20 Great ‘Double Features’ That Are Worth Your Time (Part II)
A double feature can be defined as two different films with similar theme, style, substance and/or ideas. It can consist of two twin movies from one director like Stalker & Solaris, El Topo & The Holy Mountain or Onibaba & Kuroneko, where the same theme’s are executed with the same style – fleshing out one intriguing subject.
They can be two films from the same genre like those of Chaplin & Keaton or maybe Coffy & Shaft. They can even be unofficial remakes of a film like A History of Violence & Wu Xia or Yojimbo & A Fistful of Dollars, setting the same story and plot in a vastly different surrounding, making a wonderfully interesting endurance test on said story, posing the question: how many genre’s can it go through without feeling boringly uninspired?
You can even expand on your viewing pleasure and go for broke with a tripple feature like Avatar, Pocahontas & Dancing with Wolves. Or how about Little Big Man, Forrest Gump & The Curious Case of Benjamin Button? Even four titles: The Big Sleep, The Long Goodbye, The Big Lebowski & Inherent Vice.
Please note that this is only the second part of the list, you can find the first part here.
1. Cosmopolis & Holy Motors
Robert Pattinson is mostly known for being laughably awful as the lead star in the putrid excuse for a franchise called Twilight. However, in this film, he (or should I say David Cronenberg) takes all that is bad in Pattinson’s early performance and turns it into something golden. Something special. Special enough to muster up an IMDB rating of 5.0 by people who just don’t get it.
All the characters speak in monotone/inhuman voices (one reason for the 5.0 rating), giving the audience an almost impossible chance to connect on an emotional level. Thinly plotted, we follow billionaire Eric Packer, in his limo, on his way to the barber.
The film is purely philosophical with no sympathy for mainstream nor commercial senses. This is experimental cinema at its most fascinating state and Cronenberg’s most difficult film since his highly controversial masterpiece: Crash.
Hailed as the next big thing to hit cinema, Leos Carax makes a triumphant return from 11 years of absence, with a masterful piece of heavy surrealism – sporting a remarkable physical performance by Denis Lavant.
Holy Motors gives the finger to story and plot as we follow Lavant’s character transforming into different characters through the course of 24 hours. He turns one time into a goblin, another into a video game character, he adapt different ages and so on with his means of transportation being that of a limo.
It’s hypnotic and strange, disturbing and moving, Lavant’s electrifying and enigmatic performance reminds us of what one can communicate using only one’s body, biting one’s togue. Should silent cinema get another run for the money? Holy motors makes it hard to argue otherwise.
For all the films quirky and capricious tics, fans of Georges Franju’s horror masterpiece Eyes Without a Face, will find themselves pleasantly surprised.
What They Have in Common
To think that one year (2012) could feature two films centering on limousines. They are both great, both surreal and both dangerously challenging, with Holy Motors being by far the most entertaining and Cosmopolis the most original – these two films are too good for boring people.
2. A Short Film about Killing & A Short Film about Love
A Short Film about Killing
A Short Film Against Killing would be just as accurate a title since the film is meant as a critique on capital punishment.
Simplicity is the main ingredient with the entire plot consisting of two murders; one messy, brutal, nonsensical and clumsy followed by one calculated, professional and almost artistically performed, with a message saying that it doesn’t matter how the murder took place or the reason for it, it’s inherently ugly and immoral.
Director Krzysztof Kieslowski is wise enough never to manipulate us in any way. He doesn’t have to, the images (Beautifully shot with filters creating mood and atmosphere, it’s a visual masterpiece for sure) speaks for themselves.
This film stands as a testament to what cinema can do. The IMDB trivia board tells us that: “Kieslowski’s graphic depiction of the effects of violence so shook up the Polish authorities that they declared a five year moratorium on capital punishment.”
A Short Film about Love
We have failed as a species when we don’t have common sense enough to make this film mandatory viewing in every school.
Tomek, a 19 year old virgin, spies on the love of his life Magda. She is having sex aplenty without knowing she’s being watched. Time goes on and finally he confess to Magda what he has been up to for about a years time.
