RONNY'S ARTHOUSE FILMS LIST #2
(Posted: 31 January 2013)

RONNY'S ARTHOUSE FILMS LIST #2, or The Favorite Arthouse Films Watched In 2012. A solid title, eh?

About a year ago I made a list called "Ronny's Top 99 Arthouse Films" and it ended up being a rather popular one, and I enjoyed writing it, so I decided that I wanted to make another arthouse list. A sequel, kinda. I had no interest in updating the old one to make an updated "Top 99 Arthouse Films" list. As I said in that list, a lot of movies are watched constantly so the list would NOT look the same today. Instead of just updating it, which would repeat so many titles, I am doing a fresh list. This is a list of my favorite arthouse films that I have watched since I made the first list. Pointless? Sure, it's not an absolute list over my favorites ever made as the other one was, but I think this still works as a superb list for recommendations, and what's wrong with that? With sites doing random lists such as those about "random underrated horror", etc., why not a list this?

Again, I had some rules I wanted to follow before making it. First of all - like the first list, I only use 3 titles by a single director. You don't want a list consisting of a handful of directors only! So if I loved 5 movies from the same director, only my top 3 favorites of his/hers are on here. The second rule is this: we already made a Best of 2012, so I am leaving all titles from that list OUT of this one. You can just go to that list and see what's arthouse, as I don't want to repeat them. If some 2012 titles are on here, then it's very likely that they were considered for the Best of 2012 but didn't make it.

So to sum it up: this is a list of my favorite arthouse films watched since the first list (basically since early 2012 - early 2013, then), NOT a Best of 2012 list OR an updated version of last year's Top 99 Arthouse Films (though many titles here would have made their way to that list too).

As last time, in right order (why 66? This is 2/3 as important as the first list!):


#66. RES ALDRIG PÅ ENKEL BILJETT (Never Travel on a One Way Ticket)

 

1987
Director: Håkan Alexandersson

Rarely has Sweden dabbled into the post-apocalyptic genre, although I don't dare to say never because someone would stick their fat face out and prove me wrong. A rarity it is, however, and even more so pushed to the limit in the ways of this one. Yet again I put a black sheep on the list - a movie I don't love, but that I think deserves to be here. This one shows a different side of my home country, and a lot of it is truly fascinating, sometimes even creepy. There's even a scene or two that were quite powerful. Though the major flaws, such as the poorly poetic narration, keeps it from greatness, I wanted to recognize it on this list.

 
#65. LA BELLE CAPTIVE

 

1983
Director: Alain Robbe-Grillet

This thriller won't hold your hand along the way, but that's okay. It's part of what makes some Robbe-Grillet titles work best. I'd struggle to get deep into this movie in a single paragraph, so let's just sum it up by saying this movie focuses heavily on "is and/or isn't". As expected from a film that is more an adaption of art than it is of the written word, you're in for a dreamlike experience where it's okay to say that one of the strongest parts of the movie is indeed in what's on screen rather than what it all means. Maybe flawed by being too much of that.

 
#64. ALMANAC OF FALL (Öszi almanach)

 

1984
Director: Béla Tarr

This earlier film by Béla Tarr is in many ways your standard chamber drama that seems very likely inspired by Ingmar Bergman's many films of the kind, but there is no confusing the two. Though this one is from the 80's, it already shows several things that are now trademarks of Tarr - and not just visually. The means of portraying the characters seems to be what makes it work alongside his later works (which I am a bigger fan of), though this does seperate it in several ways too. Two things being that it's color (after this he entered his later phase of filmmaking, with the movie "Damnation", and has since stayed with a similar style) and it contains quite a lot of talking. This movie takes place in a house where we meet all of these characters in a way to depict a society. Granted, I am not as touched by this as his later works and I feel it is missing some of the power, but I can't deny my fascination with the poetic, bleak (yet maybe romanticized) depression that Tarr puts his characters in yet again.

 
#63. EL CICLO

 

2003
Director: Víctor García

This is just a little tidbit of gruesome, but one that I feel stuck out enough in the neverending world of shorts. Yet again a movie that incorporates the body horror aspect, probably one of the most intense subgenres of horror when done right. This one doesn't spend time explaining anything to you, but just takes you into an peculiar cycle and leaves you standing in the middle. Is it perfecting itself? Is it purgatory? Is it life? The fact that a body horror makes us think gives it a spot on this list.

 
#62. A REPORT ON THE PARTY AND THE GUESTS (O slavnosti a hostech)

 

1966
Director: Jan Nemec

This jab at totalitarism is hailed as one of the Czech New Wave's most easily accessible films in its political views. It's not hard to get the round-abouts of the point, but the way it uses the characters - the authority and the unprepared guests - makes this a highly absurd and interesting little tale. By breaking all logic, just having a group of people picnicing in the woods and moments later have it invaded by people of authority, the audience still knows what is going on. Still, or maybe because of this, it helps "A Report on the Party and the Guests" to standout as it will grab viewers of any preference in equally simple ways. An absurdist, political drama with doses of comedy that is yet (for its time) controversially real. It's one of those films that makes you understand what the (Czech) New Wave existed for.

