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One of the funniest films I've ever seen.
"Skritek" is hilarious. One viewer described it as being like a Czech "Married with Children". I was reminded of "Mr. Bean" and "Benny Hill" and maybe "Delicatessen". Characters talk in grunts and some Czech, but it's a film that has very little dialog and mostly surreal visual gags. It translates into all languages and can be enjoyed by anyone. The directors other film I saw "Cesta Z Mesta"(Out of the City) was good, but didn't translate well outside of Eastern Europe territories. "Shritek" is different. The film follows the daily routine of a dysfunctional family. Dad's a butcher having an affair, mom's an unhappy grocery store clerk (although she tries to smile), the son's a pothead skateboarder in trouble with the law, and the sister is busy trying to contact her Elf friend. That's right throw in a Fellini like Elf who tries to help the family. The film is shown in a very fast speed too, which makes it all the more silly and cartoonish. But be warned, some of the images of dad's job at the slaughter house are very grotesque. I could only find this film on DVD on Czech websites, luckily Demonoid had it. It's a shame such a hilarious, bizarre comedy has never got a DVD distributor in the US. This film would Definitely have a huge cult following if more people new about it. If you enjoyed "Delicatessen", "Tuvalu", "Benny Hill" or Jos Stelling's "De Illusionist" (1984), you'll dig this film. It's a must see for fans of bizarre and absurd comedy.
Subconscious Cruelty (2000)
As Beautiful as it is Repulsive!
"Subconscious Cruelty" has to be one of the most disturbing films I've ever seen. "Salo" and "Cannibal Holocaust" didn't bother me that much, but there's a strange psychological element to "Subconscious Cruelty". This film invades your subconscious mind with shocking taboos, surrealist visuals and one of the most unsettling film scores and sound designs. Repulsive at times; yes, but its visual flair can be compared to Avant Gard directors such as Alejandro Jodorowsky, Dario Argento, Dusan Makavejev and David Lynch. Take the most extreme elements of those 4 directors and throw in the graphic violence of a film by Luico Fulci, and you might be able to guess what you're in for.
The film is divided into 4 parts. The first part "the Ovarian Eye" is real short. A narrator tells us about the the parts of the brain and its functions. Then a nude woman gets her stomach cut open and an eyeball is pulled out. The second part "Human Larvae" is kind of like the film "Eraserhead" but with incest. It deals with a man's sexual obsession with his pregnant sister. Where's Frued when you need him? The third part is my absolute favorite. It reminds me of "Begotten" and Jame's Broughton's 1972 short film "Dreamwood". In this segment people have sex with the earth. Men hump bloody holes in the ground, girls masturbate with tree branches. The branches bleed when broken. Watch in horror as a man gives fellatio to a knife sticking out of a woman's vagina. These people really know how to get in touch with nature.
The last part of the film is the most disturbing and at times it borders on hardcore pornography. This part of the film made me think of Jodorowsky's "the Holy Mountain", "Sweet Movie" and "Cannibal Holocaust". I've never been more disturbed in my life by what I witnessed. A business man gets his privates pulled apart by fishhooks. Yuck and Ouch! Two women urinate on a Christ figure and proceed to cannibalistically eat him like communion bread and sodomize him with a tree branch. Poor guy. The last part was so extreme that if I ever watch the film again, I'll have close my eyes or slightly fast forward. Karim Hussien and Mitch Davis are obviously very talented, To think they did this project in there early 20's. Hussein went on to direct the Tarkovsky influenced "Ascension" (2002) which is a much better film and he co-write the screenplay for Nacho Cerda's after dark horror masterpiece "the Abandoned". "Subconscious Cruelty" is a fascinating and unsettling journey; with images that come from the unthinkable realm of everyday human minds. Well, sort of.
A Fun and Bizarre Slapstick Fantasy!
"Tuvalu" is a fantasy/ comedy that pays homage to everything from early German expressionism to Buster Keaton, David Lynch, Fellini and Jeanet and Cairo. In fact, in many ways it's similar to the films "Delicatessen" and "City of Lost Children". In "Tuvalu" a mother and son own a public pool in a creaky old building. Customers pay in buttons to use the pool. Yeah, buttons. An evil contractor, who looks like Jack Nance from "Eraserhead", longs to tear the place down and build a casino. The son falls for a beautiful girl only to have the contractor steal her away from him. He fights to keep the place open and win the heart of the girl. That's the basic plot, although it almost defies description. Even though it's a German film, there is hardly any dialog. The characters communicate by saying each other's names, or using crazy facial expressions, grunts or simple words like "yeah" or "no" which translate into every language. Filmed in sepia tones, It also reminded me of Canadian director Guy Maddin. "Tuvalu" is visually stunning, comical and highly surreal. It is also very cute with its romantic charm.
