6 Contributions by: Emil Hofileña On Mubi

Staff & contributors

Clocking in at just over four hours and shot in vivid color, Norte, the End of History stands not only as Filipino auteur Lav Diaz's best work since his earliest films, but as the easiest entry point into his unique filmography. Told on a sweeping yet intimate scale, the film has all the trademarks of Diaz's work: slow, lengthy shots; bursts of dense dialogue and philosophizing; and copious amounts of human despair and systemic corruption. As our three protagonists' souls (who rarely share the screen, if at all) are pushed to the limit after a terrible crime is committed, everything heads toward universal truths—the perseverance of love, and the inevitability of divine justice.

It can be difficult to recommend any film of this length and deliberate pace, but Norte remains a masterful example of how to use time itself to build a monumental story.

Genre: Crime, Drama

Actor: Angeli Bayani, Archie Alemania, Hazel Orencio, Mae Paner, Mailes Kanapi, Moira Lang, Perry Dizon, Sheenly Gener, Sid Lucero, Soliman Cruz

Director: Lav Diaz

Slow cinema might be an acquired taste for many viewers, but Tsai Ming-liang's gorgeous feature debut about Taiwan's aimless youth should have enough mystery and suspense to draw anybody in. They key, as with many of these films, isn't to demand that things happen or actions get explained, but to surrender to every possibility and suggestion of what might be motivating these characters beneath the surface. And through patient, perceptive observation, Tsai gives us so much to chew on: the sleeplessness of urban life, the unpredictability of relationships, and most importantly the morality that forms when a disillusioned young man fully embraces his being an outcast.

And if nothing else, Tsai provides us with some of the most beautiful and honest images of city life around. It's hard to describe, but just the neon-lit arcade halls and dingy hotel rooms are enough to let you into who these characters are. It's an experience not to be missed.

Genre: Crime, Drama

Actor: Chen Chao-jung, Lee Kang-sheng, Lu Yi-Ching, Miao Tien, Wang Yu-wen, Yu-Wen Wang

Director: Tsai Ming-liang

Whether or not you're a fan of Nick Cave's contemplative, idiosyncratic style of music, This Much I Know to Be True still works on a purely experiential level. There's confusion, then a rush of euphoria, then an overwhelming sense of peace when listening to Cave's (and musical collaborator Warren Ellis's) cryptic lyrics and delicate compositions—shot with breathtaking use of studio lights by director Andrew Dominik and cinematographer Robbie Ryan.

And things only get more emotional when you consider how far Cave has come, that these performances are happening several rough years from the untimely death of his son. And suddenly even all the unrelated B-roll footage included in the film—of Cave talking about his sculptures, talking to Ellis, answering profound fan emails—takes on a greater urgency. This sounds like music for mourning, but in its own way it's music for celebration, too, and gratitude despite everything.

Genre: Documentary, Drama, Music

Actor: Andrew Dominik, Earl Cave, Marianne Faithfull, Nick Cave, Warren Ellis

Director: Andrew Dominik

A twitchy, uncomfortable noir film for the digital age, Decision to Leave blends the trappings of a restless police procedural with an obsessive forbidden romance. Here, director Park Chan-wook flips every interrogation and piece of evidence on its head, pulling us away from the whodunit and towards the inherently invasive nature of a criminal investigation. It's a movie that remains achingly romantic even if everything about the central relationship is wrong. For detective Hae-jun and suspect Seo-rae (played masterfully by Park Hae-il and Tang Wei, respectively), the attraction between them is built entirely on distrust and suspicion—illustrating the danger of falling for the idea of someone rather than the person themself.

Genre: Crime, Drama, Mystery, Romance, Thriller

Actor: Ahn Seong-bong, Cha Seo-won, Choi Dae-hoon, Choi Sun-ja, Go Kyung-pyo, Go Min-si, Jeong Ha-dam, Jin Yong-uk, Jung Yi-seo, Jung Young-sook, Kim Do-yeon, Kim Mi-hwa, Kim Shin-young, Kwak Eun-jin, Lee Hak-joo, Lee Hak-ju, Lee Ji-ha, Lee Jung-hyun, Lee Yong-nyeo, Park Hae-il, Park Jeong-min, Park Yong-woo, Seo Hyun-woo, Tang Wei, Teo Yoo, Yoo Seung-mok, Yoo Teo

Director: Park Chan-wook

A great example of frank, emotionally honest filmmaking with three totally vulnerable lead performances, Passages takes a subject that can so easily be reduced into clichés—infidelity—and approaches it with a genuine sense of melancholy. It can still be frustrating to watch fully developed adults refuse to communicate more clearly about their feelings, but director and co-writer Ira Sachs also understands the nuanced gender dynamic that informs some of these bad decisions. Tomas understands that his commitment to Martin may not give him the "easy" satisfaction of a traditional romance, but there is also a sense that his attraction to Agathe (supposedly the first time he's truly fallen for a woman) might be more of an impulsive attempt to settle for something safer, something that he has more control over.

Ben Whishaw is reliably sympathetic as Martin, and Adèle Exarchopoulos carries herself with the unembellished authenticity that many of the best French actors do. And Franz Rogowski makes Tomas both entirely pathetic and still so very heartbreaking in the predicament he's put himself into. There are no cheap histrionics or outbursts of emotion here—just performers living fully within each moment and selling us on the situation they're in.

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: Adèle Exarchopoulos, Arcadi Radeff, Ben Whishaw, Caroline Chaniolleau, Erwan Kepoa Falé, Franz Rogowski, Olivier Rabourdin, Radostina Rogliano, Théo Cholbi, William Nadylam

Director: Ira Sachs

Rating: NR

While primarily a showcase of endoscopic footage of various surgeries in different hospitals throughout Paris—which should already be enough to either make you queasy or inspire introspection into the fragility of our lives—this singular, experimental documentary places all this bloodshed in the context of the mundanity of the medical profession. Much of the film is taken up by muted conversation from the surgeons and footage of elderly patients wandering around, creating an even more surreal look into the lack of support these hospitals receive. It's far more abstract than it is educational, but its commitment to getting its hands dirty makes it an unforgettable experience.

Genre: Documentary

Director: Lucien Castaing-Taylor, Véréna Paravel