The film feels minimalistic and simple until the ending. An ending sporting through dept with poetic complexity.
What They Have in Common
Krzysztof Kieslowski belongs in the same mentioning as Kurosawa, Bergman, PTA and Kubrick. He is an enormously underrated master of film, greatly championed by late film critic Roger Ebert.
These two masterworks are only cogwheels in what is a ten part/hour long film called The Decalogue: The ten commandments, a film that made Stanley Kubrick himself write the following:
“I am always reluctant to single out some particular feature of the work of a major filmmaker because it tends inevitably to simplify and reduce the work. But in this book of screenplays by Krzysztof Kieślowski and his co-author, Krzysztof Piesiewicz, it should not be out of place to observe that they have the very rare ability to dramatize their ideas rather than just talking about them. By making their points through the dramatic action of the story they gain the added power of allowing the audience to discover what’s really going on rather than being told. They do this with such dazzling skill, you never see the ideas coming and don’t realize until much later how profoundly they have reached your heart”.
3. The Babadook & We Need to Talk about Kevin
“If it’s in a word. Or it’s in a look. You can’t get rid of… The Babadook” – A tagline better than most features.
The Babadook is something of a rarity these days in that it is both entertaining and intelligent and a horror film and a recent one.
We follow the single mother Amelia (Essie Davis) and her annoyingly whiny and erratic little boy Samuel (Noah Wiseman) who’s father got killed in a car crash, driving Amelia to the hospital to give birth to him. Amelia hates her life and having a child who builds (dangerous) weapons to battle (imaginary) monsters with isn’t improving her situation. One night Amelia finds a bedtime book for Samuel.
The book is called The Babadook. Filled with disturbing imagery of a gothic creature dressed up all in black cloth and a top hat. He has got long stale fingers and a terrifying smile. The Babadook reminds us visually of horror characters such as Max Schreck’s Nosferatu and Robert Englund’s Fred Krueger. His fast and twitchy mannerisms instills feelings of watching an insect crawling about and made even more memorable due to some wonderful stop-motion effects.
More than half of it’s 1h 26m running time will it keep you on the edge of your seat and not only is it a great horror film itself but it finds plenty of time to refer and pay tribute to other gems of the genre (The exorcist in particular). The film plunges through different horror sub-genres like possession, killer kid, haunted house, slasher etc. without ever feeling tacky or forced.
It engages our minds and our hearts, impregnating fear in both of them. Amelia never manages to deal with her demons so instead her demons get the upperhand, leading her into a psychological struggle with her son – stranded fresh in the middle of an escalating madness.
The Babadook is a minimalistic horror film in the purest sense, echoing the silent film cinema of Georges Méliès and others, deploying similar film-making effects, relying mostly on practical ones.
“I’ve never seen a more terrifying film the The Babadook. It will scare the hell out of you as it did me”. – William Friedkin.
We Need to Talk about Kevin
Where to place this one: Killer kid movie or psychological drama? Let’s call it a psychological killer kid drama. Or more bluntly: Intelligent Cinema.
John C. Reilly plays the dad named Franklin. Tilda Swinton (shamelessly neglected at the Oscars) is the mother Eva and the titular character, their psychotic son, Kevin, is brilliantly played by newcomer Ezra Miller (Jasper Newell as the boy, Rock Duer as the toddler). The Khatchadourian family is made complete by Ashley Gerasimovich as the daughter Celia.
Eva’s stress levels are reaching new peaks every day mostly thanks to her highly intelligent and homicidal son who gets free range thanks to her gullible and complacent husband. The narrative is a non-linear one – taking us from the aftermath of something horrible and that which came before. Namely her upbringing of Kevin. She is tired, irritated, angry and negative and Kevin, from being no older than 1 year or 2, is turning Eva into his very own favorite project.
The film raises questions of the paternal and parental nature. Who is to blame and for what actions? And is there a solution? Is Kevin simply born Evil? Is Eva the one to blame for his ill minded intent?
There is a line in the script that never made it into the film (Roger Ebert used it to end his review of the film). “Why didn’t you kill me?” Eva asks, to which Kevin responds: “You don’t want to kill your audience.”