 
#61. WOLF'S HOLE (Vlci bouda)

 

1987
Director: Vera Chytilová

You'd expect someone like Vera Chytilová to spin the horror genre if she ever ventured into it, and she did. A bit. It's surprisingly classic in its setup, with people going to a cabin in the snowy mountains, but it moves to stranger and stranger places. The mixture of semi-campy horror and a more drilling, psychological artsy movie is what intrigued me. It's not the most common of mixes, especially since campy horror is known to be.. you know, the opposite of pretentious. While this one could have been a bit more wild, it's still a headscratcher of a horror flick, and not one that is built around a strict narrative. Remembering that Chytilová was a huge part of the Czech New Wave does help in seeing some other layers to this story, namely the allegory to late 60's/early 70's Czechoslovakia, though I think digging too deep will have you lose interest - it's best served when you let it float between "horror" and "art".

 
#60. DEATH IN THE LAND OF ENCANTOS (Kagadanan sa banwaan ning mga Engkanto)

 

2007
Director: Lav Diaz

You can't really judge the work of Lav Diaz against any other director's work. Similar to some, his films are long, nearly methodic and political. But unlike director's such as Tarr, Tarkovsky and even Bartas, this film by Diaz is not visually mesmerizing to me. At all. "Death in the Land of Encantos" is a series of simple, very long and static shots portraying a man's return to his home after a disaster (shot right after the typhoon Durian hit Philippines, on location). Its semi-documentary style, mixed with surprisingly believable dialogue that doesn't shy away from everyday things such as pop culture as well as being poetic, and the odd atmosphere that naturally grows after a disaster has struck makes it a very unique experience.

 
#59. LONG CREPUSCULE (Hosszú alkony)

 

1997
Director: Attila Janisch

Surprisingly intriguing story of a woman trying to go back to the home of her childhood, but she never seems to be able to. It's a headscratcher, but with a very subtle approach. It really works by being a very short movie, of just 70 min, since it never broadens outside of its own, small story. Had it gone further to involve us it would have lost a lot of what makes it a good watch. Not a superb feature by any means, but a nice change of pace with an entertaining touch of surrealism. It works well by doing less.

 
#58. THE WOODEN ROOM (Derevyannaya komnata)

 

1995
Directors: Yevgeny Yufit & Vladimir Maslov

To no surprise, the master of necrorealism's "The Wooden Room" forces his character to the end of their lives again. But not without putting them through a miserable existence for his own personal experimentation first. Truly absurd, at times with reason - other times seemingly at random, and I have a hard time not feeling drawn towards this moody and twisted little film.

 
#57. OF FREAKS AND MEN (Pro urodov i lyudey)

 

1998
Director: Aleksey Balabanov

Strangely beautiful, bleak and odd are just a few words to describe one of Balabanov's most interesting efforts. It certainly shows that it doesn't mind being offensive, but it also doesn't hold it as a key feature to the movie - it's a wonderfully dreamlike exploration of power and corruption, both playful and harsh, displayed through the eyes of an era long passed. Humour, drama, exploition, morbidity, sexuality, creativity and satire, all thrown into some sort of bizarre romanticised (or is it anti-romanticised?) world.

 
#56. ZIRNEKLIS (The Spider / Pauk)

 

1991
Director: Vasili Mass

You don't come out of this movie thinking how masterful, deep and carefully executed it was. You come out of it thinking you've been messed with. It's perverse and not afraid to take you on a trippy ride. Constantly pending between a classic drama, erotica, a surrealist painting and a horror movie. Needless to warn, it's not an delicate little art movie, but a quick little trip a selected few would want to take. The psychosexual nature and the visual style will be enough to some.

 
#55. CITY OF PIRATES (La ville des pirates)

 

1983
Director: Raoul Ruiz

It's hard to look away for a second when Ruiz performs visual magic with just as much weight as it's playful. With this movie you could compare him to many of the greats, though maybe with a depth that is harder to reach. It's not the understanding of this movie, or the plot, that put it on my list. It was the fantastic artistic language that is used to portray it. Certain scenes show such bold creativity that a clap is in order. Shallow reasons to pick this one for the list? If you've seen it you understand that it's perfectly fine.

 
#54. WHISPERING PAGES (Tikhiye stranitsy)

 

1994
Director: Aleksandr Sokurov

Reading "Crime and Punishment" could probably clear some things up here, something which I haven't done. This movie is based off of the book, but it's not really a strictly narrative movie. It's a dream you feel and go along with. A gloomy movie set in the 1800's that invites us to a world of lesser fortune. The strength is in the images, which are essentially telling the story on their own. It's a technical achievement to put life in Sokurov's style, and this movie shows exactly why.

 
#53. PRÓXIMA

 

2007
Director: Carlos Atanes

Carlos Atanes' can fuck your head up like no one else, but with "Proxima" he brought out a more narrative self and impressed me a lot. It still remains true to his usual, off-beat style and attitude and together we get an exciting sci-fi effort that isn't too complex but still has enough to offer for the heavy ponderers. For the fans of philosophical and curious sci-fi this could be a really unique experience.

