Flashback
A look back at this day in film history
May 29
BreakingTheWaves October 4, 1995
Breaking the Waves opens

With his 1996 film, Breaking the Waves, Lars von Trier took a left turn from sumptuously shot earlier works like Europa, embracing a new, handheld, more visceral shooting style to tell the story of Bess, a wife of a paralyzed oil drilling worker who submits herself to a gang rape in a holy appeal for his recovery. Set in 1970s Scotland, the movie contained nudity, shocking sex scenes and a revelatory performance by Emily Watson, who projected an altruistic innocence with such conviction that the director’s various audience provocations were perfectly counterbalanced. Breaking the Waves, which played the New York Film Festival October 4, 1996, is a religious film for our times in that, whatever the motives of its director, it practically begs the audience to dismiss the wife’s divine convictions while her performance urges us otherwise. Wrote Roger Ebert in his review, “Not many movies like this get made, because not many filmmakers are so bold, angry and defiant. Like many truly spiritual films, it will offend the Pharisees. Here we have a story that forces us to take sides, to ask what really is right and wrong in a universe that seems harsh and indifferent. Is religious belief only a consolation for our inescapable destination in the grave? Or can faith give the power to triumph over death and evil? Bess knows.”


More Flashbacks
Fury May 29, 1936
Fritz Lang's Fury

That Fritz Lang’s Fury opened in May 1936 to good reviews was a shock to the executives at MGM who released it.

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May 29, 1981
Polyester released

After a four-year hiatus, scandalous Baltimore director John Waters returned with some new, um, material on this day in 1981. Polyester marked Waters’ first film after completing his so-called “Trash Trilogy” – Pink Flamingos (1972), Female Trouble (1974) and Desperate Living (1977) – and saw him move into more mainstream territory after that triptych’s shock tactics, most famously encapsulated in the moment in Pink Flamingos when Waters’ drag diva Divine eats freshly delivered doggie doo-doo.

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