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1. Arrebato (RAPTURE) - Dir. Ivan Zulueta 1980
I first saw this on a shelf at the great Chicago video store 'Odd Obsession' but it was in Spanish with no subtitles so I waited. I started to research the film and it had an incredible reputation as the Spanish 'Videodrome' (which it precedes by 3 yrs). For the last ten years I've searched for a copy with subtitles and finally I took a chance on a new German release and thankfully it had pristine English subtitles. Was it worth the wait? Plot: A self-refelexive horror film about a B-movie director's heroin addiction and his relationship with an avant-garde filmmaker whose Super 8 camera is Vampiric and begins draining him of life, frame by frame. Damn right! In fact I think it's one of the great Cine -discoveries I've ever had, more of a Cinefiles film then a straight genre film. Sadly it's the only feature film director Zulueta ever made but it truly is one of a kind.
2. El Sur (The South)- Dir. Victor Eric 1983
I remember being impressed by Erice's previous film 'Spirit of the Beehive' back in College but his follow up is very difficult to track down. Luckily I had been taking a class with Director Monte Hellman who screened this for us and it was an overwhelming experience. One of the most melancholic portraits of childhood and how we experience the mysteries of our parents lives. It's one of the best films I've ever seen and if they ever screen it in a theater don't miss it.
3. China 9, Liberty 37 - Dir. Monte Hellman 1978
Speaking of Monte Hellman. ... This was one of his only films I hadn't seen and he was apprehensive about showing it as none of the versions have both good image and good sound due to the Italian dubbing and soundtrack. There is still hope that someone will merge the original materials to make a great transfer of the film. I saw the great picture and not great sound version but the film floored me. Warren Oates, Fabio Testi and Jenny Agutter in a Western was enough but what's really impressive is that at every point the film seems to go against Western conventions and surprise you with the emotional decisions of the characters. Sergio Leone was meant to direct the film but instead the film is imbued with Monte's existential characters in crisis and it feels completely unique within a genre at the tail end of its relevance.
4. Gone with the Pope - Dir. Duke Mitchell (1976 -2010)
I missed the first couple years this screened and every time I kicked myself. Thankfully I finally caught it this year and it is an absolute original. Shot in the 70's by Mitchell but never completed, Grindhouse Releasing's Bob Murawski (Sam Raimi's Editor!) constructed an incredibly personal, strange crime caper from the materials. The film just has an amazing honesty and energy to it. Of course it's funny too, I mean they kidnap the Pope, but at the heart of the film is a love story between men who do time together and always have each other's back. It's a fascinating example of the power of combining a 70's exploitation approach with the dynamic skill of a modern editor. The results are a blast and with no plans for a DVD release it tours the country so keep an eye out.
5. Serie Noire - Dir. Alain Corneau 1979 (Jim Thompson...)
A French neo-noir adaptation of Jim Thompsons 'A Hell of a Woman' is another difficult title to track down but well worth it. The film itself is a gloomy con-man noir set in the seedy side of Paris that is really elevated by the stunning performance of the lead actor Patrick Dewaere (better know for his comedic roles in the films of Bertrand Blier). This is one of the most unhinged performances I've seen and gives Joaquin a run for his money in 'The master'. Desperate and doomed his door-to-door salesman turned con-man is one of the great screen characters. Sadly many cite this role for beginning the actor's depression and eventual suicide but what's on screen is hypnotic. It was available through the 'Five minutes to Live' site but I'm not sure If it's still active.
6. The River - Dir. Jean Renoir 1951
A Renoir classic that I hadn't seen partly because in my head I saw a stuffy Black and white film about India, where in fact it's a gorgeous Technicolor film about first love and disappointment in a strange land. The film just swept me up and transported me to India. A perfect example of making the epic as intimate as possible, something sorely lacking in modern Oscar bait cinema. It's on criterion so you have no excuse.
7. That Most Important Thing , Love ("L'important c'est d'aimer") Dir. Andrzej Zulawski 1975
Anyone who listens to my 'Killer POV' podcast likely knows that 'Possession' is one of my favorite films. Thanks to Mondo Vision I have been able to see many more of Zulawski's films from pristine transfers. The most fascinating of which, like most of his work is hard to categorize. Ultimately it seems to be about failed careers and blind loyalty in love. Fabio Testi and the gorgeous Romy Schneider share an electric opening scene where he photographs her against her will while she acts out a painful love scene in a B- movie. Throw in a Klaus Kinski cameo and it's the stuff dreams are made of. I imagine on repeat viewings this film will only get better and better.
8. The Mask - Dir. Julian Roffman 1961
We hold an event called Secret Sixteen at Jumpcut Cafewhere no one knows what the film will be until the 16mm film begins to roll. The first screening was 'The Mask' which I had seen a still of on the cover of the 'Incredibly Strange Films' book but hadn't seen the film. For the most part it's a fairly conventional thriller about an archaeologist being taken over by the Mask but what makes it so unique (besides the fact that it's Canadian) is the incredible Mario Bava -esque "Vision" sequences that occur anytime someone puts on the mask. I can only imagine how great they must look in 3D as they were intended. The set design and dreamy quality of the cinematographer make this essential viewing. "Put the mask on now!"
9. Outcast of the Islands - Carol Reed 1951
I love Carol Reed films but always shy away from exotic island adventure films. Luckily this wasn't Island exploitation but rather an absorbing tale of deceit between port traders and a womanizer who falls for the unattainable native goddess. The strength of the film lies in its fascinating mix between a documentary shooting style and an expressionistic one. I've never seen anything quite like it but it's an absorbing tragedy from a Joseph Conrad novel, so well worth the hunt.
10.The Visitor - Dir. Giuli Paradisi 1979
I had been waiting to see this one on the big screen for years and thanks to Drafthouse Films I got my wish. I know people only tend to discuss it for it's WTF factor but there is a fascinating film inside all the craziness. Lance Henriksen as the manager of a pro basketball team was enough to sell me but throw in John Huston conducting alien traffic and Sam Peckinpah as a doctor and I'm like putty. The DVD release will be worth the wait for all the stories about the making of which are pretty wild and explain how the director got away with such an epic scale oddity.
11. VIC - Dir. Sage Stallone (2006) Best Short Film Discovery 30m
I curate a lot of short films at Jumpcut Cafe . The best short form film I saw this year was Vic. It may be my favorite depiction of Hollywood yet. Clu Gulager gives everything in this role as an ageing actor with one last chance for a great role. It's available for purchase at Grindhouse Releasing and really illustrates what a talent Sage Stallone was.
** Favorite Re- Discovery !
Sorcerer - Dir. William Friedkin 1977
The best film I saw on screen all year hands down. I had seen it when I was younger on VHS and wasn't moved by it but this time it just knocked me out. The world has a treat in store with the re-mastered version on its way.