 
#52. THE CORRIDOR (Koridorius)

 

1995
Director: Sharunas Bartas

Successfully bringing out the isolated feeling of a collective, Sharunas Bartas' slow drama is great example of his mediative style. A gloomy, unconventional movie made soon after the end of Soviet that, to no surprise, is very driven by politics yet it doesn't let it steal the light (or lack thereof). It's hard to leave the movie completely untouched by its bleak nature and thoughtful metaphors.

 
#51. GOLEM

 

1980
Director: Piotr Szulkin

Seeing this classic tale told through a director like Szulkin tickles me in places I never knew existed. Throwing the old idea around, this dystopian oddity tells the story of the last truly humane character. More entertaining and surrealistic than it is comprehensive, I just can't deny how much I enjoyed the director's take. Smeared with his usual surrealistic visual language and style and covered with a layer of good ol' Kafka - it just makes for an interesting ride. No matter what message you get out of it.

 
#50. SUCCESSIVE SLIDINGS OF PLEASURE (Glissements progressifs du plaisir)

 

1974
Director: Alain Robbe-Grillet

Like "La belle captive", there was a definite intention of making a visual and hard-to-grasp movie with "Successive Slidings of Pleasure". However, this one stands way above the prior by actually having a mystery to get invested in. No doubt still a movie focusing on being art, but by being a little more narrative this one sucks us in. It almost seems as if every setup was focused on working both as a scene and a picture. And successfully so, as this brings out the best of many artforms. Sometimes just being beautifully photographed, and other times its bordering on performance art. This highly erotic movie seperates itself from much of its competition (and perhaps, sadly, that's why it's obscure) by being crafted by the hands of an artist - not an exploitation filmmaker.

 
#49. THREADS

 

1984
Director: Mick Jackson

This horrifying semi-mockumentary (it takes a documentary style in some ways, but not a full mockumentary) doesn't shy away from the shocking truth that a nuclear bomb is a disgusting piece of weaponry. Rarely shying away from the horrors it can bring, "Threads" is surprisingly graphic and dark for a British TV movie. There's no way of leaving the movie without being more aware than ever of what "could happen". It's a fucked up world we live in where these things can happen, but I applaud the makers of this one for bringing attention to it. Even though it hasn't changed anything. It's sometimes weak in characters, but it makes up for it by being a realistic nightmare in every other aspect.

 
#48. THE RETURN (Vozvrashchenie)

 

2003
Director: Andrey Zvyagintsev

How can you possibly relate to a person, and trust a person, who stumbled into your life out of nowhere? This is what two brothers have to deal with when their father suddenly arrives to spend time with them. Partially a realistic and simple movie, but it's just as much symbolistic and challenging in most personal of ways. Highlighting yet again that it's the tragedies in life that hit the hardest, even on the big screen.

 
#47. SPARKLE

 

2012
Director: Douglas Burgdorff

Douglas Burgdorff's "Sparkle" is a bizarre comedy/love triangle with extreme twists that only Burgdorff could make up. It's a short, to-the-point and hilarious little movie that I can watch over and over again. Sexually loaded with plenty of oddball, abusrd (and perhaps ridiculous) moments, on top of it all we have a short film possibly about the power of woman and weakness of man: sex.

 
#46. TONIGHT, WE STAY INDOORS

 

2012
Director: Joseph Larsen

Joseph Larsen's first horror related title is the complete opposite of a horror movie. It takes off after your usual slasher massacre, leaving us with the survivor girl as she struggles to get back to her normal self. The unusual movie presents to us a narrator who acts as another angle to the massacre, while the visuals - the girl - is that of the survivor. A very slow movie, with a personal style that I feel Joseph Larsen stands on his own with, even though there are movies that have influenced it.

 
#45. DAVID HOLZMAN'S DIARY

 

1967
Director: Jim McBride

The earliest example of a mockumentary that I can think of takes upon the subgenre with more care and fascination than most, if not all, of the modern ones. A ground-breaking experiment of great importance, and a personal approach to the obsession of artistry. It's an admirable movie, there's no denying that, and one that rubs the filmmaker in me in all the right places.

 
#44. MELANCHOLIA

 

2008
Director: Lav Diaz

It's not the political views of Lav Diaz that draws me to his movies, even though that seems to be a main focus in a lot of his work. But as always, with politics comes other things. His films bring out a side of humanity, in such a different way, that I feel sitting through his films are worth it in the end. This one especially appealed to me, as I found the setup of these three people trying to manage through the possible loss of people close to them. Confusing at times due to "the act" they put on, but a fresh and interesting look at how people react to certain situations. Above some of his other movies, here it was the characters that drew me in more than the atmosphere. Perhaps that's what made me feel more.

