Since we’re doing holiday frivolities here, let me point to a post by Tony Galluci at milkriverblog, who is collecting nominations for the best film that too few people know about. I’m not very good at these games, since I only catch on to quality small films once twenty other people recommend them to me, at which point I can’t really claim that too few people know about them.
So, at the risk of being insufficiently obscure, I’ll nominate Vanya on 42nd Street as a dramatically under-appreciated film. In this movie we have:
- A play by Anton Chekhov,
- adapted by David Mamet,
- directed (in rehearsal) by Andre Gregory,
- filmed by Louis Malle,
- performed by an amazing cast featuring Julianne Moore, Wallace Shawn, Larry Pine, and several other New York theater regulars.
Happily, these raw materials come together into an amazing whole. We start with a play that has the typical Chekhovian layerings of meaning and mood, and embed it in a film that follows seamlessly from the actors arriving at the theater into beginning their rehearsal (one of the jolts of the movie is when you realize the play has already begun and you hadn’t noticed). We alternate between being drawn in completely to Chekhov’s dialogue and being pushed out by reminders that these are actors performing a play; the juggling act could have fallen flat, but all the different balls are kept artfully in air. It’s not such an obscure film, but I can still push it as under-appreciated.
Forced to slightly greater obscurity, I’ll vote for Gazon Maudit (French Twist). A completely hilarious film that starts as your typical frustrated-housewife-falls-for-lesbian-truck-driver picture, and then takes, unsurprisingly, a twist. Americans could never have made this movie — certain things the French will always do better.
Nominations? I’m sure people can out-obscure me without much trouble.