This post is also available in: Português
10 Obscure Films You Need To See Immediately — GO GO GO!
Top ten lists are arbitrary by nature — so I’m not even going to pretend these are an actual top ten, but rather a list of films that may or may not become your all-time favorite movies and cause you to throw out your entire DVD collection. But here are some films that you may not have heard of that may become your all-time favorite movies and cause you to throw out your collection to start over.It only seems appropriate to start a list about obscure films and cinephilia with a this fascinating documentary by Xan Cassavetes (daughter of filmmaker John Cassavetes) about Z Channel and the rise of modern cinephilia. Z Channel was a very early pay-cable channel in the Los Angeles area that showed the value of treating film like an art form, being a pioneer in showing letterboxed versions of films as well as director’s cuts. In fact, Z Channel’s creator, Jerry Harvey, is responsible for the idea of the “director’s cut” as a thing when he first screened the director’s cut of Sam Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch to wide acclaim. Likewise, airing Michael Cimino’s directors cut of Heaven’s Gate on Z Channel changed the perception of that film from a notorious studio-bankrupting bomb to a modern epic. It’s a must-see for anyone interested in film and television history. There’s also a true crime element, as, unfortunately, the founder of Z Channel killed his wife and himself… but the real meat of the story is in Z Channel itself, and how it changed the media landscape for the better. Funeral Parade of Roses is a retelling of Oedipus Rex set in Tokyo’s gay and trans bar scene of the 1960s — but it’s also so much more than that. Director Toshio Matsumoto, a member of the experimental film collection known as the Art Theatre Group, made Funeral Parade of Roses as a combination of narrative film, documentary, collage, psychedelia, fumetti and, well, just about anything else you can think of. The traditional Oedipus story is interwoven with interviews with the actors, plus real people in the scene. Funeral Parade of Roses is as much a snapshot of a certain scene at a certain time as it is a movie. This film is only available via import or bootleg in the US, but the British label, Masters of Cinema (sort of a UK Criterion Collection) has put out a lovely DVD of it, and if you’re flush with cash, there’s a Japanese import box set of all four of Matsumoto’s features, all but one with English subtitles. There’s also a companion box featuring all of Matsumoto’s shorts, but it’s out of print and hard to find. Luckily, UbuWeb has posted all of them. This is Hideaki Anno’s (Neon Genesis Evangelion; His & Hers Circumstances) first live-action film, an adaptation of Topaz II by Ryu Murakami, a book I’ve not read. Fans of Anno’s anime work will see many of his visual trademarks (power lines; train tracks), and it’s clear Anno’s eye extends to photography. The DVD makes it look like something you’d see late-night on Cinemax… and I’m sure this cover has severely disappointed many a horndog. The film is about teenage girls who go into “compensated dating” – more Girlfriend Experience than straight up prostitution — and it’s not tawdry or erotic at all. To date, Anno has only made three live-action films (the others: Ritual, unreleased in the US, but available on import from Studio Ghibli’s live-action arm, and the live-action adaptation of Cutie Honey). This is my favorite, but all three are worth a look. Save the Green Planet an outstanding genre film by Joon-Hwan Jang. The catch is that it’s just about EVERY genre. It’s sci-fi, horror, romance, comedy, tragedy, and a police prodcedural… all at the same time. Any synopsis is going to be severely lacking, but here goes: The CEO of a large corporation is kidnapped and tortured by a man who believes said CEO is an alien sent to destroy Earth. Though the film does have some graphic violence, Jang usually telegraphs these scenes so you know when to look away if you’re a looking-away type of person. Jang has only done one other feature-length film, Hwayi: A Monster Boy, which doesn’t have a US release date scheduled, but did have its North American premiere at the 2014 Fantasia Film Festival in Quebec — and an import DVD is available via Amazon. I’ve not seen that one yet but Save the Green Planet! makes it clear that anything Jang makes must be seen — and Film School Rejects calls Hwayi “a rare example… of a nearly-perfect genre film”… so basically, I can’t wait to see it. Albert Brooks’ first feature film is bizarrely prescient. A parody of An American Family, a PBS documentary series that’s considered the very first instance of Reality TV, Real Life brings cameras into an average family’s home. In a dark illustration of the Heisenberg principle which states that nothing can be observed without changing it, the filming ends up destroying their lives. Real Life feels more akin to Albert Brooks’ meta-comedy stand-up work than his later film work. In fact, I’ll let Brooks’ own innovative trailer for Real Life explain for me:
Matt Keeley fancies himself a reporter who thinks too much about media. More of his ramblings can be found at Kittysneezes.com and on Twitter @kittysneezes.
Read more stories by just signing up
or Download the App to read the latest stories