Punch-Drunk Love (2002)

Random chaos defines Barry Egan’s world in Punch-Drunk Love, reaching out across his work and personal life to diminish his meek existence, and yet there is a balanced coordination across every level of Paul Thomas Anderson’s incredibly formal filmmaking in this offbeat romantic comedy that finds colourful, delicate harmony among the dissonance.

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The Aviator (2004)

Classical Hollywood filmmaker Howard Hughes is the tragic centrepiece of Martin Scorsese’s treatise on an industry that is both extravagantly pioneering and detrimentally obsessive, and in its Technicolor experimentations, The Aviator fully recognises both sides of this glamorous culture and the bright-minded pioneer it consumed.

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Panic Room (2002)

As David Fincher’s pressing darkness infiltrates the crevices of the claustrophobic townhouse in Panic Room, so too does he send three thieves inside with the intention of stealing its hidden treasure, with the camera’s exhilarating, omniscient perspective instilling in us an even greater dread than any single character experiences alone.

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The Departed (2006)

The Departed’s intricate construction of double-crosses and manipulations propels its gripping narrative forward with impeccable pacing, teasing out the parallels between an undercover cop and a criminal spy hellbent on uncovering each other’s identities, and yet in Martin Scorsese’s sly formal motifs there remains a nihilistic despair that these opposing forces may just cancel each other out.

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Requiem for a Dream (2000)

Though it mourns the souls of the deceased in the way its title suggests, Requiem for a Dream even more fully evokes a nightmare of disorientating maximalism that oversees a total degradation of humanity, as Darren Aronofsky draws on the existential horror of drug addiction in his aggressive editing to pessimistically conjure up an ensemble of tragic fates worse than death.

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Yi Yi (2000)

The oscillation between isolation and intimacy is just as much a part of life’s cycles as the births, marriages, and deaths that the three generations of the Jian family experience through different lenses, but while these occasions lay the foundation of Yi Yi’s grand formal structure, Edward Yang spends much of the film chasing the vivid, lonely stories that lie between them.

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