A while ago I published a post on the “5 Silent Films You Must See.” I’ve decided to take that a little further and do a small, continuing series for those that will consist of the same standard 5 film recommendations. Topics will be years, genres, styles, actors, directors, cinematographers, you name it. Today’s post we’ll be covering “5 Mind-Blowing Movies You Must See”. This list consists of movies that are intricate, difficult to follow and blur the lines of space, time, story structure or other conventional cues. Hope you guys enjoy these entries and feel free to recommend topics for future lists!
5. Memento dir. Christopher Nolan (2000) – This was director Christopher Nolan’s first decently budgeted motion picture after the festival success of his first film, Following, which was an independent feature largely funded out of pocket. The story follows Leonard (Guy Pearce), who is hunting a man he believes killed his wife. The only problem is that Leonard has no capacity to store short term memory, his last memory being of his wife being murdered; as a result, he uses a system of notes, tattoos and other reminders so that he can remember where he needs to go and who he needs to visit next. Essentially, the story is a noir with an interesting twist. With two alternating storylines, one that moves forward through the film and one backwards, the film evokes an effect on the mind similar to that of what the main character is suffering. This really is a brilliant film and gives an early insight into how apt a director Christopher Nolan is. Last year’s Inception rekindled his affair with disjointed story structure, a style he is one of the best at pulling off.
4. Jacob’s Ladder dir. Adrian Lyne (1990) – Following on the heels of Lyne’s extremely successful Fatal Attraction, this is what I feel is his best film. The script, by Bruce Joel Rubin, was long considered the best script not produced in Hollywood, having floating around for the better part of a decade without being produced. It tells the story of Jacob Singer, a member of a Vietnam battalion who was experimented upon with hallucinations, who returns home to find strange things happening to and around him. Creatures appear, his dead son visits him, the government seems to be withholding information about the experimentations conducted on him and he begins to go through strange physical fluctuations and sickness as well. The film as a whole leads from question to question without providing a lot of answers until the conclusion. This film will keep you on the edge of your seat from beginning to end and plays games with the viewer as much as it does with the protagonist.
3. The Saragossa Manuscript dir. Wojciech Has (1965) – This is an epic piece of Polish filmmaking that runs right at three hours long. During the Napoleonic Wars, an officer finds an old book that relates stories his grandfather told him about being a captain in the Walloon Guard. Though the following of Alfonse Van Worden (Zbigniew Cybulski), the original officer’s grandfather, is the main crux of the story, this film spans many stories that are all inter-related. At one point in the film you are literally in a story within a story within a story within a story. It’s a masterful combination of surrealism, fairy tales, legend and European folklore. Needless to say it is one trippy experience, but not one that gets old even at its long running time. Has’s use of dolly movement, crane and epic sweeps of the landscape and luscious sets, coupled with the brilliant black-and-white cinematography of Mieczyslaw Jahoda, create a very dream-like quality for the film as a whole. As an interesting side note, this was Jerry Garcia’s favorite movie.
2. Muholland Drive dir. David Lynch (2001) – Generally, you either love David Lynch or you hate him. I, for one, am definitely an admirer of his work. I knew starting this list that at least one Lynch film would make an appearance; after thinking long and hard, it had to be this one. This takes the elements of all that is Lynchian and puts it in the most cohesive, entertaining example of his career. The story begins after a horrible car crash on Muholland Drive in Los Angeles. A mysterious young woman, Rita (Laura Harring), wonders away from the crash site with amnesia and ends up at a bungalow currently being lived in by Betty (Naomi Watts). Betty has just arrived in Los Angeles and is staying at her Aunt’s place, so she thinks Rita is a friend of her Aunts at first. When she realizes she is not, Rita tells her of the crash and they begin an investigation into who Rita really is. Outside of that main story, there are also side stories including one of a film director, portrayed by Justin Theroux, who is casting for his next big picture, a man trying to steal a black book, a monster who leaves outside of a diner and other strange vignettes. Halfway through the movie, everything changes and starts to blow your mind with multiple characters assuming other identities, goals and relationships. Originally starting out as a television pilot, the film was completed as a feature after the pilot was not picked up. It touches on all the great things that make a Lynch movie: dreams, surrealism, symbolism, odd characters, pandora’s boxes, etc. I love this film, absolutely love it. For his effort tying this mind boggling film all together, David Lynch was nominated for a Best Director Academy Award.
1. Un Chien Andalou dir. Luis Buñuel (1929) – This isn’t my favorite film on this list, but it was incredibly influential in all the other films on the list because it was one of the first strong visualizations of surrealism in cinema. Buñuel is hands down, without a doubt, the king of surrealism in cinema, and together with Salvador Dali, they created this 15 minute short in the late 1920s. A silent film, it opens with the infamous razor cutting the eye scene and becomes more and more bizarre as it moves forward. A disjointed film, it is largely re-piecing of dreams and other strange subconscious scenarios out of the minds of Buñuel and Dali. Upon release, it incited riots in the streets and was banned in many countries – now that is some achievement! Though Dali and Buñuel went their separate ways after this short experiment in surrealism on film, Buñuel continued to make the best in surrealist cinema for another 50 years, eventually winning a Best Foreign Language Film Oscar in 1972 for The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoise. A feat he had earlier quoted as saying, “Nothing would disgust me more morally than winning an Oscar.”