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After a number of acclaimed shorts and documentaries, Laurent Cantet drew acclaim for his feature debut 'Human Resources' (1999), a humanist drama about the ruthlessness of the business world. It's follow-up 'Time Out' (2001) also detailed the pressures of business life, but from the perspective of an executive who faces an existential crisis. Both films are deceptively simple in style, but skilfully draw the viewer into the world of the characters. In 'Heading South' (2005) Cantet focussed on a group of middle-age white women journeying to Haiti in the 1970s in search of sex. A study of post-colonial attitudes, it featured an outstanding central performance by Charlotte Rampling. Cantet then won the Palme d'Or for 'The Class' (2008), his uncompromising account of teaching in inner-city Paris. (Like all of his work, it was a collaboration with the writer and editor Robin Campillo, who has since embarked on his own filmmaking career.) 'Foxfire' (2012), an adaptation Joyce Carol Oates' novel about a girl gang never quite matches the drama of its source material. Cantet followed it with the more intimate 'Return to Ithaca' (2017), a chamber drama about a group of old friends who reunite in Havana to discuss the ups and downs of their lives. 'The Workshop', which was unveiled at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival, harks back to the more improvisatory approach of 'The Class' as a group of teens engage and clash at a summer creative writing workshop.
A visual stylist par excellence, whose penchant for violence is matched by a mastery of atmosphere and fascination with moral ambiguity, Park Chan-wook is the most celebrated of the South Korean directors to emerge from the country's cinematic boom of the late 1990s. Originally a film critic, director Park's early features are entertaining, but lack the authorial stamp of his later work. His breakthrough came with the short 'Judgement' (1999). A dark satire, it referenced the Sampung department store collapse in 1995 which led to the deaths of over 500 people. Then came the acclaimed Vengeance trilogy: 'Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance' (2002), 'Oldboy' (2003) and 'Lady Vengeance' (2005) each deserves attention for its exploration of morality and our basest desires. His audacious take on the vampire myth 'Thirst' is the filmmaker's personal favourite of his work to date and cemented director Park's reputation as one of contemporary cinema's leading filmmakers. Park Chan-wook captures the intoxicating atmosphere of the Deep South gothic in 'Stoker' (2013), while 'The Handmaiden' (2017) is a marvellous, labyrinthine narrative of twists, turns and double-dealings. Based on Sarah Waters' novel 'Fingersmith', Park transposed the action from Victorian London to 1930s, Japanese-occupied Korea.