 
#43. PROGULKA PO ESHAFOTU

 

1992
Director: Isaak Fridberg

This movie will entangle your logics with your nightmares, and seems to be pretty proud of the fact. It's not a movie to dissect, but one to experience. It's a surreal, psychological ride about a couple in love who just happen to end up staying at a crazy man's place. Though not eventful at times, it makes it up by being creepy and hypnotic in its execution and atmosphere. Some powerful imagery keeps us entertained at its slower parts, and the increasingly insane characters will take care of the rest.

 
#42. JESTEM (I Am)

 

2005
Director: Dorota Kedzierzawska

With the story of a homeless child trying to find his place in the world, it would've been too easy to just make it depressing. "Jestem" often puts a smile on your face, but it's not afraid to take it away from you before too long. There are many sweet moments that elevates this from its somber plot, and the experience overall can only be explained as bittersweet. Piotr Jagielski, who plays the boy, makes this movie what it is. His genuinely likable personality stands out in a world where most people seem to push him away. Even though it's often sad, it feels good to watch a movie like "Jestem".

 
#41. UNDERGROUND

 

1995
Director: Emir Kusturica

This absurdist comedy packs as big of a visual punch as it does political kicks. Portraying the people of Yugoslavia during the WWII in a very celebratory way, yet not shying away from the problems that were present. It's hard to believe there can be so much joy and laughs in a movie that essentially is stirring around several shockingly real issues. There is no deny that the mixture of it all is what makes this such a good movie. Simply gorgeous filmmaking - touching, surreal and funny.

 
#40. CHETYRE (4)

 

2005
Director: Ilya Khrzhanovskiy

You can split the movie in half and you have two very different sides of it: both very interesting and unique. It's not just in story and pace it changes gears either: it jumps between an extremely well-executed cinematography and visual style, to a really gritty, gross realistic handheld style. This is an existentialistic movie that steps the toe's of realism and surrealism at the same time, and it's really entertaining at the same time. I really fell for this movie, and I couldn't possibly be more interested in what director Ilya Khrzhanovskiy does next.

 
#39. DIE ROTHAARIGE

 

2011
Director: Talissa Mehringer

Without narration or explantion, this is above all visual stimulance. The use of whites and reds, as well as grit and dirty, makes this a feast for the eyes. It's very well put together, a lot of thought obviously went to make sure it all worked. It's no surprise that Talissa Mehringer is an artist at heart, having made some truly amazing art pieces outside of film. She took her strengths and put it into moving pictures with this one. An impressive effort that makes you want more from her.

 
#38. DADDY, FATHER FROST IS DEAD (Papa, umer ded moroz)

 

1992
Director: Yevgeny Yufit

Having been made by a director who can't help but bring out the darkest of nature in his movies, you can't expect the story about the death of Father Frost (Russian version of Santa) to be cheerfel. Not like you would anyway, right? Letting mood drive the story instead of a consistent narrative structure, you need to be of particular taste to enjoy this. Death and the ways there remain the central themes in Yufit's work.

 
#37. THE STEAMROLLER AND THE VIOLIN (Katok i skripka)

 

1961
Director: Andrei Tarkovsky

Before "Stalker", before "Solaris", before "Andrei Rublev" and even before "Ivan's Childhood", Tarkovsky made this short film. People often confuse Tarkovsky with a visual director, and as much as I agree that his movies are extremely visual impressive there is always much more to it. In "The Steamroller and the Violin" we're not getting an ugly or poorly executed movie, but it might be here that we see it the most clear: Tarkovsky is not just making pretty movies, but movies of heart, sorrow and humans. Perhaps a sweet movie than much of his work in several ways, you can't deny that this was the start of a great career.

 
#36. CLIMATES (Iklimler)

 

2006
Director: Nuri Bilge Ceylan

The director's "Distant", while an interesting movies, lacks some of the realism and humanity that I found in the characters in his love drama "Climates". This movie tells the story of a broken relationship through 3 seasons (or climates). It's a different way of portraying a relationship, and it should be applauded when an often stale genre gets twisted around in a way that might bring it up to an almost philosophical level. Most of all, there was a sincerity in this one that I found very interesting and was very attached to. Not to mention the stunning cinematography - as with many of the movies on here.

 
#35. THE THIRD PLANET (Tretya planeta)

 

1991
Director: Aleksandr Rogozhkin

Before creating the mass-execution drama that is "Chekist", Rogozhkin's put on his boots and ventured into "the zone". Clearly inspired by well-known sources, this is still a very interesting piece. I can't explain it, but certain countries just manage to pinpoint exactly what I want in post-apocalyptic/dystopian flicks - Russia/Soviet is one of those countries. "The Third Planet" is made more accessible by being a mere 90 min, and perhaps moves too quickly because of it, nevertheless it's an entertaining movie. Perhaps that's why it worked for me: it shares a lot with some of the greater films, like "Stalker", but was made simpler and so it's a lazy-man's trip to "the zone". As much as it sounds like I am talking it down, I really enjoy that. It's more than a stupid Hollywood movie, but not as heavy to take in as Tarkovsky or even Lopushansky.

