Antoine and Colette (1962): The 400 Blows doesn’t exactly cry for a follow-up; its iconic final freeze-frame says it all. A few years later, though, François Truffaut wondered what would happen if its troubled young hero, Antoine Doinel, had aged as in life. What would his first major heartbreak look like? Truffaut kept wondering and, over the next two decades, periodically dropped in on Doinel’s life, yielding 1968’s Stolen Kisses , 1970’s Bed & Board and 1979’s Love on the Run , its star aging along the way.
2046 (2004): Around the same time Before Sunrise begat Before Sunset and Ingmar Bergman wrangled up Scenes From a Marriage ’s divorcees for Saraband , Wong Kar-Wai mounted this quasi-sequel to In the Mood for Love . Alas, Tony Leung’s ’60s brooder went it alone, transformed by a busted heart into a mustachioed lothario who jettisons ladies (among them Zhang Ziyi) when he isn’t writing about lovelorn androids.
The Wayward Cloud (2005): In which Taiwanese minimalist Tsai Ming-liang takes one of his nicest films—2001’s What Time is it There?—and inverts it into his bleakest, where the former’s hero (Lee Kang-sheng) is now a porn star trying to survive an epic drought.
Fay Grim (2006): Indie smart-aleck Hal Hartley had an artistic breakthrough that was 1997’s Henry Fool. Then he fell off the map. Hartley regained some footing by making its totally unexpected sequel, and doing it weirdly: A heavy drama is now a wacky spy romp, revealing that Thomas Jay Ryan’s failed novel was all along a McGuffin for Tom Clancy shenanigans.
Life During Wartime (2009): Todd Solondz is no stranger to gimmicks: witness the multiple actresses playing the same character in Palindromes. In this un-asked-for sequel to his signature misery-fest Happiness, he recast the whole picture: Paul Reubens is now Jon Lovitz and Philip Seymour Hoffman gets replaced by—who else?—Michael K. Williams. But there’s real anguish to the idea of people so unhappy that even literally becoming other people doesn’t help. No matter its appearance, the body is always the same prison.
The Salt of Life (2011): Gianni Di Gregorio’s follow-up to the charming Mid-August Lunch isn’t technically a sequel, but c’mon: It’s a good old-fashioned catch-up with characters—and a universe—well worth revisiting.