L'année dernière à Marienbad (1961)
One of the most complex films ever made!
In an old hotel a woman who goes by the name of (A) meets a stranger who goes by the name of (X). He insists that they met there last year, she insists that they never met at all. The woman is married or dating a man who goes by the name (M). Did she have an affair with a guy she doesn't remember? "Last Year at Marienbad" is a film so confusing and surreal it makes "Muholland Drive" and "Persona" feel like "Sesame Street". I tracked down a region 2 DVD because I heard the film was a favorite of Peter Greenaway. Alain Resnais' direction is superb and the black and white cinematography by Sacha Vierny is breathtaking. So what does it all mean? Who the hell knows? Seriously, I've never seen such a film as gorgeous and beautiful. I couldn't figure out what was going on, but who cares it's fun just to look at. Sometimes you just got to sit back and enjoy a film for what it is. When I tried to figure out the story my head was spinning in circles. It almost reminded me of how I felt in high school when I was stuck on a math problem. I got to a point where I was like "Ok. I'm just going to watch the film for the cool cinematography and gorgeous visuals." It's enjoyable this way, like staring at a painting in a museum. Maybe the whole film is all about Deja Vu feelings you get? In my life I've met people for the first time, but swear to god I met them in dreams months before. Not a film for everyone, but a must see for fans of bizarre French new wave.
Inland Empire (2006)
A Huge Disappointment.
David Lynch is one of my favorite directors. I've enjoyed every film he has ever done. "Eraserhead", "Blue Velvet" and "Lost Highway" remain 3 of my favorite works of Lynch. After the excitement of "Muholland Drive", I was anxiously awaiting for "Inland Empire". I must say I felt let down. "Inland Empire" is the story of Nicki Grace (Or at least one character of many stories) played by Laura Dern. Nicki is an actress who just got a role in a big Hollywood production. Little to her knowledge does she realize the film is a remake and the 2 lead actors from the original film were killed due to a Polish Gypsy curse put on the production. The first hour of "Inland Empire" had me glued to the screen. It started out beautifully, but the last 2 were a complete disaster. It had such a great cast, but I felt Juia Ormond, William H. Macy and Jeromy Irons weren't in it enough. So many amazing actors that weren't used to their full potential. There roles felt too brief. I admit, Grace Zebriskie was hilarious as the crazy Polish neighbor. Too bad we didn't see more of her. I enjoyed Laura Dern's outstanding performance and I liked the sitcom with the Rabbit head people. But beyond that, there wasn't much else. Interesting note, the Rabbit sequence was taken from one of Mr. Lynch's short films from his website called "Rabbits". I love surrealist cinema, but similar themes have been done before and much better in films like Luis Bunuel's flawless dark comedy, "The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie" (1972) and Shuji Terayama's forgotten masterpiece "Pastoral: To Die in the Country" (1974). More recently films like Andrzej Zulawski's "La Fidelite" (2000), and Sion Sono's disturbing "Strange Circus" (2005) remain unseen. Speaking of Polish films, Wojciech Has' multi-layered "The Hourglass Sanitorium" (1973) is an emotional puzzle worth figuring out. I feel these above films mentioned give more food for thought. Digital video usually looks pretty good, but "Inland Empire" is way to dark, sloppy and shaky. It looks like a bad experimental college film. Then again I think he was going for a raw look. I'd recommend the strange and somewhat similar low budget gems "Mad Cowgirl" (2006) or "The Three Trials" (2006) as great examples of what can be done with digital video. I love experimental films, but they either work or they don't. For example Oliver Stone's "Natural Born Killers" (1994) shows that a mainstream director can put together a visually stunning experimental work. The last 2 hours of "Inland Empire" feels like poorly shot random scenes thrown together with no coherent meaning. At least 3 short films were put into "Inland Empire" and it doesn't work. The rest of the movie was made up of things David Lynch wrote quickly before shooting. The outdoor barbecue scene and the prostitutes doing the locomotion were painful to watch. I still think Lynch had good intentions of trying something different, but fell short. If you want to see bizarre surrealist films that are not only visually stunning but with deep religious, philosophical and political meaning; check out the films of Alejendro Jodorowsky. Anchor Bay recently released Jodorowsky's films "El Topo" (1970) and "The Holy Mountain" (1973) in a box-set. I love you David, but please let this be a one time thing. Then again, my opinion could always change in the future?
