When a poor film buff gets caught impersonating a famous director in order to defraud a family, Abbas Kiarostami gets permission to film the trial, giving the defendant an outlet to plead his case. To accompany this documentary footage, both sides agree to play themselves in re-enactments of the scam and the sting, and the sly pleasure they take in recreating these moments of “real-life” performance is infectious. By choosing to point a camera at this odd story, Kiarostami shows moving compassion for an outsider who just wants people to see him like the artists he idolizes.
One week before the Nazis will ultimately surrender, a small town unit drafts a group of eager German schoolboys into service. When their superiors abandon them with nothing to follow but slogans and propaganda, the boys make a last stand at a bridge that–unbeknownst to them–is strategically useless and set to be demolished. Their childish games and bravado are suddenly met with horrific and senseless violence that reveals the empty lie of nationalism that treats human life as disposable.
A young woman leaves her small village for a job in Manila and vanishes without a trace, prompting her boyfriend to follow after her. He takes whatever work he can get–starting at a perilous building site, then falling in with a crew of hustlers–just trying to sustain himself as he searches for his love. Lino Brocka is a master at combining pathos with a clear-eyed outrage on behalf of a population forced to live right on the edge.
Returning from the Indonesian War of Independence, a freedom fighter finds himself alienated from a society that only pays lip service to his sacrifice. While deeply patriotic, Ismail’s film also shows how corruption can seep into a revolution, manipulating then abandoning the people on the front lines.
The Bri-terion Collection
I’m loving the Criterion Channel streaming service, so every week I’m going to share my favorite new find.