birds, orphans, and fools, 1969, juraj jakubisko
i have to make another exception; there will be two jakubisko films on this page... i won't add another, i swear. i stated below that jakubisko's films seemed to be obscure or whatever, i didn't really plan on watching them -- but i kept going back to him, looking back at perinbaba, wanting more magic -- and i saw this. someone i follow on letterboxd who i instantly respected for having rated perinbaba 4.5 stars spoke highly of it, i conjured all sorts of black and white images in my brain [it is not in black and white]. i've been fascinated by magda vášáryová since seeing 'marketa lazarová', despite also finding her other works to be obscure, so with her on the cover, and the intriguingly mysterious description, i became fascinated, to the point i'd dream about it. however, just so i wouldn't be let down, i decided to prepare myself by watching jakubisko's two prior films; 'the prime of life' and 'the deserter and the nomads'. the former follows a simple slovak man living in prague, deciding between two women amongst family troubles, and the latter a short film anthology following the aftermaths of different wars, much more depressing; the last segment seemed an obvious precursor to birds orphans and fools, following a short-haired jana stehnová, listening to the best song i've ever heard and will never find, in a similar but smaller setting to the following film. i'd liken this film to 'camille and the catastrophic comedy' if it were written by someone who felt things and didn't just see them [no offense claude it's just the gainsbourg film you made looks a little....], if that makes sense, though i'm really not sure. the settings are magical and the three main characters are instantly charming, as well as every single extra. zdeněk liška's score is, as always, perfect, dreamlike, devastatingly hard [impossible] to find, and did i mention it is perfect? fits the film so well. this film appeases all my chaotic dreams, who hasn't wanted to hole up in an abandoned church and dress up and drink all day, take photos, play the piano, and ignore all of the problems going on outside? though this leads to tragedy, i don't think jakubisko necessarily condemns this way of living, of saying 'life is beautiful' despite the gunshots, despite the corpses. i had no idea what to expect, and i had no idea it would be truly so tragic. i cried within minutes of the movie starting, overwhelmed by the beauty. some of the best costumes on film; i'm surprised i haven't seen screenshots making the rounds on pinterest like they do of the russian pinocchio movie. i would upload screenshots to my gallery but i took about four-hundred. i can't underestimate the beauty of this film -- and it's only 80 minutes long!!! i have to stop thinking about it or i will cry thank you goodnight
other notable works: i will watch jakubisko's whole filmography now. see you in hell friends or whatever looks pretty HOT, does it count as a halloween movie? bathory is the most expensive slovak movie ever or something, it looks gay but i can't wait
zigeneurweisen [taishō trilogy], 1980, seijun suzuki
seijun suzuki is very enigmatic to me -- prior to this, i'd only seen 'gate of flesh' -- maybe not where most would suggest you'd start? i don't know, but i was intrigued by the decisive use of color in it, and subsequently became intrigued by the allegedly bursting-with-color 'pistol opera'; at the time this seemed very hard to find, now it's at my fingertips, but i have to work my way up from the bottom now. i watched 'zigeunerweisen' solely because it was described as a 'surreal period film'. i was captivated within moments -- poetic talk of skeletons, a remarkable atmosphere. though gate of flesh primarily fascinated me visually, this film [and the following two of the trilogy] captured every sense thus immersing me fully in their worlds!! yoshio harada's appearance in each film was great, but i found him especially [hot] in 'yumeji' for some reason. speaking of -- yumeji was the piece in this trilogy i had the lowest expectations going into, but ended up being the most beautiful and fascinating, in its soundtrack, writing, acting, cinematography... everything. loved the interiors in each of the films, but especially at the end of kagero-za -- stages have begun to appeal to me much more, and obviously, not to mention the grotesque paintings on all of the walls. when i actually think about it i could talk about each of these films for way longer than would ever be appropriate. there are too many wonderful actors to even point out. once considered watching kagero-za -- had no idea it was a sequel, grateful to have gotten the full experience, and to have seen seijun suzuki's charm in 'story of pupu' in between films!
other notable works: obviously i mentioned gate of flesh i'll come back and update when i finally start making it through his chronological filmography!!!
