The forgotten. The underrated. The obscure. The underappreciated. The cult. There’s a million reasons why some films get consigned to a cinematic oblivion and there’s a million films that deserve it. These don’t. This is a weekly list that unearths the gems of cinemas past.
Grab your shovels and your pick axes, it’s time for Monsoon’s Buried Treasures (part. 4)
01. Franklyn (2008)
Directed by: Gerald McMorrow
Plot: A portrait of four strangers living in a dystopian future who’s lives start to intertwine in interesting ways.
Much like the film I’m about to compare it to in a second, Franklyn is a very hard film to sell. I can understand why a movie like this would flop; there is no demographic you can easily market this film to. There’s not enough sci-fi to hook the nerds, not enough action to get the guys excited and there’s no love story to get women interested. It’s an island of one.
But just because a film is hard to market, doesn’t mean the product is inferior. Franklyn has an amazing product that I’m going to sell you on in one sentence:
“Dark City meets steampunk.”
Not sold yet, eh? Well, how about this:
“Dark City but with a lot of cool tophats.”
Still not putting your ass in the seat I see. Ok, try this on for size:
“Franklyn is better than Dark City.”
Yeah. That got your attention. It’s bullshit but at least you’re googling the movie now.
02. Welfare (1975)
Directed by: Frederick Wiseman
Plot: A documentary that depicts every avenue of America’s broken welfare system, from both the people who desperately need it to live, to the workers dealing with the governments infuriating rules and regulations.
Fredrick Wiseman has been consistently producing extraordinary documentaries for over forty years but the film he’s most remembered for was his very first. The 1967 film Titicut Follies is inarguably one of the most important films ever made but it’s monolithic stature amongst documentarians has forever put him in the shadow of his own work. But Wiseman is not a man to rest on his laurels. He never chased success; he simply made films about topics he was passionate about and hopefully they’d find an audience.
Welfare is not a glamorous topic. It’s not particularly interesting one either but a great documentarian can make any topic fascinating and Wiseman is most definitely a great documentarian. It’s astonishing what he’s able to capture (the “happy couple” segment is unbelievable) but anyone with a camera and enough time can capture incredible moments but Wiseman’s gift isn’t the footage he gets but the narrative he weaves with it and Welfare has one hell of a story.
Because it’s all true.
(I unfortunately couldn’t find a trailer, so I decided to upload Titicut Follies instead. Enjoy.)
03. Borgman (2013)
Directed by: Alex Van Warmerdam
Plot: A strange vagrant enters the lives of a family, slowly turning their lives into a psychological nightmare.
Jean Renoir‘s 1932 masterpiece Boudu Saved from Drowning is one of the most imitated, ripped off and copied films in existence. The story involves a well to do bookseller saving a homeless man from drowning but after he gives the hobo a place to stay for a couple of days, the film quickly turns into a “if you give a mouse a cookie…” scenario where the hobo keeps demanding more and more ridiculous things just to fuck with them. It’s an indictment on the bourgeoisie and their absurd lifestyles.
Borgman is Boudu Saved from Drowning but with Freddy Krueger in the role of the bum. At first, you don’t know who this stranger is, why he’s fucking with this family or whether or not he’s even human but you once the film starts to unravel, you quickly realize this family is in far more danger than you could’ve predicted.
Borgman is a dark, surrealist thriller that also doubles as an amazing allegory. It’s the type of film you wonder how it could fall through the cracks, when it should be sitting on the throne.
04. Goodbye, Dragon Inn (2003)
Directed by: Tsai Ming-Liang
Plot: A small handful of souls bid goodbye to their local Chinese theater, the Dragon Inn.
There will be a time where every movie theater will be empty graveyards haunted by films of the past. Drive ins are damn near obsolete and local mom and pop specially cinemas are in constant fear of closing. Every technological advancement brings with it the corpses of the older, inferior products. DVDs killed VHS, television killed the radio, Netflix killed Blockbuster, the internet is killing print media and eventually, streaming or illegally downloading films will kill the movie theater.
It’s a heartbreaking thought because film is one of the last communal art experiences. Music will never go away but going to the theater, sitting next to other patrons and watching a film together won’t exist soon. Goodbye, Dragon Inn is a haunting elegy for a way of life that survives only in the minds of ghosts and old film critics but more importantly, it’s a beautiful reminder that film is art and art is the most important thing in the world.
Fun trivia: The movie’s own director, Tsai Ming-liang, voted for it as one of the 10 Greatest Films of All Time in the 2012 Sight & Sound Directors’ Poll. Which is adorable.
05. Zero Woman: Red Handcuffs
Plot: After a politician’s daughter is kidnapped by a ruthless gang, a badass ex-policewoman is released from jail and sent after them. Brutal violence ensues.
There is no universally agreed upon definition for the term “pinky violence” but the subgenre is essentially rape revenge + the Yakuza × excessive nudity and violence. There is no definitive guide for which films fall under the umbrella of “pinky violence” but if we’re using that equation as the guide in which to measure which films qualify or not, Zero Woman not only belongs in genre but is probably the best. Or is the most violent in any case.
Rape revenge thrillers aren’t the easiest pills to swallow nor are they the most entertaining but if you’re in the mood for one or are just looking for an extreme action film, Zero Woman: Red Handcuffs delivers the goods.