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Editor's Choice--International


cover The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964) ~ VHS
Catherine Deneuve / Not Rated / English subtitles / Widescreen
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Jacques Demy's haunting romantic musical is an enchanting, one-of-a-kind musical experience. It's basically a movie operetta, in which the characters sing all the dialogue (or, rather, lyrics--by director Demy) to Michel Legrand's lovely score. The story spans five years (1957-1962) in the life of Genevi�ve (the ethereally beautiful Catherine Deneuve in the role that launched her to international stardom), the teenage daughter of a woman who owns a Cherbourg umbrella shop. After...

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cover Swept Away (1975) ~ VHS  
Giancarlo Giannini / Rated R / English subtitles / Widescreen
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Lina Wertm�uller (Seven Beauties) made this pointed, 1975 comedy-drama about class and sex conflicts. Mariangela Melato plays a rich woman marooned on an island with a crude sailor (Giancarlo Giannini). The two initially assume their accustomed class relationship with one another--she expects service, he grumbles about it--but then a revolution takes place and the subjugation is reversed. The film comes down on you like a hammer, but Wertm�uller adroitly traces the shifting nuances of...

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cover The Pillow Book (1997) ~ VHS
Vivian Wu / Unrated / / English subtitles
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Peter Greenaway (The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover, Drowning by Numbers) continues to delight and disturb us with his talent for combining storytelling with optic artistry. The Pillow Book is divided into 10 chapters (consistent with Greenaway's love of numbers and lists) and is shot to be viewed like a book, complete with tantalizing illustrations and footnotes (subtitles) and using television's "screen-in-screen" technology. As a child in Japan, Nagiko's father celebrates her...

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Diva (1981) ~ VHS  
Fredric Andrei / Rated R / English subtitles
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Jean-Jacques Beineix (Betty Blue) made a catchy debut as a director with this slick, defiantly superficial 1982 movie about a young mail carrier who illegally records a performance by an opera singer, then gets the tape mixed up with evidence that could incriminate gangsters. Wearing flashy commercialism like a badge, Beineix fills the screen with explosions of disposable pop kitsch. Yet he also tells a fairly compelling story in the process, a story that only seems to get more interesting the...

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The Wedding Banquet (1993) ~ VHS
Ah-Leh Gua / Rated R
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This 1993 international hit by Ang Lee is a funny and poignant story of a gay, Taiwanese-American man who goes to some lengths to fool his visiting family that he's actually straight. The results are far more complicated and entertaining than anyone could have guessed. The film seems all the more rich now since Lee has become a major Hollywood director: that same sensitivity and mild bemusement he brought to such stories of manners as Sense and Sensibility and The Ice Storm in recent years are...

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La Femme Nikita (1990) ~ VHS  
Anne Parillaud / Rated R / French language edition / English subtitles
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French director Luc Besson (The Fifth Element) broke the commercial taboo against female-driven action movies with this seminal, seductively slick film about a violent street punk (Anne Parillaud) trained to become a smooth, stylish assassin. Though it amounts, in the end, to little more than disposable pop, the film has a cohesiveness in style and tone--akin to the early James Bond films--that gives it a sense of integrity. Parillaud is compelling both as a wild child and chic-but-lethal pro...

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Das Boot - The Director's Cut (1982) ~ VHS  
Rated R / English subtitles / Widescreen
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This is the restored, 209-minute director's cut of Wolfgang Petersen's harrowing and claustrophobic U-boat thriller, which was theatrically rereleased in 1997. Originally made as a six-hour miniseries, this version devotes more time to getting to know the crew before they and their stoic captain (J�rgen Prochnow) get aboard their U-boat and find themselves stranded at the bottom of the sea. Das Boot puts you inside that submerged vessel and explores the physical and emotional tensions of...

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