 
#34. UNDO

 

1994
Director: Shunji Iwai

Have you watched a lot of movies about Obsessive Knot-Binding Syndrome? If not (I can't recall any other), don't worry, I think this is the only one you need. I just love it when stories bring out weird obsessions and actual stick with that to the extent of it becoming the rise and fall of our character, the strength and weakness of the movie and much more than a thing of fetishism. Behind everything we have a movie pushing love to the edges.

 
#33. LOVE GOD

 

1997
Director: Frank Grow

What we have here is some crazy shit. Will Keenan plays one of many mental patients that are let out of the institution because they need to clear some space. He's a man with a reading disorder that forces him to destroy everything he reads - and he can't keep away from reading. If this alone sounds weird, then you have no idea what you'll be getting. This is fun, eccentric and silly in all the right ways. It's actually surprisingly well made, though it depends what you compare it to. It's above most Troma, yet Troma is probably where this has most things in common. This is not a movie you should miss if you want to check out some really strange movies!

 
#32. FISTFUL OF FLIES

 

1996
Director: Monica Pellizzari

"Fistful of Flies" gives us a rather simple teenage drama of a girl growing up, yet manages to come off as feeling as a twisted experience, almost surreal at times. When I say teenage drama, I kinda mean that the focus is the drama that the young girl is put through rather than that being the defining genre. The movie gets weird at times, and it's hard not to think of it equally as a comedy. The movie pushes everything to a max to get the point across, and it works. It gets around the act of being pretentious because it tickles our funny bone through absurdity instead. Make no mistake, it's still a touching and interesting movie.

 
#31. WAX, OR THE DISCOVERY OF TELEVISION AMONG THE BEES

 

1991
Director: David Blair

Strange? Oh yes. I have no idea what this really is, but whatever it is - it soothes me. It's an experimental little ride into the life of a nuclear technician, told through outdated computer animations, archived footage and lots of bees. The movie is quite silly if you think about it too much, but because it's told entirely serious and with a very typical documentary narration, it works so god damn well. I don't know where the biggest mindfuck lies: in the visuals, in the narration or in the plot. But I don't care, I love this. One of many excellent quotes: "I discovered the planet of television 4 hours after my death. I went down the other end of the tube. This brought me just outside the planet. Inside, the television was at work."

 
#30. THE SCIENCE OF SLEEP (La science des rêves)

 

2006
Director: Michel Gondry

A very entertaining and oddball movie by the director of "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind", and one I highly suggest for anyone who wants some artistic merit and surreal imagery in their love stories. Though not as impressive of a love story as it is a fun movie, I think the movie succeeds in welcoming you into the dream world of a quirky artist while he tries to get the girl (of his dreams)? A sweet, goofy movie.

 
#29. COSMIC DISSONANCE

 

2006
Director: Joseph Larsen

Joseph Larsen did with "Cosmic Dissonance" what he has since done with other genres such as slashers: he simplified it. This post-apocalyptic movie has all of the feeling of one, but it doesn't spend time on huge desolated sets and yellow colors. It's very much set in our world - in a near future. It's amazing what can be achieved with just a little imagination and balls big enough to do less. One of the loneliest no-budget efforts I have seen.

 
#28. IS-SLOTTET (The Ice Palace)

 

1987
Director: Per Blom

I never read the quite popular novel this was based on, and hadn't heard of the movie until recently, so I was very surprised when I found it. It's provocative for obvious reasons, but without ground - the movie is not about that. Successfully it studies adult themes through the eyes of a child, with an emphasis on curiousity, undeniable feelings, loss and loneliness.

 
#27. HEART OF A DOG (Sobachye serdtse)

 

1991
Director: Vladimir Bortko

Not being a reader means that there are a lot of film adaptions that I haven't read the books/stories they are based off of. By pure coincident, I read Bulgakov's story in school a while back and really loved it. When I bought this movie I didn't remember the novel, and it wasn't until maybe 10-15 minutes into it that I felt like I recognized it. Then it hit me - the novel I read in school! This movie feels like a pretty solid adaption, though I can't remember every detail. What's so great is that it manages to bring out such lighthearted comedy, almost stupidity at times, while working with a very twisted story: a dog made into a man. It's heavy in messages, while still keeping us smiling through out. A grand achievement!

 
#26. DE DØDES TJERN (Lake of the Dead)

 

1958
Director: Kåre Bergstrøm

I don't know much about the Norwegian film industry, but I am pretty sure that there was a lack of horror in the earlier days (in this case, 50's). But with "De dødes tjern" they surely make up for it - this is a great psychological study disguised as a horror movie, clearly learning from the best while still inventing its own road as it goes along. More a mystery thriller than a horror, this is nonetheless just as creepy as other top horrors of the same era. If you enjoy the old mysteries where you get to be part of the fun, then this will soak you right in. Wonderfully shot in the Scandinavian nature, so there is enough atmosphere to cover every little hole or flaw you might stumble upon, though they are few.

