30 Days of Film – Day 2: Underrated Film

It’s hard to classify what exactly makes a film underrated. Is it one that should have been acclaimed but was ignored by critics? A film badly handled by it’s distributors that it wasn’t marketed properly and so didn’t become a box office success? Or a film that should be in the popular imagination but isn’t?

I’ve gone for a film that hit me to the core, one that should have got far more acclaim than it did and should have picked up awards by the bucketful for it’s brilliance.

From my WRJ at the time:

I have to write this down before I forget.
I know I should be looking at the technical side and at some point.
I will look into this movie with a cool and analytical eye, but I cannot just drop what I have seen tonight.
I have no words that convey my emotion, other than devastatingly brilliant.
Or perhaps, just devastating.

For a film about, what is in essence a political thriller about journalists in a war zone, I pulled right into the story, moved to tears and out right shocked even though I knew the fate of many of these characters.
Making fiction is one thing. But it will always pale to the truth and the urgency of this film.

It is spectacular. Not only a “message” film that indicts both the Indonesian and Australian governments (the latter in a fantastic final scene) but it manages to engage you without letting go. I remember being surprised to see that the writer was David Williamson, an Australian playwright that I could classify as a Roger Hall type – generally safe, middle class material that sells to it’s white, middle class audience … of course, I had forgotten that he also wrote the equally excellent Year of Living Dangerously another film that plays with the same subject matter and set in Indonesia (do yourself a favour and see it if you haven’t – it’s one of Peter Weir’s best films).

You’re probably going to hear this a lot with a good portion of the films I rate here but, I wish I could write a film this good.

Special mention
Death Proof (dir. Quentin Tarantino)
Can’t be bothered by the first half of this film, but from the second half when it clearly becomes a salute to Ozploitation V8 cinema, I am ALL in. Muscle cars, Zoe Bell playing a version of herself and a Tarantino diner scene – FUCK YEAH!

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (dir. Terry Gilliam)

We already know that I love the cinema of Terry Gilliam, yes, even The Adventures of Baron Munchausen

There are times were cinema should be magical, it should make you gasp in wonder and release the same delight you had as a child playing with bubbles. It may sound ridiculous but the beautiful sense of play and fantasy during these modern times where that no longer seems to be valued, makes this film a precious one to me.

I love it. Plus, you know, Tom Waits as the Devil is a genius piece of casting.

Undercover Brother (dir. Malcolm D. Lee)
Anchorman, Zoolander and, to an extent, Hot Rod may get all the quoting love but Undercover Brother deserves it’s place in the cult pantheon. It’s a loving tribute to the Blaxploitation genre which, unlike Black Dynamite whose tongue in cheek attitude becomes tiresome and arrogant after the first 15 minutes, maintains it’s own sense of self with a decent storyline and a nice critique of modern politics (the literal brainwashing of General Boutell to a fried chicken outfit in this film is a direct critique of Colin Powell’s involvement with the Bush II era of politics).


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