5. Krisha (2015)
From the first shot of the film, the audience is captivated. “Krisha” was the cinematic debut of newcomer filmmaker Trey Edward Shults, who in this recent year 2017 has directed the film “It Comes at Night”.
With a bunch of family members and friends as the film crew, as well as a very limited budget, Shults managed to create a great film with a powerful story about an old woman who reunites with her family members for Thanksgiving. The film is tremendously uncomfortable; the bad feeling of something bad happening is present at all times. The tension is felt in each scene, and it seems rather unrealistic or strange, considering that “Krisha” takes place at a daily social family meeting. Shults is a really talented man when he is able to transform something casual and normal into something eerie.
Lead actress Krisha Fairchild, who plays this tormented woman, is really applaudable, considering she also is another family member of the director in real life, and an unknown actress to this day. Trey also plays himself in the film, portraying a small but an important character inside the story. The rest of the cast are also family members of the director.
This is another sad example of an astonishing film that didn’t get enough attention in its year, and it seems that the film continues this path of anonymity.
4. Respire (Breathe) (2014)
Melanie Laurent is a well-known and talented actress who someone will know from films like “Je Vais Bien, ne t’en Fais Pas” (2006), “Le concert” (2009) and “Inglourious Basterds” (2009). But in 2011, she ventured into directing with the French film “Les Adoptés”. This film “Respire” from 2014 was her second directorial film.
Joséphine Japy and Lou de Laâge are the true stars of the film, captivating the audience with their believable and realistic performances. The story follows Charlie, a normal teenager girl. When a new girl of the same age enters in his school, they seem to perfectly match. And I say “seem” because, little by little, Charlie will realize that Sarah is not so perfect and cool as she looks and pretends to be.
Everyone can identify with this movie, because it shows things that practically everyone has experienced. Everyone has had that best friend who they shared unforgettable moments with, marking their childhood or adolescence, just as also suffering the disappointment of said friend. This film is about that, and it didn’t got clearly the enough attention it deserved, unlike her spiritual sister “Blue is the Warmest Color” (2013).
3. Love Exposure (2008)
To begin with, it is a real shame that this masterpiece is not better known to the public. Sion Sono is a well-recognized director inside the cult film following and inside Japanese cinema, but that an epic film like this one doesn’t get enough recognition… it is unforgivable.
The film deals with topics such as love and religion, but in a totally original and metaphorical way, and also in a very graphic one. “Love Exposure” follows Yu, a teenager who has grown up in a very Christian family. His father, a newly ordained priest, forces him to confess his sins, which he commits in search for parental approval. Then, Yu is dedicated to diligently doing wrong, when he suddenly meets this girl Yoko, a girl who will change his life.
The cast could not be better, especially Hikari Mitsushima, who is charming as hell and does a great job at portraying her character. And if that were not enough, she has a very difficult role in which she has to show a huge variety of records. The music also really adds some joyfulness to the film, with pieces like “Bolero” from Ravel.
Needless to say more, the 4-hour duration of the film makes all the minutes necessary to achieve an almost perfect film. In spite of its long duration, it doesn’t feel slow or boring.
2. Take Shelter (2011)
“Take Shelter” is one of the most touching recent dramas and one of the creepiest thrillers in recent years. Jeff Nichols directed in 2007 the independent film “Shotgun Stories”, proving there that he was a future filmmaking promise. With “Take Shelter”, he confirmed us that he truly was a filmmaker with personality.
“Take Shelter” is one of those films that show us that there was and there still is life in American independent cinema. Nichols’s film is a rare mixture of genres: family drama, psychological thriller, horror and supernatural genre. With all of this, Nichols plays his cards well.
This is a story about a troubled family man who has been having a series of nightmares that have something in common: they are all razed by a strong storm. Michael Shannon plays this man, giving one of the best performances (if not the best) of his career until now. The beautiful and talented Jessica Chastain stars alongside him, playing his wife with abysmal naturalness. There is another important character in this film, and it’s neither a person nor a living thing. It’s fear. The fear Shannon suffers throughout is a major element in this film.
This may be the most well-known movie on the list, due to the actors starring in it and because of the director, who has made some more films in the recent years, like “Mud” (2012), “Midnight Special” (2016) and “Loving” (2016). That’s not saying much, because despite all that, it is still some kind of unknowable film.
1. Memories of Matsuko (2006)
This film, directed by Tetsuya Nakashima, is truly one unique piece of cinema. At first it may look like the stereotypical Japanese extravaganza, but nothing could be further from the truth. “Memories of Matsuko” will be leaving you without breath, without tears and without laughter, because you will be doing all those things during all the film’s run time.
“Memories of Matsuko” is exciting, funny, intelligent, fanciful and essential. The story tells the life of Matsuko, a 53-year-old woman found dead in a park near her home. His nephew will be in charge of discovering his life alongside continuous flashbacks that will tell us her life.
It might look that “Memories of Matsuko” is a strong drama; we are witness to the life of a bitter woman, mistreated by all men and left for misfortune. The point of difference here is that Nakashima manages to animate these misfortunes a little by using unique imagery. Among all this, we also find very animated musical numbers and surrealistic scenes.
The construction of the characters is magnificent. The performances, emphasized in the one by Miki Nakatani playing Matsuko, is excellent. She is capable of breaking us into tears, able to give us some smiles, and she sings with a really beautiful voice.
What really is sad is that a film like this in Hollywood would have conquered all the Oscars and achieved records, like, for example, “La La Land”. Sadly, this film comes from Japan and its distribution is limited. It helps a little that the director directed one of the most known Japanese films in recent years, “Confessions”, but that wasn’t enough to introduce this masterpiece to worldwide acclaim.
Author Bio: Pedro Morata is an aspiring filmmaker, but above all things, he is just a normal guy who is very passionate about film. He enjoys Asian films, especially cinema from Hong Kong. His favorite films are Drive, Chungking Express and Taxi Driver. You can follow him on twitter: @PeterPayne9.