Friday, February 23, 2007

Hall of Strangeness Part 1

For several years I've written short capsule reviews for unusual or underappreciated films that I'm likely to recommend to friends or rewatch at some unspecified date. I rated each on artistry, fun and strangeness. I came to call the project "The Hall of Strangeness," though not all of the films are all that strange. I've been adding films to it continually since its inception.

I've decided to post the reviews I've written up until now in batches of five, going alphabetically. After all those are up, I'll post a new Hall of Strangeness after every fresh set of five. I they will be useful and enjoyable. I've also reprinted the original introduction and warning.

Hall of Strangeness:
The best of unconventional, cult, low-budget or underrated gems from around the globe.

Warning: This list is arbitrary. Not all of these films are outright strange and many strange films have been excluded simply because I did not like them or would not recommend them. Nevertheless, if a strange film is missing from the list it is probably because I haven’t yet seen it, so please feel free to recommend it. Arbitrary limits have been placed on directors whose entire oeuvre would otherwise qualify.

3-Iron – (Kim Ki-Duk) A modern day South Korean love story, only without dialogue. The two main characters remain mute by choice. Tae-suk vents his emotions with a golf club while Sun-hwa tries to escape her oppressive husband. They must learn to tread lightly through a modern world empty of humanity.
Artistry: **** Fun: *** Strangeness: ***

3 Women – (Robert Altman) Three women who are strangely connected to each other find themselves swapping personalities in this surreal film concerning feminism and identity crisis. Careful use of color and eerie images of a pool-bottom mosaic create a beautiful atmosphere. Compellingly psychological plot.
Artistry: **** Fun: *** Strangeness: ****

The 5000 Fingers of Dr T – (Roy Rowland) A children’s cult classic musical from 1953 that was written, designed and scored by the great Dr Suess. In the movie, Bart enters into a fantasy world where his evil piano teacher, Dr Terwilliker, is planning to marry his mother and force 500 children to play simultaneously on a single enormous twisting piano. All non-piano musical instruments and their players are sentenced to the dungeon. Can Bart and his plumber friend save the day, even with roller-skating Siamese twins (connected by the beard) opposing him? Consistently good musical numbers.
Artistry: **** Fun: ***** Strangeness: ****

8 Women – (Francois Ozon) Featuring an women-only cast, this musical murder mystery hinges on the murder of a French patriarch in which all eight of his female relatives, acquaintances and servants are suspect. Each character is color coded and gets a uniquely styled musical number. The satisfying twist ending brilliantly upsets the predominant mood.
Artistry: **** Fun: ***** Strangeness: **

Adaptation – (Spike Jonze) Hot off the success of Being John Malkovich, Charlie Kaufman is looking to adapt a book about orchid thieves for his next film. While researching the author and the book’s subject, he realizes he doesn’t have a story by conventional Hollywood standards (epitomized by his incompetent identical twin). Eventually his life begins to take on the cinematic clichés he was trying to avoid.
Artistry: **** Fun: ***** Strangeness: ***

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