Stalker :: 1979
Director: Andrey Tarkovskiy
Actors: Aleksandr Kaydanovskiy, Alisa Freyndlikh, Anatoliy Solonitsyn
Genres: Adventure, Drama, Fantasy, Mystery, Sci-Fi
This movie has hauntingly beautiful images and feels like a sleepwalk into the heart of darkness. The story itself is quite simple: a guide, or Stalker, takes two people, a Writer and a Professor, into a forbidden area called “the Zone”, at the heart of which is “the Room”, where your deepest wish will come true.
The idiosyncratic picture language, the slow and subtle camera movement and the encrypted symbolism create a mood between dream, melancholia and inner calmness. As Tarkovsky said, it creates a state were “space is frozen in a dynamic equilibrium.” This movie is a journey into an inner world and a massage for your brain.
The Battle of Algiers (La battaglia di Algeri) :: 1966
Director: Gillo Pontecorvo
Actors: Yacef Saadi, Brahim Hadjadj, Jean Martin
Genres: Drama, History, War
The movie reconstructs the events that occurred in the capital city of French Algeria between 1954 and 1957, during the Algerian War of Independence. The story was inspired by “Souvenirs de la Bataille d’Alger” by Saadi Yacef, who joined the FLN at the start of the Algerian War in 1954 and who was one of the leaders. He was imprisoned by French troops and he claims to have written his memoirs of the battle while in prison. Yacef is playing a character in the movie based on himself.
I love this movie because all the elements are put together with such a great respect for the subject. The images are simply beautiful. The director experimented with various techniques to give the film the look of newsreel and documentary film. The music and the sound create an atmosphere that goes under your skin. And the story is never biased towards the french or the algerian side. The director Pontecorvo resisted any temptation to romanticise the protagonists. The film’s essential fair-mindedness is perhaps its most striking and skillful feature.
The Exterminating Angel (El ángel exterminator) :: 1962
Director: Luis Buñuel
Actors: Silvia Pinal, Jacqueline Andere and Enrique Rambal
Genres: Comedy, Drama, Fantasy, Mystery
I like the subtle way of portraying the middle class in this movie. The surrealistic way to tell the story teases the audience to find an explanation for the extraordinary events. But an explanation seems to be ever-elusive.
The story is about a group of guests who arrive for dinner, enjoy it but they are not able to leave. They settle down for the night, sleeping on the furniture and the floor. They are mysteriously compelled to spend days in the house of their host. The guests cannot leave the room, quite simply, because they cannot leave the room. It is a situation in which logic does not operate. They’re trapped in their own bourgeois cul-de-sac.
The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (Le charme discret de la bourgeoisie) :: 1972
Director: Luis Buñuel
Actors: Fernando Rey, Delphine Seyrig and Paul Frankeur
Genres: Comedy, Drama, Fantasy
When you look at “The Exterminating Angel” and “The Discret Charm of the Bourgeoisie” side by side, “The Discret Charme” shows the other side of the mirror. It is about a group of middle class people, who constantly gather to have dinner, but they are always interrupted by something and are never able to eat.
The film consists of several thematically linked scenes: five gatherings of the group of bourgeois friends, and the four dreams of different characters. Sometimes it is hard to tell if you are currently in a dream or in a real scene and these different layers of reality and surreality create the most interesting aspect of the movie.
What I also love in this film is how Buñuel shows that the people wear their social position like a costume.
Timecrimes (Los cronocrímenes) :: 2007
Director: Nacho Vigalondo
Actors: Karra Elejalde, Candela Fernández, Bárbara Goenaga
Genres: Drama, Mystery, Sci-Fi, Thriller
This movie is an insider tip. I didn’t expect anything when started watching it and I was surprised with a really exciting and mind-blowing movie. It is better not to spoil to much before watching it. The only thing you need to know is that it is a science fiction thriller with a time loop paradox.
Very interesting to see how you can make an awesome science fiction film with a low budget and without any special effects.
12 Angry Men :: 1957
Director: Sidney Lumet
Actors: Henry Fonda, Lee J. Cobb and Martin Balsam
I never would have thought that a movie only playing in one single room can be this exciting. This film is stagey, static and dialogue-laden. It has no flashbacks, narration, or subtitles. But it is nevertheless really thrilling.
The film tells the story of a jury made up of 12 men as they deliberate the guilt or acquittal of a defendant on the basis of reasonable doubt.
They are literally locked into a small jury room on a stifling hot summer day until they come up with a unanimous decision – either guilty or not guilty. You see the defendant just for a short moment at the beginning of the film.
Only one dissident juror votes ‘not guilty’ at the start of the deliberations because of his reasonable doubt. He forces the other men to slowly reconsider and review the shaky case.
The Hole (Dong) :: 1998
Director: Ming-liang Tsai
Actors: Lin Kun-huei, Kang-sheng Lee, Hui-Chin Lin
Genres: Drama, Fantasy, Musical
If you want to watch a movie that is different and weird, then this is the right movie for you.
A rain-sodden Taipei City is under siege by a mysterious virus. The symptoms include fever and an acute photophobia that drives sufferers to scuttle like cockroaches in search of dark, isolated hiding places. As a result sections of the city are quarantined and their essential services cut off by the government. The film is set in an apartment block in a quarantine zone where residents remain in defiance of quarantine regulations.
