Rosetta (Dardennes, 1999)

The films of Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne all depict characters arriving at forked paths, having to choose between apprenticeship and rebellion, the promise of stability and growth within a predetermined system and a certain feral, almost instinctual resistance to the social and economic contradictions of rural living. No matter the narrative or milieu, both experiences reveal contrasting forms of survival with wildly different consequences and outcomes. This tense thematic dichotomy bleeds through the Dardenne brothers’ stifling handheld camera aesthetic, one where off-screen sound and jarring physical movement strictly defines the borders of the modern world. Ultimately, their films delicately balance chaos and order, unspoken tenuousness and silent expression.

Full Review for Slant Magazine

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Topsy Turvy (Leigh, 1999)

The Criterion Collection’s recent release of Topsy Turvy allowed me to revisit Mike Leigh’s film for the first time in a decade over at GreenCine. I’m amazed at how seamlessly the narrative jumps from character to character, texture to texture, sometimes traversing days and months in a single edit. This is the rare epic period piece that doesn’t feel long at all, and it will definitely get better with age.