married only to please her family, she's been ostracized from her community ever since the divorce. Also in Brooklyn, Israel is a gay man who's abandoned much of his Hasidic life and hasn't seen his father in over 20 years. In London, twentysomething Mark is a the son of an Orthodox rabbi. He came out during a trip to Israel, which was supposed to rid him of his sexual questioning. Some participants prefer to remain anonymous or at least slightly obscured, including a lesbian couple who met in Hebrew school and an ultra-Orthodox closeted lesbian. The film also features some footage with various doctors and religious leaders, including the progressive psychotherapist Shlomo Ashkinazy and the first openly gay Orthodox rabbi, Steve Greenberg.
Peter Weir's haunting and evocative mystery is set in the Australia of 1900, a mystical place where the British have attempted to impose their Christian culture with such tweedy refinements as a girls' boarding school. After gauzily-photographed, nicely underplayed scenes of the girls' budding sexuality being restrained in Victorian corsets, the uptight headmistress (Rachel Roberts) takes them on a Valentine's Day picnic into the countryside, and several of the girls, led by the lovely Miranda (Anne Lambert) decide to explore a nearby volcanic rock formation. It's a desolate, primitive, vaguely menacing place, where one can almost feel the presence of ancient pagan spirits. Something—and there is an unspoken but palpable emphasis on the inherent carnality of the place—draws four of the girls to explore the rock. Three never return. No one ever finds out why. The repercussions for the school are tragic, and of course Roberts reacts with near-crazed anger, but what really happened? Weir gives enough clues to suggest any number of explanations, both physical and supernatural.
Brian De Palma's homage to Michelangelo Antonioni's classic art movie Blow-Up (1966) blends suspense and political paranoia when a Philadelphia soundman inadvertently records a murder. Former police technician Jack Terri (John Travolta) makes his living doing sound for slasher flicks. While recording new outdoor effects one night, Jack witnesses a couple's car careen off a bridge into a river, but he can save only the female occupant, Sally (Nancy Allen). Jack begins to suspect something when he learns that her dead companion was a Presidential hopeful. Re-playing his tape over and over, Jack thinks that he hears a gun shot before the crash-causing tire blow-out. When sleazy photographer Manny Karp (Dennis Franz) comes forward with photos of the accident, Jack discovers the real reason that the naïve Sally was in the car—and also a way to prove his auditory suspicions through motion pictures. Even with all his surveillance talent, however, Jack cannot see (or hear) how dangerous the big picture really is until it's too late. Taking a break from horror films, De Palma turned his interests in technology and voyeurism toward more politically loaded subject matter at the dawn of the Reagan era; the film's red, white and blue mise-en-scène, "Liberty Day" celebration climax, and conspiracy surrounding political "dirty tricks" suggest that American politics are still rotten, seven years after Watergate. Although Blow Out earned some favorable notice, particularly for Travolta's first "adult" performance, De Palma's downbeat film did not go over well with 1981 summer audiences. Rather than blockbuster escapism, Blow Out instead harks back to 1970s political thrillers like The Parallax View (1974), using cinematic fireworks to tell an unsettling story about one man's struggle against unstoppable corruption.
Adam Sandler and Emily Watson star in Punch-Drunk Love, an odd romantic comedy from gifted young director Paul Thomas Anderson. Sandler plays Barry Egan, a shy sad-sack with a great deal of repressed anger that occasionally bursts forth in sudden violent outrages, who falls in love with Lena Leonard (Emily Watson), a co-worker of one of Barry's seven sisters. After calling a phone-sex line, Barry is extorted by bad-guy Dean Trumbell (Anderson regular Philip Seymour Hoffman), who eventually sends four goons to assault Barry and get the money. This film was screened in competition at the 2002 Cannes Film Festival, where Paul Thomas Anderson was named Best Director.
A mother and daughter find themselves locked in an ugly battle over the same man in this drama from writer and director Andrea Arnold. Mia Williams (Katie Jarvis) is 15 years old and lives in a shabby apartment block with her mother, Joanne (Kierston Wareing), and younger sister, Tyler (Rebecca Griffiths). Mia is a reckless and rebellious teenager who frequently argues with her mother and sister and has run afoul of the authorities at school, leading to her being suspended. With plenty of time on her hands, Mia spends her days drinking when she can find alcohol and partying in a empty flat near her apartment. Joanne is a single mother, and she's begun dating a new man, Connor (Michael Fassbender); when Joanne brings him home to meet the girls, Mia is immediately attracted to him, and it's soon clear Connor feels the same way about her. Mia attempts to seduce Connor to take him away from her mother, and when she succeeds, Joanne's greatest anger is not with the man who has slept with her underaged daughter, but the girl who is now a rival for the affections of her lover. Fish Tank was an official selection at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival.