Macunaima is simply one of the strangest and most comical Brazilian films ever made!
Macunaima is Monty Python meets Jodorowsky and Robert Downey Sr. in a pool of piranhas. A full-grown black man, a " Brazillian hero", is birthed from a white woman in drag in the middle of the jungle. He discovers a magical water fountain that turns him white. He moves to the city, falls in love with a bomb bearing urban radical activist who wears a magic stone necklace that brings good luck. The magic necklace is stolen by a by an evil corporate cannibalistic millionaire. This causes a bomb to kill his wife and son (done in such a cartoonish way that it is all the more ridiculous). At this, Macunaima is plagued with bad luck through many of his misadventures and wants to get back the necklace from the evil corporate honcho. Part social satire, part serious political commentary set in a folklore steeped surreal Brazil. Based on the 1928 novel by Mario De Andrade that is considered on of the founding texts of Brazilian modernism; and the film itself is widely considered one of the most important films of the Brazilian Cinema Novo. But if you forget all the academics, it's a wild, weird, colorful, magical, surreal wonder-work with endless memorable moments, such as: a defecating goose, a pool of piranhas in which people swing above on a trapeze until they fall in, a water nymph and much more!! Who can forget such brilliant one liners such as "God gives nuts to those with no teeth". This film is a must see! One of the funniest films of any country! An underrated gem!
Bijitâ Q (2001)
Tasteless, yet Thought Provoking Satire
"Visitor Q" is quite a sick, yet funny film. Takashi Miike seems to have taken inspiration from Pasolini's 1968 film "Teorama". Both films deal with a business man and a mysterious visitor who leads to a family's disintegration or awakening. Except, "Visitor Q" is more similar in shock to John Water's "Pink Flamingos", Francois Ozon's "Sitcom" and "Man Bites Dog", or maybe "Visitor Q" is an ode to both Pasoloini's "Teorama" and "Salo". In the film "Visitor Q", a businessman tries to film a documentary on modern Japan. He later decides to film his family's life. He screws his daughter who's a runaway prostitute, then later gets beat over the head with a rock by a mysterious stranger. He invites the stranger home to live with his dysfunctional family. His son is constantly bullied and instead of talking about his problems he beats his mother to a pulp. So, the mom kind of represents the treatment of women in modern day Japan. And also there's sort of a cycle of violence; the bullies beat the son, so the son beats his mom. The main character's poor wife is a junkie/prostitute who is sad, abused and lonely. Her husband won't give her attention, so she proceeds to have sex with the stranger. This causes her to get so excited that she squirts breast milk everywhere, almost nonstop. The main character kills a hooker and has sex with the dead body all the while filming it, because he's an angry premature ejeculater. Strangely enough, the visitor brings the family together as they kill the school bullies, dispose of the hooker's body and share breast milk together. I personally could of dealt without all the real non simulated breast milk squirting, but it seems that Miike is using it as a surreal metaphor. The breast milk seems to represent the communication and love that the family lacks. A film like "Pink Flamingos" only exists to shock viewers, while "Visitor Q" as disgusting as it is; is a social satire on modern Japan. It takes on taboo subject matter and bourgeoisie family values. The film is so exaggerated that I couldn't get offended. I also felt sadness for the mom in "Visitor Q". Her depression not only made me laugh, but almost cry. "Visitor Q" is a Johnathan Swift style satire. It's shocking and sick, but also entertaining and smart.
Nostra signora dei turchi (1968)
Interesting Avant Garde Experiment from Bene.
"Our Lady of the Turks" is a film that is hard to categorize. Then again Carmelo Bene's films are hard to define. Often beautiful, sometimes boring, somewhat ego-centric and sometimes bitingly humorous. The film starts off as a sort of mocumentary about Ontranto, Italy. This is where the Turks tried to invade 100 years before; killing the Saracens. Then we are treated to Bene in front of the camera in a series of bizarre, surreal images and comical mishaps. Bene's character is taunted by the Madonna. Wherever he goes this beautiful virgin Mary is sure to follow, making his life a real headache. She is symbolic of man's desire and dreams. This is a film where visuals overpower story or lack there of. At first I didn't know how to feel about the film. But to be honest, it was quite a journey with it's bizarre experimental style. Somewhat frustrating but altogether breathtaking. There's simply nothing like it. If you enjoy Fellini or even experimental films by Stan Brakhage; you may find this film interesting. Not that I didn't enjoy the film, but I felt it was 20 minutes too long. My opinion might change after a second or third viewing.