To stop a pipe leak from the neighbor who lives above her apartment, a young woman sends a plumber to him. In search of the leaking pipe the plumber leaves a hole in the floor that connects their two apartments.
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (Le scaphandre et le papillon) :: 2007
Director: Julian Schnabel
Actors: Mathieu Amalric, Emmanuelle Seigner and Marie-Josée Croze
Genres: Biography, Drama
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly is a biographical drama film based on Jean-Dominique Bauby’s memoir of the same name. The film depicts Bauby’s life after suffering a massive stroke at the age of 43, which left him with a condition known as locked-in syndrome. It is a condition in which a patient is aware and awake but cannot move or communicate verbally due to complete paralysis of nearly all voluntary muscles in the body except for the eyes. Bauby was left with only his left eye and the only way that he could communicate was by blinking his left eyelid. The book took about 200,000 blinks to write and an average word took approximately two minutes.
Although the story of this film sounds totally depressing and oppressive, the film itself isn’t depressing at all. The script takes the point of view of Bauby himself and the audience experiences the world through his eyes. The director draws Bauby’s view with colorful and dreamy images and an array of captivating music and sounds.
The evocative title comes from Bauby’s notion that while his body was submerged and weighted down, his imagination and memory were still free and as light as a butterfly’s wings.
Before Night Falls :: 2000
Director: Julian Schnabel
Actors: Javier Bardem, Johnny Depp
Genres: Biography, Drama
Before Night Falls is based on the autobiography of the same name by Cuban poet and novelist Reinaldo Arenas.
Cuba is usually shown as a country where the people are poor but happy, full of caribbean lust for life and always dancing. Julian Schnabel draws a different and a little less idyllic picture of Cuba.
The initially liberal face of the revolution starts to change with a failed attack from the USA. From now on an atmosphere of paranoia and repression dominates the country. Unwanted artists, homosexuals and subversives are hunted. Police brutality and torture are commonplace. The ones that are able to, leave the country.
A look at the film makes one sense that Julian Schnabel actually is a successful full-time painter because of the large, opulent and extravagant pictures.
3-Iron (Bin-jip) :: 2004
Director: Ki-duk Kim
Actors: Seung-yeon Lee, Hyun-kyoon Lee
Genres: Drama, Romance
This is one of the most beautiful love stories I have ever seen. The film is like a gentle but profound hallucination and the calmative feeling you get from this movie stays with you for some hours, or even days.
A reason for that could be the the lack of dialogue between its two main characters. In fact, there are lengthy passages in which no one speaks. The two lead characters – Tae-suk (Jae Hee) and Sun-hwa (Lee Seung-yeon) – are mute for most of the film. Tae-suk never talks and Sun-hwa only has a few lines near the end. By eliminating dialogue, Kim forces his characters to interact on a non-verbal level, and it intensifies the manifestations of their emotions. Every nuance of body language and each facial expression gains added meaning. These two communicate perfectly, but have no need of words to do so.
Buffalo ’66 :: 1998
Director: Vincent Gallo
Actors: Vincent Gallo, Christina Ricci
Genres: Comedy, Romance
This is such an hilarious, bizarre and sweet love story. Vincent Gallo did most of it. He directed it, wrote it, made the music and plays the main character.
The story is about a guy who just served five years in prison for a crime he did not commit. He was hiding the fact that he was in prison from his parents. To sustain his cover story, he kidnaps a young tap dancing student to pose as his wife. And the story takes its course.
Dog Day Afternoon :: 1975
Director: Sidney Lumet
Actors: Al Pacino, John Cazale and Penelope Allen
Genres: Crime, Drama
The film was inspired by P.F. Kluge’s article “The Boys in the Bank”, which tells a similar story of the robbery of a Brooklyn bank. The robbery turns into a hostage situation, the media fights for the story, and the ever-growing crowd becomes supportive for the bank robbers.
The script does an amazing job of bringing comedy to the story. It never feels out of place or forced, just a natural extension of the character. Pacino runs through a marathon of emotions, as does the audience. Fear, anger, hostility, rebellion, and fine-lined good nature are portrayed flawlessly.
The story takes its bizarre turn when the audience learns the reason behind the robbery.
I am Cuba (Soy Cuba) :: 1964
Director: Mikhail Kalatozov
Actors: Sergio Corrieri, Salvador Wood, José Gallardo
This movie is visually stunning. You can take basically every frame and make a postcard out of it. The film is shot in black and white, sometimes using infrared film which exaggerates the contrast. Visually also very interesting is the use of an extreme wide-angle lens.
Some tracking shots are unbelievable. There is for example a scene where the camera moves along a street, goes inside a house to the roof and then from there flies over the street and everything without a single cut. This is quite impressive if you consider the fact that this movie was made in 1964.
Waltz with Bashir :: 2008
Director: Ari Folman
Actors: Ari Folman, Ron Ben-Yishai, Ronny Dayag
Genres: Animation, Biography, Drama, War
Waltz with Bashir is kind of a fictionalised docu-autobiography. It depicts Folman in search of his lost memories of his experience as a soldier in the 1982 Lebanon War. Ari Folman suggests that Israelis have indeed forgotten, in a kind of huge, willed amnesia. The movie makes an acid-trip down memory lane. The pictures are sort of beautiful although it is a war movie and the horror of the war stays far away from you. You concentrate on the reconstruction of Folmans memory. You are not shocked and distressed all the time by war pictures, because they images are animated graphics, up to a certain point…