perinbaba: the feather fairy, 1985, juraj jakubisko
perinbaba is a czechoslovakian fairy-tale from the apparent golden age of eastern european fantasy cinema. the plot is fairly simple, and par-for-course in this genre, following a snow-controlling godmother [portrayed by fellini familiar, giulietta masina], a brave little boy, and a hard-working poor girl mistreated by her stepmother and sister. jakubisko clearly has an eye for beauty; the magic is portrayed beautifully on screen. hazy, up in the air, full of love and warm colors to represent such. beautiful costuming and set-design, though the latter seems to simply lend from the natural ethereal beauty of slovakia. can't wait to watch this again next communist christmas
other notable works: jakubisko's other films seem very obscure.. but i do want to watch a lot more czech/slovak films and kick myself for not learning czech....i recommend morgiana in terms of technicolor fairy tale trips!
sonatine, 1993, takeshi kitano
takeshi kitano has quickly become one of my favorite directors. watched this on a whim after having been endlessly impressed by 'kids return' a couple of years ago. this follows a few yakuza off to okinawa in the midst of a gang war. if you know me, you'd know i have a soft spot for okinawa after a brief cough-syrup induced lily-chou-chou angelic encounter. the cinematography is wonderful and i want to be on that beach! joe hisaishi does the soundtrack which adds an extra air of poignancy in a yakuza's journey through questioning his life's purpose. dreamlike and dreary, which makes it an obvious pick for one of my favorites. the side characters in this are very charming as well. takeshi kitano has the same effect on me as cranky villagers in animal crossing, if that makes sense. i should rewatch it. right now!
other notable works: kids return is very beautiful, as is fireworks even if i remember less of it somehow... need to watch kikujiro!! and violent cop EDIT: watched dolls and it's one of the most amazing films i've seen this year, can't recommend it enough.
céline et julie vont en bateau: phantom ladies over paris, 1974, jacques rivette
from the first few minutes of celine and julie go boating [the first ten to fifteen, most precisely], i got a feeling that i was about to see something very special. it's been on my watchlist for a long time. i thought its brand of surrealism was going to be the type i was looking for, and i was correct. it's a light-hearted, fun, dreamlike experience following two women in paris; celine, a magician, and julie, a librarian. in some turn of events, they begin living together and subsequently finding a mysterious haunted house. through magic potions and taxi-cab candies, they are able to see the ghosts' lives play out in a melodramatic crime story surrounding a widowed man, his daughter, and two women in love with him. this film feels like it stops time; at three hours, i found myself wanting it to last at least three more. celine and julie facing the camera as if facing a television screen as they watch a hallucinatory mystery they're determined to solve [as well as many other tender moments between the two] captures the coziness of watching something suspenseful with someone you love. co-written by the two main actresses, the characters and the relationship that forms between them feel very real. a healing film revolving around womanhood and the inner child. it's like the peak of a wholly pleasant acid trip. it's like a murakami novel with more pure, childlike imagination, and less pathetic men. have seen a few say it's not that visually appealing, but the parisian streets, actress-idealized-costumes, julie's colorful apartment, and the constrastingly grim mystery house beg to differ. would be good as a triple feature between persona and mulholland drive; all surreal explorations of women's minds. also, they're all on this list.
other notable works:first rivette film -- want to see everything, mainly duelle and hopefully will tackle the thirteen hours of out 1!!! - update: duelle sucks [mostly]. out 1 rules and is god's gift to 'television' - le pont du nord is also pretty great
noriko's dinner table, 2005, sion sono
noriko's dinner table is a prequel to director sion sono's breakout gorey horror hit, suicide club. viewers who came from suicide club likely in search of answers to many of the questions posed in said movie were left disappointed. noriko's dinner table is less of a prequel and more of, well, just another movie within the same universe and a more complex interpretation of the world that suicide club had conjured up. noriko's dinner table follows the story of 17 year old noriko who runs away from home to meet with someone she met on the internet. significantly less bloody, but still more visceral than suicide club/nearly an hour longer but the pacing always feels right. a relaxing soundtrack juxtaposed with sad character studies and sion sono's noteworthy writing skills make for an unforgettable experience.