Meshes of the Afternoon (1943)
Way ahead of its time!
Maya Deren's "Meshes of the Afternoon" is an amazing 15 minute journey into the subconscious. It's like "Un Chien Andalou" seen through the eyes of a woman. In the film it's hard to tell when Maya's character is awake or dreaming. This film is chock full of bizarre and creepy surrealist images. The protagonist drops her key and it bounces like a ball. A knife moves from a loaf of bread, then the key turns into a knife. She carries a flower with her, which she holds upside down. She sees death, who where's a black hood and has a mirror for a face. She see's herself dreaming. In her dream she seems to foresee her own death. Deren seems to have a subconscious fear of knives, or being killed by a knife. This is one crazy little short film that almost puts you in a hypnotic trance with it's creepy Avant-Gard sounds and images. It's very poetic and disturbing, as nothing is what it seems. This is a must see for fans of David Lynch and Bunuel.
Does for Caves what "2001: A Space Oddesy" did for outer space.
In "Vera", a rural Mexican farmer gets trapped in a cave after rocks fall on him. Then starts his spiritual and hallucinatory journey into the unknown. He seems to go through many different stages of transformation, and gets stuck in strange unknown places. He meets an alien and is later guided by a a blue women. To be honest, I didn't quite understand the film because of its confusing mystical imagery. If I were of Latin descent, I maybe would of understood the films religious aspect better. But all things aside, this movie rocked. Even if you can't understand the images, you can still appreciate them. I mean, how can you forget the scene where the blue lady and CGI skeleton try to out dance each other? "You got Served Mr. Skeleton", was my initial reaction. Although the film is in Spanish, there is hardly any dialog. "Vera" is a great experience, unfortunately the DVD could use some improvements. This motion picture could very well become the "El Topo" or "Eraserhead" of the new millennium.
Ovoce stromu rajských jíme (1970)
Even more bizarre than "Daisies"!
"The Fruit of Paradise" is a breathtaking experimental film from Vera Chytilova. Well known for her surreal feminist comedy "Daisies" (1966), Chytlova uses many of the same hallucinatory camera tricks for "The Fruit of Paradise". I used to think that the film "Begotten" was original until I saw the "Fruit of Paradise". The film's first 15 minutes is highly psychedelic as it tells the story of creation. There are layers of image on top of image with fast camera cuts. The film almost made my head spin with it's fast pace, use of color and bizarre experimental sound effects. Then it breaks out into a song about Adam & Eve, which is hauntingly catchy. Now if only I could learn Czech. Then the story of Adam and Eve goes to a modern setting. The devil is portrayed as creepy man of middle age; a persistent stalker and serial killer of women. Eva and her boyfriend go on vacation to a health spa, where they encounter temptation. The devil gets Eva to eat the forbidden fruit. Then the film becomes very comical throughout, as the Devil chases adorable Eva everywhere she goes. Very deep, surreal and philosophical, "The Fruit of Paradise" is another underrated masterpiece to Czech out! This lost classic is finally available at www.facets.org or Amazon.com if you want to save money.
A Punk Rock Waste Land of the Future!
In "Jubilee" an angel takes Queen Elizebeth of England 400 years into the future. What remains left is a bleak punk rock waste land, where rebellious punk rock girls kill for kicks and violence is an everyday part of life. A future where one man, Borgia Gins owns all the media including the record labels in which punk rock artists are signed to. A future where sex is meaningless and survival is a hardship. Decadent clubs of surreal blasphemy and gay orgies. Endless war in a police state environment. Not to mention a very young Adam Ant who signs his talent away for Thatcher-Tarian like luxury (How Ironic) "Jubilee" is one amazing, angry, poetic in your face film with great punk rock music and strong imagery. Derek Jarman's dark view of the future is more relevant today then it was 30 years ago. Substitute the words punk with Emo, Borgia Gins with Rupert Murdoch and England with the US; and Jubilee is almost like a prophecy. It's like "A Clockwork Orange" for punks. For some reason this film receives little attention. Thank God for Criterion's beautiful DVD release.
The most bleak film I've seen since "Dancer in the Dark" and the most colorful since "Santa Sangre".