 
#25. CHEKIST

 

1992
Director: Aleksandr Rogozhkin

A truly dark, gritty drama about the Cheka police squad and the officer Andrey Srubov. Just as shocking in dialogue as it is in its MANY graphic executions, you're on the edge of your seat with this one. It doesn't show a single light of hope, and just goes deeper and deeper into the depression it already put you in as it started. This is an important film that brought out the evils of communism, something very rare not only in movies. Prepare yourself before going into this one.

 
#24. THE COOK, THE THIEF, HIS WIFE & HER LOVER

 

1989
Director: Peter Greenaway

Peter Greenaway's absurd cannibal dramedy has more to offer than just an absurdist cannibal dramedy - visually, psychologically and politically. You might be sucked in by the amazingly gorgeous style (vidid colors, impressive cinematography and the sets) but you'll be staying because this is, when all is said and done, one hell of an entertaining movie. It stimulates all the right places, be it through being bizarre, very funny or even erotic. It's all so nicely layered over the, perhaps obvious, messages on Thatcher's ways of politics. This is just further proof of what an interesting filmmaker Peter Greenaway really is.

 
#23. TEN MONOLOGUES FROM THE LIVES OF THE SERIAL KILLERS

 

1994
Director: Aryan Kaganof

A unique semi-documentary experimental piece of art by Aryan Kaganof, featuring as many real words from serial killers as it does fictional. This is a movie for those with a fascination for serial killers, how they tick and what made them what they became (so essentially, it's a movie for everyone - we all have morbid curiousity). Though it is very experimental and extreme in style, that never overshadows the monologues presented before us. Doesn't matter if it's the documented ramblings or the fictional ones, they're equally strong and disturbing.

 
#22. O-BI, O-BA - THE END OF CIVILIZATION (O-Bi, O-Ba - Koniec cywilizacji)

 

1985
Director: Piotr Szulkin

Perhaps a more accessible dystopy than the director's "Golem" which you also saw on the list, I can still guarantee a mindbending movie packed with crazy characters, social commentary, apocalyptic melancholy and... a strange sense of humour. As expected from a director who has mashed our beloved future with the vibe of a mental institution. Again. This fantastic little movie deals with your usual post-apocalyptic/dystopian themes yet it differs itself greatly with bleak joy and wit.

 
#21. PICNIC (Pikunikku)

 

1996
Director: Shunji Iwai

Three mental cases escape to find the best way to witness the end of the world. Such a fantastic plot that it really has to come from Japan. This movie achieves to portray the plot perfectly by being a thing of beauty. It's a nice, sweet and accepting movie about the supposed end of the world, done with such genuine poetic heart that it took me by surprise. Bits of the movie will stick in my mind for the rest of my life.

 
#20. GOODBYE, 20TH CENTURY (Zbogum na dvaesetiot vek)

 

1998
Director: Darko Mitrevski & Aleksandar Popovski

Though it has been made popular through the artwork of Santa holding a gun, this is actually a very interesting movie. It has a magnific cult vibe and mixes several subgenres, though mostly from a sci-fi standpoint. Split in segments makes it possible for "Goodbye, 20th Century" to really study its themes, mainly religion, the future. The movie is in fact a fun experience, and the director's made sure to underline that by making this as odd as they could. It's excessive and that's the great part about it: it doesn't care to be classed with other movies of similar themes.

 
#19. ANDREI RUBLEV (Andrey Rublyov)

 

1966
Director: Andrei Tarkovsky

Few films deserve to be classed as "epic" as much as this one, telling the story of an Icon painter through 7 chapters in 3h 25min - covering 24 years of this historical figure. Or rather, it covers the times he lived. Though it is a movie about this artist from the 15th century, this movie highlights the life of him rather than the art. One could say it focuses more on an artist not being an artist. This doesn't hold "Andrei Rublev" back, as it's a mighty force that you can't leave untouched. Its historical accuracy can be discussed, but the way it presents art as part of life (or something existing because of the darkness of life) is just wonderful. And accurate. Dumbing down this controversial piece of work by giving it a mere paragraph is not fair, but that's what I have to do right.

 
#18. THE NIGHT PORTER (Il portiere di notte)

 

1974
Director: Liliana Cavani

A character study set in Nazi Germany that provokes thought and emotion, erasing the line between torturer and victim. "The Night Porter" dips its ink in so many areas that I am surprised it's not more popular than it is, especially considering how well it puts it together. With Charlotte Rampling in her prime, both acting-wise and physically, this movie alone is enough for me to respect her as an actress - that she has starred in a great variety of movies outside of this only helps. Made in a time and country where you'd be more likely to see Nazisploitation and WIP movies, this one brought out all of the emotion and humanity that all the other titles lacked.

 
#17. EN PASSION (The Passion of Anna)

 

1969
Director: Ingmar Bergman

In certain ways a sequel to "Skammen", though only in the most odd of ways - you don't need to see both to understand the movies, they are really seperate movies. They do, however, feature a lot of similarities such as actors/roles. "En passion" is highly experimental in its approach to filmmaking by someone who was already, at the time, very established. Out of nowhere, the movie cuts to interviews with the actors about their roles, and towards the end we get a scene that follows a scene from "Skammen". No explantions, and none needed. Don't let that fool you, though, because there is a lot to find in this movie outside of experiments and creativity - the focus on our characters, who they really are, is one of the strongest focuses. Also features one of my favorite endings of a Bergman film.

