Okay, I started making a list for friends called 13 great movies that you probably never heard of.  Here’s what I’ve got so far:

1.  Leolo (Canadian) Young French-Canadian kid named Leo believes his mother was impregnated by a Scilian tomato which is why he only answers to Leolo.  And he’s the sanest member of his family.  The filmmaker Jean-Claude Luzon died at 43 with his girlfriend when the Cessna he was piloting crashed but he lived long enough to tell Norman Jewison to go fuck himself when offered the chance to direct a Gene Hackman thriller and to tell Jamie Lee Curtis, a judge at Cannes, that he wanted to chew her up like a piece of liver.

2. Lovers of the Arctic Circle (Spanish) Directed by Julio Medem.  Otto and Ana fall in love as children, become accidential brother and sister, become lovers, fall apart, and never quite find each other again, despite heroic efforts to that end.  I’ve watched it six times and it breaks my heart every time.

3.  Off the Map (American) Inept IRS man tracks down deliquent family in desert, falls in love with wife (who is standing naked in the garden) at first site, comes down with a fever, bonds with depressed husband, takes up painting and becomes famous at it although he doesn’t really care.  Told from the perspective of the young daughter of the family. 

4.  Last Life in the Universe (Thai)  Directed by Pen-Ek Ratanaruang.  Suicidal Japanese librarian on the run from Yakuza moves in with Thai prostitute because there are two dead guys in his apartment.

5.  Morvern Caller (Scottish) Lynne Ramsey’s second film (the first was the equally extraordinary Ratcatcher) stars the incredible Samantha Morton as a grocery store clerk who wakes up on Christmas morning to find that her boyfriend has killed himself in the kitchen, leaving behind the manuscript of a novel and the addresses of some publishers.  She changes his name to hers and sends it in and then heads off to Spain with her girlfriend for a holiday. 

6.  Barbarian Invasions (Canadian) Directed by Denys Arcand.  A fairy tale about dying not simply with diginity but with joie de vive. 

Who has something to add to the list? 

21 Responses to “Great Movies You Probably Never Heard Of”
  1. john Power says:

    Antonio Gaudi by Hiroshi Teshigahara (He created the very weird movie Woman of the Dunes) with soundtrack by Toru Takemitsu. It’s an almost silent film of shots of Gaudi interiors and exteriors, with wonderful soundtrack by Takemitsu.

  2. Ryan says:

    “Fast, Cheap, and Out of Control.” The “his brain works differently than everyone else’s” filmmaker Erroll Morris creates one documentary out of four: he interviews an MIT robot building, a lion tamer, the world’s greatest topiary gardener, and a naked mole rat specialist, blends it together with stock footage, and comes up with a beautiful, profound meditation on the acceptance of death and other aspects of life you cannot control, the interconnectedness of all disciplines, and the search for immortality. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

  3. I maintain a list of my favorite films below.


    … many are very well-known, others not. Leolo (Jerry’s 1st) is on my list.

  4. Sparky P. says:

    Two short flims (check IMDB.com for these titles): 1. De Duva (1968): a send-up of Ingmar Bergman movies, with “Wild Strawberries” predominating, the dialog is in mock Swedish (all worrds ending in “-vska”) and a side note of the main charactar being challenged by Death (from the “Seventh Seal”) to game of badminton, who loses when a passing dove craps on him. Look for a young Madeline Kahn as the butch sister of the main guy. and 2. Norman Nurdlepick’s Suspension (1972), a send-up of Alfred Hitchcock. We’ll fing a way to get these babies (and other like that) into DVD format.

  5. K. D. says:

    Huutajat (Screaming Men) — a documentary about the Finnish Screaming Men’s Choir. This intrepid ensemble screams every work they perform. In addition, they travel internationally, interpreting different national anthems and offending the French.

  6. My obscure film that most people haven’t seen has finally been released on DVD after years of my family waiting. “The Loved One.” The movie with something to offend everyone. It’s based on the novella by Evelyn Waugh poking fun at Forest Lawn and the American film industry.

    Rod Steiger, Anjanette Comer, Robert Morse, Jonathan Winters playing two brothers, Liberace as a casket salesman, Paul Williams, John Gielgud. Cameos include Milton Berle, Tab Hunter, James Coburn, Roddy McDowell.

    “They say dear Francis Hinsley, they say that you were hung. With red protruding eyeballs and black protruding tongue.”

  7. Graham Rieper says:

    “Repentance: …it encompasses the whole breadth of human emotions such as joy, whimsy, sorrow, and regret.”

    Not to mention incredulity in the presence of ham-fisted allegory.

  8. zeno says:

    thanks Tom and Jacob … how many recall that Tengiz Abuladze’s 1984 “Repentance” uses music by Sofia Gubaidulina (and Arvo Paert?) to help convey “the whole breadth of human emotions such as joy, whimsy, sorrow, and regret?”

    And there is also Rolan Bykov’s Chuchelo (The Scarecrow), from 1983, the year before Repentance. I believe that this was Ms Gubaidulina’s most personally-favored film score (of many).
    Some of that score turns up in her ‘Stimmen… Verstummen’, Symphony in 12 movements.