"Firecracker" is a film that I can't stop thinking about. Maybe I'm over analyzing it. The film is based on true events of a murder that took place in Kansas in the early 1960's. Jimmy is a shy and sensitive musician who is constantly abused by his older alcoholic brother and misunderstood by his religious fanatic mother. He meets a carnival singer, Sandra who also faces sexual abuse by Frank,the leader of the carnival freak show. After Jimmy commits a murder, which is more of an act of self defense; he dreams of running away to join the carnival with Sandra. Jimmy's world is filmed in black and white and Sandra's in eye-popping "Wizard of Oz" like color. Actress Karen Black gives an amazing performance as both Sandra and Jimmy's mom. Mike Patton of the band "Faith no More" plays both Jimmy's abusive brother David and the villainous carnival leader. Since Mike Patton plays the abuser in both roles, Jimmy and Sandra's lives are a mirror reflection of each other. Both Jimmy and Sandra dream of escaping their own personal prison. Jimmy dreams of the carnival and Sandra dreams of regular society. There is no escape for either of them, since both environments are as equally cruel. They feel trapped, and their lives seem to be a metaphor for sexual abuse.
Some parts of the film are left unexplained. Example is the mysterious schizophrenic girl who lives under a tree with glass bottles that hang from the branches. She seems to be a psychic in some manners. I've never seen a bottle tree in an American film before, it looks like something straight out of a Czech film or Easter European magic realist drama. Although some very small flaws, the film still works as a bleak and haunting surrealist portrait of middle America, Not to mention all the cool circus freaks like "the Enigma", with his body covered in blue tattooed puzzle pieces. This is definitely not a film for everyone, but for those who enjoy bizarre and challenging directors like David Lynch, Todd Solondz, Fellini and Jodorowsky. Even if you can't get into the sad story, it's still visually breathtaking. Just don't forget to have a box of tissues ready for this film to help soak up all the tears. I'm still haunted by the films strong and sometimes disturbing imagery.
Sanatorium pod Klepsydra (1973)
A beautiful puzzle that's complex and highly thought provoking!
Did I watch this film or did I dream it. This may be your initial response after watching "the Hourglass Sanatorium". Those who are fans of Fellini, Jodorowsky, Peter Greenaway and Andrej Zulawski will feel right at home. Originally the film was based on a novel, and the story deals with a man who takes a train to see his sick father at a sanatorium. The sanatorium feels Gothic and abandoned. Time seems to be non existent there. Since time has slowed down the father goes on living and the son gets lost in the many rooms of the sanatorium. His journey is as comical as it is frightening. Memories and history become reality and the main character walks throughout many strange scenarios from the past and from his childhood. A simple action like crawling under a bed, can transfer him to a different time and place. Among the strange images in the film which are the most breathtaking are, the Jewish Rabbis breaking out into a song number, people who are part human and part wax figures, dead zombie like soldiers, people in strange bird masks, elephants, and odd philosophical discussions. This is one movie that is so complex and confusing that if you miss 1 minute (or even if you don't miss anything) you'll feel lost. After the film was over, I was left scratching my head; it was like I had just woken up from a bizarre dream. This is one of the most breathtakingly surreal film experiences I have ever had. Film is a visual art, so words can't come close to describing "the Hourglass Sanitorium". You have to see it for yourself!
W.R. - Misterije organizma (1971)
It's a mystery alright!
WR: Mysteries of the Organism, is one unique if not messed up viewing experience. Part documentary and part fictional surrealist philosophical sex comedy, Serbo-Croatian director Dusan Makavejev assaults the viewers senses with imagery, music, politics and satire. "Mysteries of the Organism" is on many top 1000 film lists, but for some odd reason it is nearly impossible to track down. Just like Makavejev's other film "Sweet Movie", I was put on a several month waiting list on Amazon. Thank god for ebay! This is a film that screams for a DVD release, but I don't think many distributors want to touch it due to it's explicit sexuality and subversive elements. The film starts off as a documentary on Wilhelm Reich, a scientist who studied the orgon and used the human orgasm as a method for healing. Of course, similar to the scientist Tesla; his books were seized and burned by the U.S. government and FDA. Then the second part of the film deals with Milena, a sexually liberated Yugoslavian girl who makes revolutionary speeches on her apartment balcony. She says "The October Revolution failed by not excepting free love". Later she falls in love with a Soviet figure skater who's afraid to express his sexual feelings. So this film is a comedy, based on the politics of human sexuality. It mocks capitalism and communism for suppressing people's sexual desires. Now if only I could find the soundtrack. My rating is 10/10, which means I'll watch it again!
To break, broke, broken!
