6. Songs from the Second Floor (Roy Andersson, 2000)
“Songs from the Second Floor” is the first installment in Roy Andersson’s trilogy about the human condition. Extrapolating the human nature and the inescapable everydayness of life, the trilogy consists of three existential absurdist comedies that attempt to shed a light on the meaning of existence.
It is defined as a “film-poem,” for its narrative is not chronological, the choice of protagonists is arbitrary (allowing the spectator to see their own lives in the same light as they see those of the protagonists), and its unique visual style is reminiscent of painting in its perfect composition and colorful palette.
“Songs from the Second Floor,” in particular, and the trilogy in general, exposes us to a set of interesting experiences where the meaninglessness of life is faced with a joyful attitude that celebrates the fugacity of things instead of suffering with the impermanence.
7. Antiporno (Sion Sono, 2016)
When the Japanese company Nikkatsu decided to reboot the genre known as ‘Roman Porno,’ a genre characterized by showing ‘romantic porn’ with exploitation features, they commissioned director Sion Sono with a film. The result was “Antiporno,” a weird and schizophrenic film that takes the genre and uses it to criticize porn culture, the misogyny in Japan, and the historical weight that has been placed over women.
This is a deceiving film, setting up and developing a story only to completely destroy it, making it impossible for the viewer to actually know who the characters are and how to feel about them; while at first a character might evoke feelings of shame and pity, in the next scene they become fierce and frightening. All of these, together with the seemingly dreamy and ethereal visual style, express the schizophrenia hidden in the soul of the protagonist, a young schoolgirl who lies about her age in order to participate in a pornographic film.
8. Weekend (Jean-Luc Godard, 1967)
Since “Breathless,” his first film, French director Jean-Luc Godard has been challenging the way stories in cinema are told. He has been defined as a maverick, an iconoclast, somebody who breaks the rules just for the sake of it, finding new ways to do things, new paths to explore. Films with great artistry like “Alphaville,” “Pierrot le Feu,” “Une Femme est un Femme” and “Vivre sa Vie” are today considered classic films that represented a shift in the paradigm of filmmaking.
“Weekend” takes as its starting point “La Autopista del Sur” (“The Southern Highway”), a short story by Argentine writer Julio Cortázar in which a huge traffic jam outside of Paris generates a new, fleeting and temporary, civilization among those trapped in the jam. While the story is easily summarized, Godard’s filmmaking style is vague and unexpected, making it difficult to follow the characters throughout the whole film. The most important part of the film in Godard’s eyes is the usage of a traffic jam as a metaphor for society, in which a strong critique of consumerism and the upper classes takes place.
9. Daisies (Vera Chtylová, 1966)
As one of the most prominent nova vlná, Vera Chtylová guaranteed her place in the cinema pantheon with “Daisies” in one of the most innovative and groundbreaking films ever made. On the surface, “Daisies” is just a film about female friendship, but in reality it is a lucid and sharp social critique of the state of the world in general, and of the at that time Czech Republic in particular. “Daises” improved and innovated filmmaking in almost every single aspect; it has a fresh take on camera work, montage, color theory and storytelling.
When it was first released, it was banned by the government: its feminist ideology and the recklessness that imbues every take proved to be too much for censors and politicians. Nevertheless, today it’s considered a masterpiece, a lesson in filmmaking every young student should watch and try to imitate in its raw energy. “Daisies” challenged every aspect of cinema, changing things forever, showing that there are new ways to do things, ways closer to the heart of cinema, of the possibilities it represents.
10. Samsara (Ron Fricke, 2011)
The name of Ron Fricke has already appeared on this list, for he was the cinematographer Godfrey Reggio used in “Koyaanisqatsi.” In a very similar fashion to the aforementioned film, “Samsara” takes a rather anthropologic approach toward storytelling.
This captivating film takes us to several countries, exposing us to different cultures and ways of being, of understanding the planet, of inhabiting it. While due to its anthropocentric approach this is isn’t as pure and open as “Koyaanisqatsi,” “Samsara” is a beautiful film, filled with breathtaking images that flow into each other, forming a canvas in which a portrait of humanity can be painted (albeit a biased one).
Author Bio: Elías García-Smith is a drifter, if you don’t see him wandering around New York City or Mexico City, he is probably watching a movie somewhere. His love for cinema started when he saw Jodorowsky’s ‘El Topo’ as a child, and he hasn’t stopped watching movies since then. He spends his spare time dreaming about the films he would like to make.