 
#16. ZERO KILLED

 

2012
Director: Michal Kosakowski

It's rare for documentaries to be as inventive as "Zero Killed", a documentary where people were asked to talk about their murder fantasies and then make short films around their kill of choice. It sways between being something uncomfortably real and dark, and being a joy for underground film nuts. The interviews are really heartfelt and interesting, while the short films are inspiring. Disturbing at times, but take this documentary as a lesson in morals AND filmmaking. How often can you say that about a movie? Be on guard for the release of this one!

 
#15. EINSTEIN'S BRAIN (Relics: Einstein's Brain)

 

1994
Director: Kevin Hull

This hilarious documentary is about a Japanese man's dream to see Einstein's brain in real life. He goes to US to find it, but it doesn't appear to be as easy as he expected. The meetings and exchanges he has with people are just so sweet, quirky and absurdly funny that it's amazing to think it's a documentary. The language barrier doesn't hold back Kenji Sugimoto's enthusiasm, and in the end his trip is far from a waste. There's not a doubt, this odd and almost surreal documentary about a man's obsession with Einstein's brain instantly became one of my favorite documentaries. It's just so much fun!

 
#14. IVAN'S CHILDHOOD (Ivanovo detstvo)

 

1962
Director: Andrei Tarkovsky

Tarkovsky's first feature is a bold move, telling the story of a 12 year old going into war, voluntarily. Showing the nature of a child: all the fears, angers and the decisiveness. This shows something as adult as death and revenge through such a small person, but still manages to be a believable story. It captures all aspects of war, from the causes behind it to the results of it. If "The Steamroller and the Violin" was proof of a great career in the making, this was the rocket that launched it. Undoubtedly the most amazing looking war movie that I have seen, I will never forget some of the images in this movie.

 
#13. WERCKMEISTER HARMONIES (Werckmeister harmóniák)

 

2000
Director: Béla Tarr

My first venture into Béla Tarr's world was with this movie, by Tarr and co-director/editor Ágnes Hranitzky, and it remains one of my favorites of his. It differs from some of his perhaps more depressing work by being the most fantastical in atmosphere. It carries a vibe unlike anything he has made before or since, and one that hooked me from the very first second. A handful of scenes in this movie might possibly be some of the best he has ever created, though it is not his best movie: the hospital scene especially carries a power unlike much else. A feverish dream of a movie.

 
#12. LETTER NEVER SENT (Neotpravlennoye pismo)

 

1959
Director: Mikhail Kalatozov

This movie is the master of beautiful silhouettes and fires, there's no doubt about it. There's not a moment in this strangely semi-handheld-shot Soviet film that we're not amazed by the visuals. But under that we have an intense story of four geologists trapped in Siberia when a forest fire breaks out, and the journey they go through is amazingly portrayed. An emotionally charged adventure with equally fantastic cinematography as editing, sound, acting and direction. I know that this director especially has gotten a lot of shit for making propaganda, which might be true, but I also believe it was painted by the colors of its time. It's not like they had much choice either, so you have to consider the different times.

 
#11. MOTHER AND SON (Mat i syn)

 

1997
Director: Aleksandr Sokurov

The first time I watched a film by Sokurov he gave me one of the most beautiful depictions of losing a parent I have ever seen, while also perhaps being one of the top 10 most visually stunning movies on this list - each scene looks as if it's an oil painting. And it's clear that it was intended to, which makes it even more amazing. There is something special about this movie, something that goes straight into your heart and even though there is so little actually happening you can't help but be in awe.

 
#10. BELLE DE JOUR

 

1967
Director: Luis Buñuel

Buñuel's amazing adaption of the story of, probably, the most popular call girl is a trip through both the profession and the mind of its director. Decorating the classic story with surrealism the way only a true Surrealist knows how, this still maintains enough sense to be up to standard with a drama. The movie doesn't need much of an introduction here, so I'll leave it by saying it might be the sexiest movie that will stay in your head for other reasons than being sexy.

 
#9. BLIND BEAST (Môjû)

 

1969
Director: Yasuzô Masumura

The infamous "Blind Beast" oozes of creepiness and madness, and the longer you watch it the more you become a part of the perversities on screen. It's amazingly creative in its set locations, but the story presents something a bit more of exploitation flavor. Not without dabbling in the psychological, though. I especially enjoyed how there movie is almost in two parts: first part is of the woman who is kidnapped, and the second part reshapes the kidnap situation to an attempt at escape through trickery but eventually grows into a mutual, depraved love.

 
#8. MESTO NA ZEMLE (A Place in the World)

 

2001
Director: Artour Aristakisian

One of the rougher experiences on this list, this is definitely a movie you watch with a bitter taste in your mouth. Yet there is so much to admire about this philosophical effort. It has an exterior that is disgusting, dirty and sad but you find yourself so trapped with these characters that you continuously dig deeper and deeper. This forces you to scratch off your materialistic skin and just fight life as the animal you are. Of course, you do this while sitting in your couch in front of your HD TV with your hand in a bowl of chips. It's cinema after all, but this movie lets your witness a bleaker part of human life.