"2 Eggs; to break, broke, broken", the only English phrase spoken and theme song in Tinto Brass' "L'Urlo". What a film! The only available version of this film I could find had no subtitles. Either way it doesn't matter since it is very visual. When most people here the name Tinto Brass, right away they think of the horrid sleaze epic "Caligula", or some might name "Salon Kitty". If your lucky, you'll here of some who have seen his fun slapstick sex comedies from Italy like "Miranda" and "All Ladies Do it". Known mainly for his lighthearted sex romps with curvy women, Tinto Brass' earliest experimental films were much different. Heres a recipe for a film like "L'Urlo". Take some Fellini, add some Jodorowsky/Arrabal and a little table spoon of Godard for extra kick, stir and you got yourself "L'Urlo". One crazy psychedelic, surrealist anti-war art orgy. A bus is lit on fire! Hippies are chased by riot cops. There's stock footage of Vietnam and other wars with a machine gun showdown! S&M, slapstick sexuality, a man's pursuit of a beautiful lady... abstract art and nudity galore! Most memorable is a man in a gas mask jumping around with nude people while goose feather's fill the air! One amazing experimental protest movie! Rebel art at its finest! The films music and images are amazing! This is one film that screams for a DVD release, not to mention a soundtrack. The one song during the burning bus scene sounded like the punk band "Dead Kennedys", almost 10 years before they were around. This film is pure punk rock, before punk even existed. Who says that political, subversive films can't be fun? This ones a must see!
The Passion of Darkly Noon (1995)
Amazing film with near flawless performances!
"the Passion of Darkly Noon" has to be one of the most bleak and emotional films I have seen. It's even more depressing than Philip Ridley's other film, "The Reflecting Skin". Believe it or not, Philip Ridley is not only a writer of plays but of children's books. "The Passion of Darkly Noon" is a beautiful, disturbing and surreal psychological drama in the vein of "Blue Velvet", "Santa Sangre", "Donnie Darko" and "I Stand Alone". Brandon Fraiser gives an amazing and overlooked performance as Darkly Noon; a naive young Christian man who's just escaped a waco like religious cult. He witnessed his parents and other members shot down by police. Darkly is found injured in the woods and stays with Callie (Ashley Judd), who takes care of Darkly till he's better. Ashley Judd's Character is a nature loving feminist beauty. (Check out the close up of her arm pit hair.) Callie start's to fall for Darkly. Her mute boyfriend is played by Viggo Mortenson. Since Darkly has lived a secluded life with not much contact of the outside world, he doesn't know how to deal with his sexual feelings for Callie. Out of guilt he prays for forgiveness and mutilates himself with barb wire. His religious beliefs cause him to slowly loose his sanity and see visions of his dead parents. He feels it's God's mission for him to kill. The film builds up unbearable tension as it goes along. Ashley Judd is amazing with a performance so good, it's as if she's having a real nervous breakdown. Brandon Fraiser gives the best performance of his career. His character is down right scary, especially compared to his usual roles in family films. Their are certain images in this film that are very confusing. One being the giant silver shoe floating in the pond. "The Passion of Darkly Noon" is somewhat of a puzzle and may require a second viewing. Either way it has my highest recommendation.
Werckmeister harmóniák (2000)
Slow paced, beautiful descent into madness!
There's one film that sends shivers up my spine just with it's mere title and that's Bela Tarr's "the Werckmeister Harmonies". It's one of those films that may infuriate some viewers meanwhile leaving others awestruck. The story concerns a very cold winter in a small Hungarian town. The camera follows a man Janos in his various everyday events. We know that this is no ordinary film during the poetic intro in the bar, where the various customers act out different parts of the solar system in rotation. The peaceful order of the village is disturbed, when a traveling circus comes to town. The circus has a stuffed whale carcass on display and abnormalities in jars. A man known as the prince who runs the circus remains in hiding. The stuffed whale seems to have a mystical power. These and other small events which are not fully explained lead the town's people to go crazy and eventually turn violent. This film is very slow, at some times unbearable. Certain events are filmed in real time. Similar film's that come to mind are Antonioni's "Avventura,L" and Heneke's "Code Unknown" Although this film is super slow at times, I loved it. There is something that is gripping about it. It is very surreal and emotional. The scene where the villagers go crazy and raid a nursing home almost brought me to tears. The films musical score is so haunting, it will stay in your mind forever. Also director Gus Van Sant is highly influenced by the films of Bela Tarr and it's apparent in his more recent work like "Gerry" and "Elephant". "The Werckmeister Harmonies" is a masterpiece that's not for everyone. I recommend it for viewers who are extremely patient and are looking for something different.
L'arbre de Guernica (1975)
A masterpiece of surrealist frustration and historical fiction.
