A couple of front-rank auteurs have new titles on release this week. Hong Kong's Wong Kar Wai and the Dane Lars von Trier have always sought to challenge conventional narrative cinema, with Wong achieving an audiovisual sensuality that complements his compassionate studies of embattled individuals and Von Trier making mischief at every opportunity by either stripping the action to its essentials or provoking his target audience. Yet, with their latest offerings, they have managed to produce intriguing pictures in spite of their best efforts to sabotage them with curiously intrusive directorial tactics.

Wong is so obsessed with slo-mo montage sequences in My Blueberry Nights that the action often feels as though it's been cobbled together from a boxful of pop videos. Yet, Norah Jones's transamerican odyssey exerts a curious fascination, even though the performances are as arch as Darius Khondji's self-consciously beautiful cinematography and the dialogue is as banal as the moral that life's invariably hard, but you've just got to get on with it.

Jude Law sets the tone with his execrable Manchester accent as the backstreet New York café owner who offers Jones pie and sympathy after she splits from her boyfriend. But Rachel Weisz runs him close with a ranting tirade in a Memphis bar, for which she then atones with a touching monologue about the decline of her relationship with drunken cop David Strathairn that's all the more remarkable for its being done in a single take. Conversely, Natalie Portman is compelling when she's the hard-nosed gambler heading for Vegas after a losing streak and wholly unbelievable when she reveals her vulnerability on the death of her father.

In the midst of these actorly excesses and stylistic pyrotechnics, singer Norah Jones displays an impassivity that diminishes her own storyline and makes her inevitable reunion with Law seem corny rather than cute. Yet Wong's measured pacing and attention to detail give this folksy hokum an arthouse kudos it scarcely deserves.

Von Trier's The Boss of It All is an office sitcom that's strung out to feature length. Company director Peter Gantzler has always blamed tough decisions on an unseen superior. But now he wants to sell out to Icelander Fridrik Thor Fridriksson, who insists on dealing exclusively with the top man. So, Gantzler hires actor Jens Albinus to impersonate the mysterious boss, but he overplays his part and finds himself facing the wrath of Gantzler's disillusioned staff.

All this would be amusing enough in a David Brent kind of way, with Von Trier's digs at the pomposity of actors being an added bonus. But he shoots the action in Automavision, which simply means that both the camera angles and distances and the intensity of the sound have been randomly selected by a computer. Used in conjunction with jump cutting, this process emphasises the workforce's sense of confusion. But the story simply isn't strong enough to bear the weight of this New Wave game-playing, which Von Trier takes to the limit by showing the camera crew in window reflections and commenting on the film in a voiceover.

The stylistic flourishes are better integrated into Bernardo Bertolucci's The Conformist (1969), which has just been reissued. Adapted from the novel by Alberto Moravia, this is a masterly blend of Freud and fascism that examines the link between sexual and political repression in order to assess the impact of Italy's authoritarian past on its deeply divided present.

Abetted by Vittorio Storaro's luscious cinematography, Bertolucci perfectly captures the false sense of well-being promulgated by Mussolini's regime. Furthermore, Jean-Louis Trintignant is superb as the survivor of an abusive childhood whose desperate need to belong results in his dispatch to Paris to assassinate his mentor, Enzo Tarascio, as a means of proving his loyalty to the Party. Dominque Sanda similarly excels as the bisexual socialist with designs on Trintignant's glamorous, but unloved wife, Stefania Sandrelli. But this is Bertolucci's film, as he combines the visual stylisation of Josef von Sternberg, Max Ophüls and Orson Welles with the elliptical iconoclasm of his nouvelle vague idol, Jean-Luc Godard.