6. The Terror Live (2013, Kim Byung-woo, South Korea)
This South Korean action thriller is an one-man-show of actor Ha Jung-woo (“Yellow Sea”, “The Handmaiden”), one of the most exciting talents of South Korean cinema today.
A newsman suddenly receives a phone call from a terrorist who claims to have a bomb on a large bridge and wants the TV to show it live. Knowing this is the golden opportunity to both rise the viewership ratings and regain his losing position at the TV station, he accepts the request and hosts the live broadcast of the event. It turns out that the terrorist wants the president to apologize for an accident which happened during the construction of the bridge.
This is probably the boldest political statement in the history of South Korean cinema, and you have to admire the courage of the cast and crew to make such a movie. At the center stage is Ha Jung-woo, the man who uses every emotion and gesture to showcase the danger and tension of the situation, in definitely one of the best performances of 2016. The ending will give you chills and make you cheer at the same time.
7. Cemetery of Splendour (2015, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Thailand)
Due to a lack of a budget, Asian filmmakers often find their unique ways to make so-called “indie” productions. This restraint only encourages and inspires them to more economical and interesting storytelling methods. This Thai drama by Palme d’Or winning director Apichatpong Weerasethakul is such a fine example.
In a temporary clinic, volunteer Jen is looking after a soldier with a mysterious sleeping sickness. During her stay, she befriends a young medium, Keng, who can help people communicate with the sleeping soldiers. Jen finds some weird writings and sketches in the soldier’s notebook and guesses there may be some connections between his syndrome and the ancient site that lies beneath the clinic. Dreams then start to take over reality in this mysterious place.
For those who are used to traditional storytelling, this movie may seem slow or even hypnotic. It’s a tough watch because most of the time you have to use your imagination to come up with the images of your own. But it’s also a rewarding experience for those who like movies that challenge the rules of movie storytelling.
8. Macadam Stories (2015, Samuel Benchetrit, France)
The cinema of loneliness has great traditions and new generations of filmmakers can always find a way to tell the tales of loneliness. Six lonesome people and three beautiful encounters is the central plot of this movie.
A handicapped man goes to the hospital for fast food from auto sale machine, and falls in love with a nurse on her night shift. He lied that he used to be a photographer with National Geographic and takes pictures from TV to show her.
A young man encounters his new neighbor, who used to a movie star. The woman invites him to watch her old movies with her, and he tries to help the actress regain her confidence by shooting some footage for her audition of a new movie.
A NASA astronaut accidentally lands on the roof of a French woman’s house and she accepts him since NASA can only pick him up in two days. They find each other very kind and form a mother-and-son-like relationship.
“Macadam Stories” is such a tender movie and full of heart. You will even be surprised that a movie about loneliness and alienation can be so interesting and heartwarming. Definitely a refreshing film for the lonely hearts.
9. The Best Offer (2013, Giuseppe Tornatore, Italy)
From the Oscar-winning director who brought us classics like “Cinema Paradiso” and “The Legend of 1900”, “The Best Offer” is an exquisite movie about life imitating art.
Virgil Oldman, a famous director of art auction house, receives a call from a girl who wants him to evaluate her paintings and furniture. But one thing that irritates Oldman is that the girl never makes an appearance; later he learns that she has agoraphobia and has not gone out since she was very young.
Curiosity and sympathy made Oldman fall in love with the girl, and with the methods suggested by his friend, a young artificer, he successfully helps the girl overcome her mental illness. When he finally plans to propose, though, something mysterious and terrifying happens…
“The Best Offer” brilliantly compares a love relationship to a work of art. In the first hour and a half, it plays like a mystery romantic film that is ultimately about romantic obsession. Then, in the last half-hour, it’s more like a psychological thriller that gives you some extra surprise.
The film is a masterfully shot picture with the aid of Ennio Morricone’s wonderful score, and Geoffrey Rush is perfect as a man who would do anything to win his first love. If you like watching unconventional romantic films with some twists, this is the best offer you can get.
10. Schneider vs. Bax (2015, Alex van Warmerdam, Netherlands)
For those who are interested in European cinema, the Dutch film “Borgman” is one of the recent standouts for its smart and cynical script as well as its spin on the “home invasion” subgenre. The director’s follow-up to it is another interesting and complex movie that is worth seeking out.
A contract killer named Schneider receives a task of killing a writer called Bax, who lives in his summer house near a lake. However, things don’t go well as planned. Both Bax’s daughter and father visit him unexpectedly, his new girlfriend brings back a young man to avenge him, and worst of all, Schneider is spotted by a ranger so he has to change both his car and disguise to start all over again.
Since it’s an European film about contract killers, it’s more plot-based rather than action-based. It’s a “task go wrong” movie with lots of twists and turns; the characters are very complex and they all have a lot of problems to deal with. The setting reminds one of a classic Japanese film, “Onibaba”, where the dangerous reed field plays a character itself. Don’t miss this enjoyable ride.