Fernando Arrabal's films are not for everyone. But, if you enjoy Bunuel and Jodorowsky you must check out his movies. In fact Arrabal was part of the Panic theater movement with Jodorowsky. The events of Franco's rule over Spain during WW II had a great effect on Arrabal's childhood. "The Tree of Guernica" is not nearly as disturbing as "Viva la Muerte and "I will walk like a crazy Horse", but be warned it's still quite graphic. The film takes place during the Spanish Civil War in a small village in Spain, the Villa Romero. Franco's rise to power causes the town to unite and try to fight the fascist army. The horrible events during this era where what inspired Picasso's painting Guernica. The towns land baron has 4 sons, 3 are brutal and help pillage the town. The fourth brother Goya is an artist who is the opposite of his brothers. Goya challenges the church and state and thrives for social justice. Of course, like before Arrabal uses strong surreal imagery to shock the viewer into political awareness. Many might find the scenes of the villagers desecrating religious statues shocking. A large crucifix is blown into pieces, a man urinates on a statue of Jesus, and a midget masturbates on a statue of the virgin Mary. Also the film tells the story of Goya's romance with a lady Vandale, who's a local witch. "Guernica" contains many disturbing and memorable images which stay with you long after the films over. Arrabal's Swiftian like obsession with dwarfs to represent the oppressed and under class tint the film with a dark satirical edge of uneasy laughter. Midgets fight along side the town people with large shotguns. Some of the dwarfs are killed in a bullfight and others are crucified. Another scene that still stays with me is when the bombs drop on the village and stock footage is used. The beautiful Vandale carries a dead child in her arms, in a scene that shows the devastating effect of war. The film contains some very unique experimental sounds and music that create an even more surreal effect. "The Tree of Guernica" is a little seen masterpiece that only a artist like Arrabal could create. Do watch!
Breathtaking images make this overly ego-centric film a treat.
"Can Hieronymous Merkin ever forget Merci Humppe and find true Happiness?" has to win an award for being the strangest title for a film ever. Partially semi autobiographical comedy in the vein of Fellini and Woody Allen. "Hieronymous Merkin" throws away conventional narrative to tell the story of a director making a film about his life; not to mention it's also a musical. Some parts are dated and hard to follow. Director Anthony Newly was married to Joan Collins. Collins also appears in the film. Collins has a certain expression like, how did I end up in this film? All criticism aside, "Hieronymous Merkin" is quite funny and breathtaking with it's amazing surrealist imagery. If Woody Allen, Fellini and Jodorowsky were to of collaborated on a musical with Jacques Demi, it may be something like this film. Newly can get annoying at times with his inflated ego and sex drive. He tells about marriage, infidelity, having kids, being in show business and his various sex-capades. Memorable dream like images include the Merry go round sequence, Merkin as a string puppet, his bed which lies in the ocean on the beach side and a crazy sequence with a nude girl who is a human wind up toy like object. I sure wish they would release this film on DVD. There are not many films like it. Love it or hate it, it's completely original; especially the super catchy song "Picadilly Lilly". Must be seen to be believed.
Forbrydelsens element (1984)
Amazing debut futuristic film noir from acclaimed danish director Lars Von Trier
Detective fisher is an exiled cop who has lost his memory. In the film's beginning, an Egyptian psychiatrist puts him under hypnosis. Then his story is told. We are taken to a futuristic film noir style Germany. Fisher is trying to catch a serial killer who preys on young girls. Along the way he develops a strange relationship with a prostitute. Lars Von Trier's debut "The Element of Crime" is similar to his "Zentropa", except it takes place in a bleak post apocalyptic future. Shot in brown sepia with occasional tints and splashes of color, at times I was reminded of "Sin City". But it's vision of the future closely resembles Jeunet and Caro's "Delicatessen" and "City of Lost Children". Also it recalls the work of Russian director Tarkovsky. "The Element of Crime" moves slow at times and is somewhat confusing. Even with its slight flaws, It's still a stunning and surreal cinematic experience that you'll probably have to watch more than once.
Once something horrible has been done, there is no going back.
