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Vanya on 42nd Street – 1994

This is an exercise that could have been very tedious indeed. A group of actors wander into a dilapidated theatre and their random conversations slowly morph into their performance, and experience of Anton Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya. In lesser hands, this could have been the height of boredom, but Louis Malle’s delicate touch and a wonderful cast really inject this with thrilling life. Worth it if you’re in for something completely different.

Big Trouble in Little China – 1986

If you were to explain what a « cult movie » is, you could have a whole debate, or you could just whip out a copy of this masterpiece. A huge flop upon release, this is the long-island ice tea of movies. It has everything in it: martial arts, romance, gangsters, magic, neon-lit escalators, Kurt Russel, the wonderful creation that is Lo Pan… In fact it has way too much of everything, but it is such glorious, silly, kitsch fun, you can’t help but love it. If you have not seen this yet, do yourself a favor and seek it out.

Brawl in Cell Block 99 – 2017

Now here’s some pulp of the highest order. S. Craig Zahler, emboldened by the success of the slow dread and violent apotheosis he created in Bone Tomahwak, puts an unusually menacing Vince Vaughn through hell. This is a movie that fully embraces its true nature, what a treat!

Matewan – 1987

If « the union comes to a coal-mining town » doesn’t get your heart racing as a synopsis, then this slow-burn dynamite-stick of a film is sure to catch you completely off-guard. Set to the copper-tones of Haskel Wexler’s terrific photography, John Sayles’ angry epic shows the struggle of the left-behind in a way that will resonate these 3 decades later, and the cruel tactics the powerful often use to subdue and divide the oppressed.

Until The End of the World – 1991

In the late 80s, German wunderkind Wim Wenders made this improbable arthouse superproduction spanning 11 countries and, in its restored form, almost 5 hours. Conceived as the « ultimate road movie » it slowly morphs into much more than that, and some of its observations about the future are incredibly prescient.

Floating Weeds – 1959

Gentle scholar of the human condition Yasujiro Ozu made many memorable films, and this is one of his most visually accomplished ones, and perhaps one of the most touching. If you’re new to the Japanese master, this is as good an entry-point as any.

Ordet – 1955

Dreyer is a Danish legend and a hero of firebrand Lars von Trier. Whatever expectations such a preamble might create are no match for the experience that is this unique story of faith and redemption.

Zigeneurwisen – 1980

Bless you! This tongue-twisting mind-bender is the kick-off chapter to wildcard filmmaker Seijun Suzuki’s Taisho Trilogy, and probably what David Lynch might have produced had he been born in Japan. Is it a dream, a nightmare? Spellbinding stuff!

The Mystery of Picasso – 1956

Imagine you could sit with one of the defining artists of our times and push them to create whatever came to mind in real time. That is just the palyful exercise put to screen by legendary director Henri-George Clouzot and icon Pablo Picasso. It’s as interesting as you’d expect, but also far more entertaining and visually compelling.

A Matter of Life and Death – 1946

Powell and Pressburger films all have that special something, like fairytales without the saccharine. Of all their output, this one – the story of a downed airman bargaining for more time on this Earth to live out a romantic encounter – teeters closest to melodrama, but it’s just so irresistible you can’t help but love it.