3x UNIQUE films that resemble nothing else you’ve seen:
CREMASTER Cycle by Matthew Barney (1995-2002)
Includes 5 films of different lenght and theme, all of which are mixtures of painting, installation, sculpture and moving picture, illustrating Barney’s interest in…well, basically everything. Sometimes he tries to hint at a story, but mostly he just offers a series of ideas made into incredible images.
SPIKLENCI SLASTI – Conspirators of Pleasure (1996, Jan Svankmajer)
Just as in Barney’s case, here too the uniqueness is given by Svankmajer’s stop-motion slytle, which is amazingly weird and original, creating surreal, sometimes scary, often funny stories. This film is about more or less bizarre fetishes and the people who live with them. It usually comes accompanied by a short film, Food, which is also a must see.
RUMBA (2008, Dominique Abel, Fiona Gordon, Bruno Romy)
The creative trio took the original ideas they displayed in L’iceberg to another, more elaborate level in this charmingly strange story about love and dance. Te result is somewhere between absurd, cartoon, soap opera and performance art.
+ a bonus film: EL TOPO (1970, Alejandro Jodorowsky) – The surreal mystic cult western.
De grønne slagtere – The Green Butchers (2003, Anders Thomas Jensen)
Probably the funniest film ever made about eating human flesh. Superb acting by Mads Mikkelsen and Nikolaj Lie Kaas made me actually whish that they get away with everything.
THE COOK THE THIEF HIS WIFE & HER LOVER (1989, Peter Greenaway)
Probably the most beautiful film ever made about eating human flesh. It’s supposed to be an allegory of Thatcherism, but being such a terrific feast for the eyes, it took me a few views to actually be able to draw myself away from the visuals…
DELICATESSEN (1991, Marc Caro, Jean-Pierre Jeunet)
Probably the most charming film ever made about eating human flesh, from the makers of Amélie, before Amélie. Post-apocaliptic athmosphere, strangely beautiful colors of an old photo, great acting and masterful directing. What else would we need? Maybe just genius use of sound that makes the whole film pulsate with rythm and music.
+ a bonus: DANS MA PEAU – In My Skin (2002, Marina de Van) Painfully insightfull, pathological and personal film about cannibalistic urges directed at oneself.
3x AUCH! – films which include female genital mutilation and got a lot of hype for that, but in fact are excellent movies regardless of the auch-scenes:
SEOM – The Isle (2000, Kim Ki-Duk)
The slow-enfolding but aggresively passionate love story on a lake-house. Immense loneliness, sadeness and desperation probably don’t make good premises for a “healthy” relationship, and this is what I see as the film’s main, insightful question: when one has a troubled relationship with oneself, how will this reflect on his/her relationship with others?
LA PIANISTE – The Piano Player (2001, Michael Haneke)
The directing genius of Haneke combined with the acting genius of Isabelle Hupert provide an excrushiating, obsessive portrait of a middle-aged woman torn by her own mazochistic desires.
ANTICHRIST (2009, Lars von Trier)
This film is so painfully beautiful and stylish that it took my breath away. The incredible black and white, slow-motion love scene at the beginning haunts me still.The story of a troubled couple on the verge of madness comes through with Trierian power due to the actors, Charlotte Gainsbourg and Willem Defoe.
+ a bonus: DESERT FLOWER (2009, Sherry Horman) The true story of a Somalian nomad turned international model and UN spokesperson against female circumcision.
It’s not that I think these are bad films (I do about one of them), I usually wouldn’t bother if that was the case, just move on. But these are hailed by a lot of people and annoy the hell out of me.
OFFRET – The Sacrifice (1986, Andrei Tarkovsky)
So we have the aging and soon to be dead intellectual, who thinks he is so brilliant, and whatever he says or thinks about the world is so important, that he doesn’t have one (not one!) conversation with anybody, just long monologues with his little boy, who – as presumably everybody should – stays silent and listens to the wisdom he imparts on the world. Oh, heavens, but he is dying! And this brutal fact is not like in the case of all human being…no, his case is special, because he is the wise guy, whose death is just so unfair, that he cannot accept it. So his death is paralleled with the end of the world (nuclear, the fashionable cause for the end of the world in those times), and he can (has to!) make the supreme sacrifice of sleeping with the young, beautiful maid to save the world.
I never had the reflex of Freudian reading of anything, but this film just screams for it. A man incapable of accepting his own pending death, not to mention his carnal desires, alone in the midst of his family (presumably through his own fault, he probably tried to preach wisdom to his wife too instead of just being her husband), his feeling hurt for nobody appreciating his genius as they no doubt should, the superficial, stupid, ingrate bunch! Anyway, so these are his attitudes towards his pending demise. First he tries to become immortal by handing down his views of the world to his son. The common mistake to think we live on in our kids. Then he tries to pray a lot. How touching, to discover our god when we need them the most! And then he has the final delusion that the world is about to end. His world certainly will, so what’s the point of all the rest, right? But out of prayer and the goodness of his heart, he realizes he can and must save the world. By sleeping with the maid, of course. Only ordinary mortals, lacking metaphysical depth would consider this simply cheating on his wife and taking advantage of the young woman. Genius intellectuals don’t cheat and don’t take advantage of women. They make a sacrifice to sleep with them, if it’s their last resort, if it means saving the world.
INTO THE WILD (2007, Sean Penn)
A young man, socialized in libraries, decides he has to follow his irresistible urge to reconnect with Nature (mandatory capital letter). Being a typical city-boy, he knows that Nature is us, our home, and our true self that we lost and corrupted with all this technological nonsense that gives us clean water, edible plants, warm clothes and housing and so on. So he rushes back to the arms of his long-lost Mother Nature, only to find she is not so warm and loving after all, in fact, she bites him in the ass. And he dies. What did we learn from this, kids? Presumably not to mystify and personify nature, to read up on winters in the north and the “strange” behavior of rivers that they tend to flood when snow melts, and for the love of Pacha Mama, lick your finger when reading a book distinguishing edible and poisonous plants in the wild!
KATALIN VARGA (2009, Peter Strickland)
This is the one hat is not only annoying, but also bad. Why a director who doesn’t speak Hungarian would insist on making a Hungarian-speaking film is beyond me. Especially since he says he wanted to make a universal, timeless, ballad-like crime and revenge story. But one needs the right setting for these sorts of dark tales, right? And what could be a more perfect setting for this than the place most people in the Western world are not even sure whether it exists or it is fiction? Yes, Transylvania. Completely covered in dark, tall forests that emanate annoyingly mystical and multi-awarded (Berlin!) music when you look into them. Only patches of villages interrupt these mighty woods, with people who are basic, dark, original to the bone, dressed in traditional festive clothing taken from museums when they go out on the fields to work with tools they clearly never held before in their hands, speaking in Budapest slang but with a heavy Seclar accent. Only some bad guys and some kids speak Romanian, also with a heavy Seclar accent. The only means of transport in these rough surroundings is a horse driven cart; the paved roads are there just to annoy the horses. Top that with a few clichés about crime, remorse, suicide and forgiveness and with the mandatory “women leading a traditional way of life in the mountains but sleeping in sexy, short, see-through nightgowns” and you have a guaranteed success!