THE FIVE OBSTRUCTIONS (Jørgen Leth, Lars von Trier, 2003)

Jørgen Leth, Lars von Trier’s former mentor, made in 1967 a documentary short entitled Det perfekte menneske. Now Trier uses it for his own documentary—well, “his own,” except that Leth does most of the work again. Instructing his instructor, Trier challenges Leth to redo The Perfect Human in five different ways, observing rules—“obstructions”—that Trier commands […]

CASSHERN (Kazuaki Kiriya, 2004)

Based on a 35-episode 1973-74 Japanese television animé series, Shinzô ningen Kyashân, the live-action version makes a powerful impression early on. There is a terrible grandeur to its futuristic depiction of the Fifty Year War. Kazuaki Kiriya’s science-fiction epic, like Kerry Conran’s Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (2004), consists of computer-generated backdrops. Some […]

KANDAHAR (Mohsen Makhmalbaf, 2001)

To convey its insider/outsider’s view, Iranian Mohsen Makhmalbaf’s Safar e Ghandehar starts with a tortuous contrivance: Nafas, an Afghan-born Canadian journalist, returns to war-torn Afghanistan in order to find her sister, whose letter states her intention to commit suicide before the 21st century begins. This sister has lost both legs to a landmine. We see—by […]