The Witnesses (2007)
Like many of his colleagues, French cinephile André Téchiné ( Wild Reeds) reviewed films for the magazine Cahiers du cinema, championing the work of auteur filmmakers the world over, before turning director. But unlike his colleagues, he never really became an auteur himself. Set in the 1980s, The Witnesses (2007) begins like a half-baked comedy of errors, centering around five characters. A gay, middle-aged doctor (Michel Blanc) picks up a lover in the park, who then turns around and seduces the doctor's best friend's husband (Sami Bouajila). It descends into an AIDS drama for a while, but then turns into something quite a bit more thoughtful and moving during its final quarter, revealing that Téchiné had something deeper in mind all along. The astoundingly beautiful Emmanuelle Béart also stars.
Secret Things (2002)
Highly acclaimed in its native France, Jean-Claude Brisseau's Secret Things (a.k.a. Choses secrètes) (2002) doesn't often make sense, but it has enough sex, nudity, murder, and shocking visuals to make it worthy of an exploitation classic. It begins with two beautiful women, Sandrine (Sabrina Seyvecou) and Nathalie (Coralie Revel), working in a bar. When they're fired on the same day, they become roommates and experience a sexual awakening together. They then decide to get jobs and seduce their way to the top. But they don't count on meeting the mysterious Christophe (Fabrice Deville) who seems to have sinister powers and who may have something to do with a weird cloaked figure that occasionally lurks nearby. Director Brisseau went on to make the equally sexy, equally confusing The Exterminating Angels.
Amores Perros (2000)
Alejandro González Iñárritu's Amores Perros (2000), from Mexico, was a significant hit for a two-and-a-half-hour subtitled movie. Perhaps this was because its structure was so close to that of Pulp Fiction. It tells three stories, wherein bits and pieces of each intertwine with the others. A young man, Octavio (Gael Garcia Bernal), tries to raise money through fighting dogs so he can run away with his brother's wife. The movie opens with a blast, with Octvaio racing through the city streets, a bleeding dog in the back seat, being chased by a mysterious truck. In the other stories, we meet a beautiful model, a married businessman, and an ex-revolutionary murderer who spies on a young woman. A traffic accident ties everything together; it's the skeleton of the movie, but dogs are its heart. The movie is relentlessly violent and sometimes animals are involved, but if you have a strong stomach, it's exhilarating.
Burnt Money (2000)
Hailing from Argentina, director Marcelo Piñeyro's Burnt Money (2000) comes from a true story that's legend to the locals. Nene (Leonardo Sbaraglia) and Angel (Eduardo Noriega) are lovers first, and robbers second, though that equation is tested when a job goes bad and they, along with the rest of their gang, must hide out in Uruguay, in a sweltering apartment. The tension grows thicker and sexual urges are pent up. Since Angel is wounded, Nene sneaks out for some companionship, which eventually leads to the bloody showdown. The movie doesn't try to transcend genre conventions, but rather embraces them, using the big climax as a kind of cathartic release to the increasing pressure.
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