38. Turtles Can Fly (Bahman Ghobadi, 2004, Iraq/Iran)
there’s a scene in this movie where they’re flipping through tv channels and a puddle of mudd video is shown briefly to represent objectionable american entertainment, which i thought was pretty funny.
the rest of this film though…yikes, reaches grave of the fireflies levels of inescapable wartime despair in innocent children. the child actors who play the main characters are pretty charismatic.
16. The Spirit Of The Beehive (Victor Erice, 1973, Spain)
“Someone to whom I recently showed my glass beehive, with its movement like the main gear of a wheel clock – Someone who saw the constant agitation of the honeycomb, the mysterious, maddened commotion of the nurse bees over the nests, the teeming bridges and stairways of wax, the invading spirals of the queen, the endlessly varied and repetitive labors of the swarm, the relentless yet ineffectual toil, the fevered comings and goings, the call to sleep always ignored, undermining the next day’s work, the final repose of death far from a place that tolerates neither sickness nor tombs – Someone who observed these things, after the initial astonishment had passed, quickly looked away, with an expression of indescribable sadness and horror.”
you don’t need me to tell you how beautiful this movie looks. it also stitches together a dense work of political allegory, child psychology/character study, and meta-commentary on cinema. i always thought that the necessity for subtlety in this movie for political reasons is really interesting.
32. 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days (Cristian Mungiu, 2007, Romania)
incredibly ruthless, bleak, and emotionally taxing and seriously one of the best movies you’ll ever see. the glacial pace works in its favor because every moment is so intense and watchable that a 20 minute scene with a static camera seems shorter than it actually is. actually pretty relieved that it’s every bit as good as i remembered it six years ago.
20. War Photographer (Christian Frei, 2001, Switzerland)
first movie in this series where i didn’t get a feel of the country this was supposed to be from. it’s definitely a swiss production, but for the most part it focuses on the horrors from the rest of the world (indonesia, kosovo, west bank). which sorta defeats the purpose of this exercise. anyway this was a good and extremely harrowing travelogue, and it delves deeper into the james nachywey psyche and MO than i expected. watch it on youtube
35. The Battle Of Algiers (Gillo Pontecorvo, 1966, Algeria/Italy)
so i’ll say like 95% of war movies, even ones i really like, are guilty of overt jingoism, oversimplifying armed conflict as a one-sided battle between good and evil. this is probably the most even-handed war pic i’ve ever seen with a wide political scope, while at the same time not losing sight of the true victims of war. pretty remarkable.
And suddenly all changed, like in a trance, Even trivial things, so often used and tried, When standing ‘tween us, guarding us, Was water, solid, stratified. It carried us I don’t know where. Retreating before us, like some mirage, Were cities, miraculously fair. Under our feet the mint grass spread, The birds were following our tread, The fishes came to a river bend, And to our eyes the sky was open.
Behind us our fate was groping, Like an insane man with a razor in his hand.
13. Citizen Dog (Wisit Sasanatieng, 2004, Thailand)
always been pegged as the thai amelie but i do think this is better as citizen dog doesn’t succomb to outright goopiness and instead fully embraces its own whimsical charm to the most extreme. been a while since i’ve seen amelie tho
it’s alright. i got nothing much to say besides it being a nice, straightforward allegory (sexual impotence = political impotence) and its low budget really shows through abysmal sound. it’s on netflix and the white colored subtitles will drive you crazy
pretty hard-pressed to think of a 2000’s period torture-porn type flick that surpasses this besides maybe Martyrs. nasty and uncompromising, but it accomplishes its menace through deft film-making, creating a genuinely uncomfortable atmosphere of desolation and disconnection from society that 95% of all horror movies just can’t do as convincingly.
i watched this with my dad and he enjoyed it as well.
17. City Of God (Fernando Meirelles, 2002, Brazil)
i was actually gonna watch black orpheus but turns out i don’t have it so i guess it’s time for a rewatch of this. call it a palette cleanser
for better or worse it’s literally an early 90’s quentin tarantino movie in brazil and it’s lively and kinetic and super flashy with cool little flairs in storytelling and all that shit. however i think this movie’s saturated, coked-out style is real incongruous with whatever kind of social commentary it’s intending to communicate.
the praise it gets for being a realistic, gritty portrayal of the hard slums of rio is really confusing to me because the way it aestheticizes (is this a word?) violence into spectacular setpieces makes it seem everything but that, matter of fact it trivializes life and death and reduces it to popcorn fodder. i mean is this movie supposed to convey the crime, crippling poverty and unspeakable suffering in a place the rest of the world has forgotten? it doesn’t look like it, because it makes murder in the ghetto look pretty fucking rad for some crazy reason.
it gets mired in its own superficial style, lots of fireworks but nothing really important to say. it’s very entertaining, though. bus 174 is eleven million times better so watch that instead.
31. Knife In The Water (Roman Polanski, 1962, Poland)
how great is this movie and how great is that score?
saw this on a fully blank slate, knowing nothing other than the fact that, gun to my head, rosemary’s baby is the greatest horror movie ever made. this is more of a tense claustrophobic drama, economical in both its production values and efficient storytelling. watch it tomorrow.
“The white caribou is rare. It is born against nature. The white caribou is beautiful but inside it’s cold and aggressive. One day, Kidlat, you will understand that the beauty of the white caribou is like the sweetness of the chewing gum the American soldiers gave you.”
my tolerance for long movies is extremely low so i wasn’t excited to watch this 201 minute movie. moreover, all of the action unravels in real time, which means the routine processes of cooking, bathing, eating, and cleaning are shown in full with no interruptions.
but showing these actions the way they are is absolutely crucial to akerman’s slow unraveling of a woman living under the rigid confinement of gender roles and expectations. it’s a pretty powerful feminist statement.