…by the completely true and objective measure of me, a person who sometimes enjoys watching movies! More seriously, these really are my favorite movies ever – and I’ve noticed the theme seems to be that I like international/foreign films, that I enjoy comedy or dark comedy, and I don’t mind if a premise is a bit surreal (magical realism in film form, maybe?).
I hope you will give these movies a chance! I think they’re genuinely not just movies I enjoyed but movies that are very good and that more people should see.
Divided We Fall by Jan Hrebejk
I started off the introduction mentioning comedy, yet the first movie on my list is one set during the Holocaust? Yes, and not only that, it is also the greatest movie ever made about the Holocaust. It takes place in Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia, where childless couple Josef and Marie take in and hide a young Jewish man.
It is a comedy in two very particular senses: the darkest sense, that there is a terrifying absurdity to the Nazi occupation and bureaucracy that is made even worse by how deadly it is, and in the human sense, because the characters in this are beautifully realized and humor is a very human thing. It also has a truly remarkable ending that I could not have predicted in a million years.
3 Idiots by Rajkumar Hirani
This movie is much more of a straight comedy (and a musical, coming out of Bollywood!). Yet, on the other hand, one of its main themes is a rigid, pressure-filled system of higher education and the effect that has on students and their mental health, a topic it doesn’t take lightly; instead, it uses its humor to highlight the absurdity of this system.
It’s also just incredibly fun. The dance numbers are catchy, the characters are charming, the plot is interesting (with the framing device of two men looking for their friend, who went missing after college) – it’s the kind of movie that you come out of feeling better about humanity, and who couldn’t use a little of that right now?
Millennium Actress by Satoshi Kon
This movie is the story of a TV reporter and his cameraman and their interview of a famous, yet now completely reclusive, actress. Does that sound like a small story for a feature-length film? It’s certainly not what you would associate with an “epic” story, yet as they gain their interview, the movie itself begins to travel through the memories – possibly not always reliable – that she describes during the interview.
It uses the freedom that animation provides (to be able to put anything on the screen, not worrying about special effects) to blend together the actual experiences of the actress in the past along with her memories of her film roles in a beautifully surreal way, so I also think this is a movie that could only ever work as animation – a real marriage of form and content.
Cemetery of Splendor by Apichatpong Weerasethakul
I saved this one for last because my recommendation is a little different – I actually haven’t seen this movie yet. I originally wanted to put a previous movie of Weerasethakul’s on this list – Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives – but unfortunately, it’s not available in our library system. It was a strange and special movie – surreal and fascinating – so I had to recommend something by this director. And considering Cemetery of Splendor‘s long list of awards nominations, I’m looking forward to watching this one a great deal. And as far as Uncle Boonmee – someday, WISCAT will be back, and then hopefully it will be available through inter-library loan!