French director Casper Noe's "Irreversible" may be one of the most unsettling rape revenge films ever made. The story is told backwards like the film "Momento". The film may cause viewers to get motion sickness from the crazy non stop movement of the camera. The main characters Alex, Marcus and Pierre are 3 friends whose story is told over the period of one day. Her ex boyfriend Pierre is sort of the voice of reason, although violent if put in the right situation. The brutal revenge takes place at a gay S&M club. After Marcus is in danger, shy Pierre steps in beating the wrong man to death with a fire extinguisher. This scene is disgusting and realistic showing every detail of the skull crush. Before this happened 2 gang members offer Marcus a chance for revenge, saying they can track down the guy who raped his girlfriend Alex. Then the film continues to work its way back to the beginning. The most unsettling part of "Irreversible" is when Alex (Monica Belluci) gets brutally anal raped. This seen goes on for about 8 minutes. She goes out alone after a party wearing a sexy outfit, not knowing what fate awaits her. During the rape scene the camera stays in one place and focuses mostly on Alex's face and screams. It's sad, brutal and hard to watch. You want to look away, but you can't. It seems Casper Noe wanted the viewer to feel the Traumatic pain that Belluici's character felt. After that, the film becomes normal going back in time to the beginning of a peaceful day. The only other 2 films that I can think of with rape scenes as horrific are the cult classics "I Spit on your Grave" and the Hong Kong film "Red to Kill". The only problem is that these 2 films are too exploitative so the message is lost in the execution. What I like about "Irreversible" is it shows how ugly violence and rape are. It doesn't exploit women or glamorize brutality. If the film were to be told in a regular order, it might of made revenge a justifiable act. But by Noe showing the revenge first, it shows the animal like rage of the human condition. If put in the right situation who knows what horrible things we're capable of? "Irreversible" is very graphic in its sexual and violent content. It is very challenging to get through the whole film. It's very sad and devastating as it grabs your emotions and beats you relentlessly in the back of the skull.
The Reflecting Skin (1990)
So dark, it makes Blue Velvet almost feel like a romantic comedy!
In the 1950's era, Seth Dove, a young seven year old deals with his highly dysfunctional family. The film takes place in the farmlands of Idaho. The strange neighbor women Dolphin Blue lives close to Seth. He's convinced that she is a vampire. Mainly because Seth reads to many comics and has a wild imagination. When Seth and his friends blow up a frog and it explodes on Dolphin, his mother forces him to go to her house and apologize. Dolphin is very strange and constantly talks of her dead husband. Meanwhile a serial killer is on the loose killing the towns children. Seth's dad is accused. To prove his innocents in a manic depressive way, he drinks gasoline and lights himself on fire. This scene kind of reminded me of Jodorowsky's "Santa Sangre". After the father's death, Seth's brother returns from the military and starts dating Dolphin. Seth is afraid that she wants to suck the life out of him. Seth also finds a dead baby in a pile of hay. He keeps it under his bed convinced it's an angel of his dead friend. British playwright and author Philip Ridley's debut film "The Reflecting Skin" is very bleak and disturbing. At times reminiscent of David Lynch; it's a surreal coming of age drama that shows a kids perspective on tragedy. This is probably one of the most depressing films I've seen next to "Dancer in the Dark". Although very bleak it's still an excellent film. Also check out Ridley's other film "The Passion of Darkly Noon".
A classic tale given a strange twist!
The classic tale of Faust, the man who sold his soul to the devil, is given a strange twist. In the film, an ordinary guy finds a map on a subway which leads him to an abandoned theater. He chants the phrases which cause the devil to appear. The devil offers him anything he wants in exchange for his soul. Then we are treated to creepy marionette puppets that act out the play. Czech animator Jan Svankmajer is most notorious for his nightmarish stop motion film "Alice"(1988). In "Faust" he also combines his usual elements of live actors, puppets and clay animation. Most memorable is the creepy baby made of clay. Svankmajer creates his own bizarre world that is creepy yet often humorous. So if you enjoy surrealism, stop motion animation or any film that is in a category of its own; you should definitely see Jan Svankmajer's unique vision of "Faust".
Ching se (1993)
Bizarre, Colorful and Stunning. An underrated masterpiece!
Director Tsui Hark is most well known for "Black Mask", "Zu Warriors" and "Once upon a time in China", but not too many have seen "Green Snake". "Green Snake" is one of the most breathtaking Hong Kong films next to "Hero". It has many similar elements to Zu Warriors, since so many of the characters can fly. The story is based on an ancient Chinese folk tale. Two sisters are snakes, but they disguise themselves as humans, since snakes are looked down upon. A master monk is out to destroy the sisters fearing that they're a threat. White snake wants to be normal, she marries a clumsy monk who has no idea she's a snake. Green Snake is the wild sister, who enjoys morphing from snake to human form. Although the film's giant snake looks kind of fake, the film makes up for it with creativity. Bright colors, surreal dreamlike landscapes and martial arts magic are all part of "Tsui Hark's "Green Snake". It's also very trippy, like "Fellini Satyricon". "Green Snake" is an amazing film that needs to be seen!