other notable works of sion sono: antiporno, tag, utsushimi, LOVE EXPOSURE....everything..really [to watch: land of hope, decisive match: boy's dorm vs girl's dorm]
stranger than paradise, 1984, jim jarmusch
stranger than paradise, jarmusch's second feature, has a simple plot, following a guy whose hungarian cousin is staying with him in new york before she moves to ohio. the plot, though in its presentation not even a bit underwhelming, comes second priority to the very human characters. being filmed in black and white adds to the light, minimalistic feeling the film carries. lack of color and lack of scenery contribute to the idea of everywhere feeling/being the same. the characters bring energy to the mundane; all bored with life and perpetually lonely, an unlikely trio forms from initial hostility and awkward interactions. one of the genuine pieces of art that makes loneliness feel less lonely, and it's funny, too.
this is the first jim jarmusch movie i've watched, need to watch dead man, down by law, and everything else
all about lily chou chou, 2001, shunji iwai
when on the subject of amazing soundtracks, all about lily chou chou must be mentioned. the film revolves around an extremely captivating and enigmatic pop star named lily chou chou. in the face of immense teenage troubles, a group of high schoolers escapes to the ethereal world of lily chou chou and her dedicated fan sites. every time i watch this movie i feel like i'm watching it for the first time. the music is perfectly juxtaposed with the film and it makes me feel everything they're feeling. it's impeccably haunting. there's a lot of scenes like this, [in fact the entire movie is basically just this] though i'm thinking of one in particular, where something looks very very beautiful, but at the end of it you realize it was something dreadful, and you watch it again, and you're like, oh wait, holy fuck. simultaneously insanely dark and blindingly light. i need to go to aragusuku. worth noting that this was filmed on a digital camera, [apparently] inspired by hideaki anno's 'love & pop', and also that lily chou-chou was [again, apparently] loosely based on chinese dream pop star faye wong. featuring dreamy visuals shunji iwai has become known for and salyu's amazing vocals, you can find beauty in a world of emptiness & alienation.
other notable works of shunji iwai: a bride for rip van winkle, swallowtail butterfly, the case of hana & alice. [also everything.] also acted in evangelion director hideaki anno's live-action 2000 film, ritual, which won't be on this page but i highly recommend. [to watch: fireworks, love letter, april story]
cure, 1997, kiyoshi kurosawa
cure is at its core a crime film that has some slightly surreal elements that i really enjoy. it follows a detective following a case of murders connected by x's carved in the necks of the victims. however, these murders all have separate perpetrators who immediately admit to the crimes, but don't have any memory of committing them. detective takabe also has personal problems to deal with, adding to the stress of his coming into contact with the mysterious[ly hot] suspect. in this film that just feels dark, kiyoshi kurosawa shows his mastery in creating compositions and generally making me feel uneasy.
other notable works of kiyoshi kurosawa: i haven't seen as many of his films as i want to, except for pulse, a confusing cyber-trip that emits similar emotions as this movie, and penance, a tv-show-but-also-a-movie that feels a little more contrived but is definitely still entertaining and worth the 5 hours or so you'll put into it. [to watch: reincarnation, bright future, tokyo sonata]
thesis, 1996, alejandro amenabar
thesis is a horror/thriller movie from spain, set in madrid. it follows angela, a film student who's studying audiovisual violence as her thesis. in doing this, she stumbles upon a snuff film and realizes that the girl in the video being murdered was a student at her school. alongside edgy, introverted, audiovisual violence and horror enthusiast, chema, angela seeks the origins of the tape. many mysterious things unfold involving the tape, angela, chema, and the boyfriend of the girl who was killed in the video, bosco. the casting was excellent as well as the lighting throughout the film. being amenabar's first film makes it even more impressive. though riddled with plot holes here and there, there's just something about it that's got me thinking about it for the rest of time.
other notable works of alejandro amenabar: only seen open your eyes, starring eduardo noriega, who also played bosco. [to watch: the others, the sea inside]
fallen angels, 1995, wong kar-wai
fallen angels is one of many wong kar-wai movies that explore the night-life of hong kong through its unique characters -- all of which are somehow connected in a more fluid and beautiful pulp fiction type of deal. this one just happens to be my favorite. this mainly focuses on a hitman on the path to reformation and his detached partner. they cross path with some assumed background characters that take up significant amounts of screen time [and thank GOD they do], including takeshi kaneshiro's quirky mute drifter. another film that makes loneliness and detachment appear in a beautiful, emotionally provoking fashion. wong kar-wai is the master of love.