What They Have in Common
These are two extremely scary movies about the suppressed fears and dark thoughts of motherhood. What they have in common? They are linked through theme and style, they are both ambiguous in their conclusions, they are both recipients of the Kermode award for best feature film, they are both slow starters and brilliantly paced builders of tension and anticipation – brilliantly paced all the way to the final breaking point, and most importantly: they are both smart horror films.
4. Sleuth & Dial M for Murder
Laurence Olivier matched up against Michael Caine in a film directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz. Sign me up.
Andrew Wyke (Olivier) is a man of games and plays and since Milo Tindle (Caine) has snatched his wife, with the intention of marrying her, he proposes a lucrative trick that during the course of the film evolves into a game of wits. Wyke wants to get rid of his wife but he does not wish to pay any alimony. He suggest that Tindle “robs” his house, earns a fortune, with himself claiming the insurance money.
The script (and direction) is a work of genius, with a plot that is constantly suprising, constantly pulling you off guard and constantly makes you laugh in amazement.
Dial M for Murder
Alfred Hitchcock thoroughly delivers with one of his finest (and most restrained) cinematic outputs.
The plot is convoluted for sure and there is no real need to describe it. It’s about a well planned murder with lots of twists and turns and unforeseen events. The actors are terrific being led by Ray Milland, Grace Kelly, Robert Cummings and John Williams.
The film is in every sense made with a three part structure, starting off with part I: Discussing the plan and testing it out. Followed by part II: excecuting the plan. It ends with part III but what that entails you will have to see for yourself.
What They Have in Common
Both films could easily have been made solely as a play. Lucky for us, they didn’t. Two murder mysteries, both with extremely witty players – improvising as they go, extremely well written scripts, all in one location (one room for Hitchcock’s) and both made by directors who were wise enough not to interfere stylistically. They let the scripts do the talking while they themselves only has to point the camera.
5. Nosferatu: a Symphony of Horror & Nosferatu: The Vampyre
Nosferatu: a Symphony of Horror
There is a whole list of lists that’s being dominated by one certain gothic masterpiece. It’s one of the top 10 greatest silent films of all time, top 10 greatest horror films of all time, top 10 greatest German films of all time. It’s the first vampyre film and the greatest still.
We are all familiar with the story of Dracula (The name Dracula was here changed to Orlok) A real estate agent sells Count Orlok a house. The count traps the agent and makes his way across the seas, with one intention: to spread fear and death. (This is a gross simplification of the plot, but since it’s so well known, it’ll have to do). Max Schreck is brilliant as the chilling rodent-looking demon that through each new screen adaption turns more and more handsome.
Is Nosferatu scary? Not directly, you won’t feel scared just from watching it, but the images and the ideas, featured in the film, will surely stick with you longer than the vast majority of other (horror) films. Even the scary ones.
Nosferatu: The Vampyre
If the original is considered having haunting images, those of the remake has got to be considered being beautiful.
Arguably the greatest actor of all time, Klaus Kinski (a man who locked himself up in a cupboard, practising one line of dialogue for about ten hours just to get it right) outdoes Max Schreck’s original portrayal of the iconic count Dracula.
It is unmistakingly a Herzog film, being filmed in the same style as his other masterpiece’s of that time. It doesn’t look very cinematic, it has more of a documentary kind of aesthetic rather than a cinematic one. This can be distracting during a first view, but after a second or a third, Herzog will have you completely under his spell.
What They Have in Common
Gothic horror turned into poetic horror. Cinematic flamboyance turned into pure atmosphere. This is what a remake is supposed to be – Experimentation, fleshing out the original content for further insight. The Carrie remake was totally immemorable not to mention unnecessary and the same goes for most other remakes.
Shortly after the release of Nosferatu: The vampyre (Vampyre: the vampyre) two other horror remakes turned up. Carpenter’s The Thing and Cronenberg’s The Fly and before Herzog’s we had Kaufman’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Today foreign horror gets remade because people don’t like subtitles. Laughable. Pathetic. Sad.
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