30 Days of Film, Day 2: Films you should definitely add to the rental list

Technically this is meant to be about “underrated films”, but I covered that last time.

So instead I’m going to continue with my personal viewing list and give you a few titles that may have dropped off your radar, missed on the festival circuit, or fallen victim to the distributors straight to DVD death sentence …

Wu Xia

This one debuted in Cannes a little over a year ago and went straight DVD downunder.

Crying shame.

You guys, this film has everything – Donnie Yen, Donnie Yen directed fight scenes, allegory on the current state of China and Jimmy Wang Yu playing one of the best roles I’ve ever seen him in.

A stranger comes to town to investigate the deaths of two fugitives who fought a local farmer in a remote village. All is not what it seems and this farmer possess unusual talents that seem beyond his reach.

You are going to find out soon that I have a deep love of the HK triad genre, yet the fashion of late has been for period pics. While I have enjoyed films like Hero or Ip Man, I also felt that they played to easily into the current government’s narrative. Of course, I forgot that period pieces are also useful for contemporary social comment – in this film we have Takeshi Kaneshiro’s detective as a man who obeys the absolute letter of the law to the detriment of all else. Interesting situation given what we know about modern China, no?

Do seek this out at your local rental store, the performances are very good (and the action is magnificent – we’ll talk more on action films in a later post).

Take Shelter
This kind of disappeared here in Australia after the film festival circuit – I have no idea if it went to general release or is on the slate for later in the year (can anyone enlighten me?).

I’ll say it now, I hate how this film ends. But up until then, it is a glorious study of madness. Michael Shannon is fantastic and it is utterly criminal how he was passed up for the big acting nominations last year.

World’s Greatest Dad
And now a lesson in utterly misleading trailers:

Oh look a light, happy, quirky film … no mention of the arsehole of a son who accidently kills himself during auto-erotic asphyxiation which his embarrassed dad covers as a suicide … by writing a fake suicide note. The school finds out and soon the brat is the high school celebrity, a misunderstood soul, a poet.

This film is good, it’s really good. I think this is Bobcat Goldthwaite’s (yes, he of Police Academy II fame) second feature and it is as dark as they come. Seek it out.

Paddy Considine’s first feature deserved a hell of a lot more coverage than it got, if nothing else than for the astonishing performance by Olivia Colman.

Yes, the film is harrowing and Peter Mullan is pretty much playing the same character as he did in My Name Is Joe. But as far as original story telling goes, Considine does a very good job of it.

The Book of Life

Hal Hartley’s millennium piece imagines Jesus returning to earth to start the apocalypse (on December 31, 1999 – oh the days …) and then having second thoughts.

Bonus PJ Harvey as Christ’s personal assistant – Magdalena

Songs from the Second Floor
And finally we come to the film after whom this blog is named (not a terribly interesting story so we’ll skip it).

Another millennial piece, Roy Andersson’s film reminds me of the absurdist playwrights I loved so much when starting out – Ionesco, Beckett, Durrenmatt …

The vignettes meditate on the state of our modern situation and though it is 12 years old now, it is still as potent and relevant to our times. It’s difficult to describe so I just urge you to see it. It is a devil to try and find on hire – I’ve been searching for a copy for years, so if you happen to come across it for sale on DVD anywhere let me know!

In the meantime, I’m always looking to expand my rental list – have you got a good underrated/forgotten gem that I must see?


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