other notable works of wong kar-wai: everything, presumably. chungking express for more takeshi kaneshiro and just the same type of deal, but also with faye wong, as tears go by for more killers seeking redemption and being in love. [to watch: 2046, happy together, in the mood for love]
love & pop, 1998, hideaki anno
anno is mostly known for evangelion, which is one of my favorite anime of all time and probably one of the best things to be made ever, but also has a couple of live action films, this being his first. it follows a group of four girls who get into the world of compensated dating, mainly focusing on hidomi. i actually just found out on wikipedia that it's loosely based on a ryu murakami book or something which is epic because he's one of my favorite authors but ANYWAY. anno says "fuck u" to conventional cinematic rules and fucking films from inside of microwaves and other crazy angles which make this movie unique as well as its being filmed on a digital camera. it feels like you're a fly on the wall watching these lives unfold rather than even a movie it just feels so real. though i haven't been in her exact situation, a lot of things that happened to her felt familiar and her emotions vry relatable and easy to sympathize with. also tadanobu asano is one of my favorite actors so a lot of favorites here!!
other notable works of hideaki anno: evangelion of course,,, and shiki-jitsu, another unconventional film with one of my favorite directors as an actor which is crazy anno really just does this shit 2 me...need to watch cutie honey & shin godzilla!!
pastoral: to die in the country, 1974, shuji terayama
shuji terayama was a surreal and experimental genius, relying on vivid coloring, captivating sound design, and jumping around time like nobody's business. pastoral is no exception. it's very similar to tarkovsky's "mirror"  in its themes of exploring childhood and how the reliability of our memories is hazier than we realize. it follows, in merging, elusive timelines, a boy's childhood self and his older self looking back on it, his life with his family, and him entering into a circus of interesting characters. this dreamy film captures the fleeting emotions of adolescence perfectly, and elaborates on themes of death, memory, time, and family in a poetic, colorful, peaceful but thought-evoking manner, much like the rest of terayama's films. i also feel like this movie sometimes feels jodorowsky-esque in its atmosphere -- it looks and feels like a fever dream and there's a circus,, just my type.
other notable works of shuji terayama: 'throw away your books, rally in the streets' was the first terayama film i watched, right before watching this one. the colors, sounds, and provocative themes immediately drew me in. 'grass labyrinth' is worth the 50 minutes, 'farewell to the ark' is really fucking hard to follow but for five seconds there i thought i got it [would recommend yes], and 'butterfly' is my favorite short film. need to watch emperor tomato ketchup but can't find subs
love exposure, 2008, sion sono
this movie is my soulmate. i'm trying not to do multiple movies for directors but fuck it because they deserve it! this film is 3 hours and 57 minutes and every second was life-changing. i've said before that beethoven was born just to have his music in this film. anyway, one time i was looking up 'japanese films' on tumblr, and saw this. i thought hikari mitsushima looked cute, but it seemed like a cheesy romance movie so i didn't watch it. maybe i just don't know how to read. after watching suicide club, though, i started to look into sion sono. i think this was the third or fourth movie of his that i watched. by now, i had learned how to read, so this time it really appealed to me. i watched it in a very uncomfortable chair in my living room with my parents in the room, in 2015. i paused it once in four hours. i was absolutely captivated from the first shot. with its religious themes and themes of adolescents having trouble interacting, dealing with their feelings, being alive and all that, it reminded me of evangelion, which had altered my life entirely a year before. okay, well, anyway, love exposure is about a teenage boy named yu, a catholic trying to fulfill his dead mother's wish of showing her his [virgin] mary when he meets her, and trying to fulfill his priest father's wish of sinning. he does this by eventually mastering the art of panty shots. in this perverted process, he meets his mary fighting men in the street. this is just in the first hour and there is so so so much more that happens. this isn't JUST a movie, it's an experience. the soundtrack is impeccable, yura yura teikoku somehow captures the way this movie makes me feel with the song "hollow me". it's funny, it's dark, it's depressing, it's violent, it made me go to a church and get a virgin mary necklace and wear it for two years straight, it's everything. and there's an original six hour cut that i'll never get to see. i'm actually crying right now over how much i love this movie. please watch.