6. Zoo (2007, Robinson Devor)
The only documentary film to be included on this list, Zoo deals with highly controversial and taboo subject matter. Zoo recounts the life and death of Kenneth Pinyan, a man who became infamously known post mortem as “Mr. Hands” during the dawn of viral internet culture in the early 2000’s. The documentary explores the strange case of Mr. Hands other zoophiles (people sexually attracted to animals) involved in the Washington state scandal.
Dealing with perverse matters that are never addressed in mainstream culture, Zoo takes an on a neutral perspective when considering the actions of its subject. Possessing an eerie and contemplative tone of isolation that seems apparent when looking back on the life of Kenneth Pinyan, Zoo is a quiet, unassuming documentary that leaves much space and time for viewers to contemplate the irregular topic. Like a great documentary should, Zoo does not try to convince its viewer of the correct stance to take when considering this legal case, it simply platforms contrasting beliefs on the controversial subject. A profound documentary that explores hidden desires in the corners of humankind, Zoo is a challenging film that should be watched by many.
7. A Ghost Story (2017, David Lowery)
For a film about a dead person, A Ghost Story must be considered one of the most existential films to be released in years. The lives of a nameless couple (played by Lowery favorites Rooney Mara and Casey Affleck) are permanently altered when the man dies in a car crash, leaving his lover to continue with her life with him watching on as a ghost.
An absurd aspect of this film is the ghost character, who is the ultimate caricature of a ghost under a white sheet. But somehow the stereotypical portrayal makes him more human, especially as he watches time pass by but cannot let go of his mortal life of the past. Lowery addresses time with a dynamic rhythm, beginning with extended longshots and a quickening pace as the film moves forward and time moves on. A Ghost Story is shot in an aspect ratio that makes it almost a perfect square, adding a restriction to the perspective that is also experienced by the ghost. A Ghost Story is a humble film with a very limited budget, but regardless of its small production scale this is a film that explores the truths of life in a truly profound approach that could be appreciated by many.
8. Climax (2018, Gaspar Noé)
Climax was one of the most wild movies to be released in 2018. At the beginning of the film, a diverse dance troop celebrates after rehearsal with refreshments and a bowl of punch, but someone has spiked the punch with LSD. The chaos that ensues leaves viewers in a whirl of color, music, and emotion much like they have taken acid themselves.
Noé is so well-known for his films of extremity, and while Climax is by no means a delicate film it is more-easily palatable than some of the director’s earlier work. The extensive dancing throughout the film is captured by a camera that also moves with life, creating scenes of electric energy. The diversity of the troop adds to the performance of the dance, but also puts together varying characters of society which the film addresses with tones of anxiety and distrust, meditative of the modern world.
The director’s trademark bold color choices are on full display throughout Climax, shifting and changing with the the experiences of the acid trip. While much of the experimental camerawork used in Climax can feel too disorienting or assaulting at times, the deliberation of the film’s unique vision is one to be experienced. Whether a good trip or a bad trip, Climax is a cinematic trip work taking.
9. Liberté (2019, Albert Serra)
Liberté became infamous in 2019 for its large number of walk-outs at film festival screenings across the globe. Set just before the beginnings of the French Revolution, Liberté takes place over one night in a European forest where exiled libertines have gathered to spend an evening fulfilling their most distasteful and excessive sexual fantasies.
Serra’s first interpretation of Liberté was a play, which is easily understandable when examining the dazzling and deliberate lighting in the film version. Liberté’s spectacular cinematography works in great contrast to the grotesquely debauched libertines as they exercise their gluttonous sexual appetites. These sexual acts are often captured throughout the film in extended single shots, adding to the exessive nature of their actions.
Notions of voyeurism are present throughout the film as the libertines look upon another during their separate pleasure-taking, with the audience arguably the largest voyeur of all if they have managed to sit through this challenging film. Although many may consider Liberté’s graphic nature to be impassible, in interesting ways the film can be seen as a reflection of modern times, a perverse depiction of the insatiable elite. Liberté may be experienced as unyielding or exhausting, but nonetheless is a provocative film to be considered.
10. Deerskin (2019, Quentin Dupieux)
Deerskin was arguably one of the most bizarre films to premiere at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival. Deerskin’s central character is Georges, (played by Jean Dujardin, known for The Artist) a mysterious aging man who buys a deerskin leather jacket and becomes infatuated with it, so fixated with the jacket that he thinks it should be the only jacket in the world.
Although the French language Deerskin finishes in a crisp 78 minutes, director Quentin Dupieux manages to combine engaging components of violence and comedy to create a very entertaining slasher-esque film in a short amount of time. Deerskin employees familiar tropes of masculine crisis and filmmaking-within-filmmaking, while also telling a wildly fresh and ridiculous story. Dujardin’s performance alone is enough to see Deerskin, as the talented French actor commits to his role as a gone to seed man teetering on the brink of insanity. The short run time and grossly humorous story make Deerskin an odd film that must be seen.
The list above may be largely comprised of bizarre and lesser-known films, but nonetheless each of them has an individual spirit that should be noticed by any film-lover. Although many of these films confront provocative and unusual subjects, they do so with conviction and style that can be appreciated by many. Each of these films offer a deeply unique experience that will surely leave lasting effects upon viewers.