This is Akira Kurasawa’s samurai adaptation of Shakespeare’s King Lear. I was a twelve year old Japanophile back when this came out, and begged my mom to take me. It was not at all what I expected. I was probably hoping for something closer to Revenge of the Ninja. However it left an impression on this future cinema nerd for sure. This is a deliberately paced, epic drama, with some impressive fight and battle sequences. The title translates to “chaos,” and there’s a lot of that too. Other than the fact that this is a nearly perfect work of filmmaking, there is one part that makes this absolute Anomalous Cinema. A pitch black post-battle sequence that is so morbidly beautiful that it absolutely blew my mind the last time I watched the film. The imagery, along with Tōru Takemitsu’s fantastic score, make for one of the most powerful scenes I’ve ever experienced. I feel sorry for my mom, but it wasn’t nearly as traumatic as when she took me to see Full Metal Jacket. I’m positive she regretted that choice.
Hello Anomalous Cinephiles,
I am running late this week. My usual recommendation will be posted tomorrow.
In the meantime, I have been posting extra recommendations on my Instagram @jpcanady, so you might want to follow me there.
Thank you. -Jonathan
As you may know, I am a huge fan of director Ben Wheatley (High-Rise, Rebecca, and Free Fire have all been recommended here). This is one of his most bizarre films, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s a dark psychedelic experience set in 1648. Think Altered States meets a period Hammer Horror film. It is slower paced than some of than director’s other work, but you will not be bored. This is truly original filmmaking that is not to be missed. Also, if you happen to have The Criterion Channel, I highly recommend you check out Wheatley’s Kill List.
Not available on domestic Blu-ray (out of print).
A trained assassin can take over any person, and use their body to do the killing. This beautifully lensed film starts with a bang and does not let up. Lead actress Andrea Riseborough is spot on, and Christopher Abbott (from the very good Catch 22 mini-series) is a perfect choice too. This film features innovative looking dark psychedelic interludes, which up the game on SpectreVision (who produced Mandy also starring Riseborough). Possessor also features pretty graphic sex, and very graphic violence with some excellent gore FX. There’s even a pseudo J&B bottle nod to Italian horror films of yesteryear. Jim Williams (Kill List, Sightseers) provided a top-notch dark ambient electronic score that sounded killer in headphones. Yes, yes… this was written and directed by David Cronenberg’s son, so there are nods to Videodrome and Existenz (which also starred Jennifer Jason Leigh), but they are handled in a really smart and next-level way. You will have no idea where the movie will end up, and it’s wonderful. Pitch black but wonderful.
This is one of my all-time favorite documentaries. Werner Herzog does an in-depth study of his relationship with Klaus Kinski, and the actor’s life beyond when they worked together. The man was insane, but also supremely talented. If you want to see what Kinski was capable of when he was actually enthusiastic about the project he was working on, check out Andrzej Żuławski’s L’important c’est d’aimer (currently streaming for free on Kanopy and Hoopla, also available to rent). Klaus was almost never enthusiastic, yet even in his many borderline-cameo appearances in low-budget cult films he stole the show. The man had some special kind of magic going on. At the end of My Best Fiend there’s an outtake with a butterfly that maybe the single best thing I’ve ever seen captured on celluloid. This is MUST SEE Anomalous Cinema.
Not available on domestic Blu-ray.
This is simply a very good, deliberately paced, revenge drama. The artwork might make you think Bad Day… is a violent shoot-em-up. No, but that’s really ok. The performances by Nigel O’Neill and Susan Lynch alone make it well worth a watch.
So there’s this documentary where real-life Indonesian death squad members re-stage their crimes for the camera, including lavish song and dance numbers. No really, this exists, and is probably the most Anomalously Cinematic doc made in the last 15 years. I try to avoid Oscar nominated films here, but this is just too perfect to not share. I caught myself with my mouth hanging open several times while trying to absorb the multiple levels of crazy on display. I give The Act of Killing my strongest possible recommendation. Also check out director Joshua Oppenheimer’s follow up The Look of Silence, which is not as over-the-top, but well worth watching.
Larry Clark got his start by taking photos of fellow juvenile delinquents, which made up his fantastic book Tulsa. After years as an acclaimed art photographer, he directed the agonizing, but highly regarded film Kids, about the same topic, set in ‘90s New York City. Later he made Bully, which is based on a real life murder perpetrated by, you guessed it, juvenile delinquents. This is Clark’s best film by far. It pushes almost EVERY button, so sensitive folks should flat out avoid it. Bully is so shocking that I am honestly impressed that it has been made available on streaming services in our current “trigger warning” times. In spite of its controversial content, this film managed to receive a lot of critical acclaim at the time of its release. Unfortunately Larry Clark did not continue making films of the same quality. He’s following his obsessions with smaller movies, which I admire, but Bully shows all elements falling into place to make a near-perfect film.
RIP Brad Renfro. I wish we could have seen what movies you’d go on to make.
Not available on Blu-ray.
This movie will not make you smarter, but it’s a very entertaining action flick. The basic premise of a violent, first-person, sci-fi adventure, that happens to be well-executed, qualifies it as Anomalous Cinema alone. The cherry on top is that Hardcore Henry manages to ramp up the insane action as it goes along. Oh yeah, and Sharlto Copley is excellent in this. He even does a literal song and dance routine. That’s some sprinkles with your cherry. The whole thing could be dismissed as just plain stupid. I say it’s damned fun, and confirmed that on a second viewing last night. So turn off your logic circuits, and enjoy with your favorite psychoactive substance for the proper experience.
Nearly ten years ago my partner Suzie dragged me to see Alexander McQueen’s exhibition at The Met in New York. I was not psyched to wait in line for something I wasn’t particularly interested in. Once we got into the show, my feelings quickly changed. I loved what I was seeing, especially the dark influences like Jack the Ripper and Joel-Peter Witkin. I walked out of museum an official Alexander McQueen fan. Suzie and I watched this documentary as soon as it cane out and absolutely loved it. This is obviously a must-see for fashion enthusiasts, and I would recommend this film to anyone interested in art as well. Before I saw that exhibition I didn’t understand the two worlds had such compelling areas of crossover.