Three siblings must come to terms with their mother's mortality as they decide what to do with her valuable belongings in this warm family drama from filmmaker Olivier Assayas. Hélène Berthier (Edith Scob) is about to turn 75, and her children are gathering at her home in the country for a party. Adrienne (Juliette Binoche) has flown in from New York City, where she lives with her boyfriend, James (Kyle Eastwood). Jérémie (Jérémie Renier) has taken a rare break from his globe-trotting business interests to stop by with his wife (Valérie Bonneton). And Frédéric (Charles Berling), the only one who lives close enough to visit regularly, has also come with his spouse, Lisa (Dominique Reymond). Hélène has inherited a large and valuable collection of art from her brother, and with her health beginning to fail, she approaches Frédéric and asks that he, Jérémie, and Adrienne come up with a plan to deal with the pieces after her death. Frédéric wants to keep the collection together and see if they can persuade a gallery to purchase and present them as a set. Jérémie and Adrienne have other ideas, but as he's pondering a business opportunity in China and she's planning on settling in America for good, they don't have as much influence over the final decision as Frédéric. L'Heure d'Été (aka Summer Hours) was produced in part by the celebrated French art gallery Musée d'Orsay, and was one of a handful of films created to honor the museum in its 20th anniversary year.
Pedro Almodóvar follows his international success All About My Mother with an offbeat drama that explores the friendship of two men brought together under unusual but strangely similar circumstances. Benigno (Javier Camára) is a male nurse whose apartment overlooks a dance studio run by Katerina (Geraldine Chaplin); he often sits on his balcony and watches one of Katerina's students, Alicia (Leonor Watling), and he finds himself becoming infatuated with her. When Alicia is severely injured in an auto accident that leaves her in a coma, Benigno discovers she has been admitted to the hospital where he works, and he spends his days caring for a woman he now deeply loves but has barely met. Marco (Darío Grandinetti) is a journalist who was assigned to interview Lydia (Rosario Flores), a well-known female bullfighter whose on-the-rocks romance with another toreador, "El Niño de Valencia" (Adolfo Fernández), has made her the focus of the tabloid press. During Marco's interview with Lydia, he goes out of his way to treat her kindly, and she appears to return his attention. During the bullfight which follows, Lydia is gored by the bull, and is now in a coma; Marco is certain his interview broke her steely concentration, and he spends most of his days at the hospital, convinced her injuries are his fault. Alicia and Lydia are both housed in the same ward of the same hospital, and in time Benigno and Marco become close friends, bonding in their shared devotion to women who cannot return their affection.
After learning he has a newborn son, a small-time thief attempts to go straight—but not until his amorality is pushed to its breaking point—in this social-problem drama from writer-directors Jean-Pierre Dardenne and Luc Dardenne. Eighteen-year-old Sonia (Déborah Francois) has just given birth to a baby boy. The baby's father Bruno (Jérémie Renier) is panhandling in the street when Sonia tracks him down, and he shows little interest in fathering the child, or even providing a roof over the heads of the fledgling family. As the new and inexperienced mother navigates the bleak industrial landscape of the small Belgian town they live in, Bruno falls in with a clandestine group that buys and sells healthy children on the black market. He tragically learns that one avaricious decision, made in an instant, can affect the lives of everyone in his orbit.
David Cronenberg directed this screen adaptation of a graphic novel by John Wagner and Vince Lockewhich explores how an act of heroism unexpectedly changes a man's life. Tom Stall (Viggo Mortensen) lives a quiet life in a small Indiana town, running the local diner with his wife, Edie (Maria Bello), and raising their two children. But the quiet is shattered one day when a pair of criminals on the run from the police walk into his diner just before closing time. After they attack one of the customers and seem ready to kill several of the people inside, Tom jumps to the fore, grabbing a gun from one of the criminals and killing the invaders. Tom is immediately hailed as a hero by his employees and the community at large, but Tom seems less than comfortable with his new notoriety. One day, a man with severe facial scars, Carl Fogarty (Ed Harris), sits down at the counter and begins addressing Tom as Joey, and begins asking him questions about the old days in Philadelphia. While Tom seems puzzled, Carl's actions suggest that the quiet man pouring coffee at the diner may have a dark and violent past he isn't eager to share with others—as well as some old scores that haven't been settled.