 
#7. THE EXTERMINATING ANGEL (El ángel exterminador)

 

1962
Director: Luis Buñuel

How could a movie have a more interesting setup? Party guests find themselves unable to leave, no matter how hard they try to. A fantastical, surreal plot outline that ends up offering so much more than just an interesting concept. Ignore having an explanation, it makes it clear that there is none. Instead you should focus on these upper class guests: what they do/don't do, what they say, how they act, how they change. Don't be afraid to laugh: it IS comedic and it IS absurd. Isn't it great when you can't grasp the movie you are watching, yet you still feel as if you're part of it?

 
#6. SKAMMEN (Shame)

 

1968
Director: Ingmar Bergman

A war movie by the Swedish master of cinema is bound to differ from your usual genre movies: as expected this isn't an action movie, but a devastating drama. It focuses on a couple through the time of a war, and how their lives and home is destroyed by it - and how something was eventually going to break anyway. A really intriguing spin on the genre that suited me perfectly as I ended up finding one of Bergman's truly best movies. And guess what? It actually has a few effect heavy scenes that I had not expected, executed perfectly. As often with Bergman, the main plot is just a shell on top of layer, upon layer, of psychological pain.

 
#5. RED ANGEL (Akai tenshi)

 

1966
Director: Yasuzô Masumura

A dark and uncomfortably gruesome film about the war between China and Japan told through the perspective of a field nurse. The focus on the field nurse, her love story and sexuality never became second-hand under the very well-executed war aspect of the movie, especially towards the end where the loneliness and desolation is carelessly wrapping around her. Had this been one or the other: a war movie, a love story or erotica, it wouldn't have worked. Mixing them in the way that Yasuzo Masumura does makes it excellent.

 
#4. SÁTANTÁNGÓ

 

1994
Director: Béla Tarr

Béla Tarr has created many intense mood-pieces, but none of them can probably hold up against his masterful "Sátantángó". The word "experience" has rarely been so appropriate in film, as that's what this is. You could tell the essence of the story in shorter time, but you could not grab the viewer without Tarr's amazing use of your time. A small town is fooled by an infamous con artist (once one of their own) to give up all the money they own and move to a farm, and you then follow different people's perspective and the events unfold. Absolutely beautiful, breathtaking and a magnific achievement in cinema that could not be described.

 
#3. LOVE LETTER

 

1995
Director: Shunji Iwai

You know when you've seen a shallow Hollywood love story, and you know when you've seen something truly magical and heartfelt. In Shunji Iwai's amazing, nearly fantastical, story of fortunate events. Two people are brought together to share their memories of a now deceased man that, at one point, they both had in their lives. This is one of the most pleasant, moving and crafty love stories that I have seen - not too far from Trier's much darker "Breaking the Waves". Perfectly directed, written and acted. Fans of cinema need to have seen this.

 
#2. VISKNINGAR OCH ROP (Cries & Whispers)

 

1972
Director: Ingmar Bergman

Bergman is no stranger to bleak, hopeless and powerful drama and perhaps this is his greatest example. More disturbing than many of the titles on this list, this is not an easy watch. It's a story of a family gathering due to the death of a sister, and so it is very easy to relate to it. Apart from being a psychologically harsh movie, there is also a lot of beauty through the use of color red, and almost painting-like sequences that hook you in. This is a challenging movie to get through.

 
#1. DEKALOG (The Decalogue)

 

1988
Director: Krzysztof Kieslowski

Is it cheating to put this on here, being more of a TV series? I don't care - I had "Riget" on my last list, so I will have this one here. To be fair to my rules, I decided not to use any other titles by Kieslowski, even though I just as well could have added his Color trilogy. This creation by Kieslowski is often hailed as one of the absolute masterpieces of cinema, and I can't disagree with that - though it might not be at my very top, it's an extremely masterful series. This covers ten 1h episodes all based upon the Ten Commandments, and they are all equally amazing (okay, that's a lie - some are superior). From the fantastic first episode about the disappearing of a son, to the incredible episode 6 of a complicated romance (which was later released in a longer version called "A Short Film About Love"). I was in awe from the very first seconds when I heard the theme, and in a matter of days I had watched one of the most impressive efforts made for TV ever.

 

And that rounds up this arthouse list. Maybe in January 2014 you will see The Arthouse Films List #3, containing 33 titles. I have considered it, but who knows right now? If I do, I will make sure to change it up a bit yet again. Until then, go watch some movies!

 




 

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TOP 10 OF LAST YEAR:
1. Fires on the Plain
2. What We Do in the Shadows
3. We Are Still Here
4. Spring
5. Makeup Room
6. Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter
7. A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence
8. Shadow Zombie
9. Honeymoon
10. Nina Forever
Taken from Best of 2015



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