    And while many of us admire the film work of Satyajit
    Ray, how many recall vividly his sublime ‘Jalsaghar’ (The Music Room)?


    [ … and Andrei Wajda’s ‘A Generation’ and ‘Kanal’, as well as ‘Ashes and Diamonds’. And Krzysztof Zanussi’s The Structure of Crystals and Camouflage, and Magdalena Piekorz’s recent, Pregi …]

  9. Jacob Sudol says:

    zeno says “Do I detect an anti-Russian (Soviet) or Eastern European film bias here?”

    Let me try to rectify that some (Eastern European and Soviet films are some of my favorites). Admittedly many of these films are classics of sort, but if you don’t know Eastern European and Soviet films you should definitely check them out….

    Amator (aka Camera Buff): Directed by Krzystof Kieslowski. Early fictional Kieslowski film about a man sacrificing his family as he plummets head first into a sudden mild success in documentary film-making.

    Arsenal: Aleksandr Dovzhenko. A brilliant silent Ukranian film depicting the start of a Civil War in Ukraine after WWI.

    Ashes and Diamonds: Andrei Wajda. Another film depicting the immediate aftermath of war, this time a more personal look at Poland right after WWII.

    Repentance: Tengiz Abuladze. A Georgian semi-fictional semi-true story about how a family is effected by the rule of a town’s dictator; it encompasses the whole breadth of human emotions such as joy, whimsy, sorrow, and regret.

    and something completely Russian for good measure…

    Stalker: Andrei Tarkovsky. One of the lesser known and most surreal and esthetically conceived works in Tarkovsky’s small oeuvre.

  10. Rodney Lister says:

    I don’t think I’ve ever run across anybody who knew Beauties of the Night by Rene Clair (except for Robert Helps–it was his favorite movie). It’s about a composer who, while waiting to hear whether of not his opera is going to be accepted by the Opera Comique, day-dreams himself into the Belle Epoch, where he’s a successful opera composer, the early days of the Foreign Legion in Algeria, and early nineteenth century France, unfortunately just as the revolution is starting. The scene where, as the successful composer, the first performance of his latest opera turns into a complete (dadaist) disaster is one of the best representations of a composer nightmare I’ve ever seen. It’s a very funny take off of structure of Intolerance, and it’s really just wonderful. Since he gets the girl and his opera is accepted, it also has a happy ending.

    I’ve often thought it would be interesting to have a film festival featuring movies about fictional composers (as opposed to composer bios–which have their own kind of charm). The list would include Beauties of the Night, Dead Again, The Shout, and The Red Shoes (which is just as much a composer movie as it is a dancer movie). Any others?

  11. Tom Myron says:

    Do I detect an anti-Russian (Soviet) or Eastern European film bias here?

    Absolutely Garth. You’ve nailed it once again.

  12. Matthew says:

    Mario Bava’s Planet of the Vampires (Terrore nello spazio), 1965. Ludicrous and eye-poppingly beautiful, a gentleman’s-B movie that your visual cortex will be drunk on for weeks. Run, don’t walk, etc.

  13. Paul H. Muller says:

    Koyaanisqatsi – Maybe not obscure enough for this list, but in my circle of friends it is totally unknown. It is the perfect video accompanyment to the great music of Philip Glass.

    Mickey One – if only for that great last scene.

  14. zeno says:

    Steve, El Espíritu de la colmena, immediately came to my mind but I thought that it was a recognized classic over here in the States.


    Do I detect an anti-Russian (Soviet) or Eastern European film bias here? (On this date that Putin has declared a national day of mourning in honor of recently lost lives in Siberia and on the Azor coast.)

    Ivanovo Detstvo or Ashik Kerib?

  15. Jay Batzner says:

    If you are of the sci-fi persuasion I recommend Free Enterprise. It is a rom-com with heavy Trek overtones and hilarity by William Shatner himself.

    Not high culture, no, but a fun movie that I find few have heard of.

  16. Steve Layton says:

    As long as you mentioned Spanish films, 1973’s The Spirit of the Beehive (El Espíritu de la colmena) is barely known over here, though it’s one of the greatest films of any country or era.

  17. Tom Myron says:

    Les Blank Burden of Dreams
    Wim Wenders Tokyo-Ga

  18. zeno says:

    Very interesting…. I’ve only seen Lovers of the Arctic Circle.

    The Japanese cult classic Pastoral Hide and Seek and the Australian cult classic Map of the Human Heart are perhaps too mainstream for the readership here and for Jerry’s circle of friends.

    I recall catching at the Berkeley Film Archive, in about 1976, Arnold’s Pumping Iron and a poignant Thai film entitled Angel, which was introduced and championed by Wim Wenders.

    [Many of the greatest films ever made, many not well known in the U.S., are Japanese films. Jerry knows what they are.]

  19. Roberto Barnard B. says:

    I do believe a super-cheap psycho Western involving poorly trained private aviators (who rely too much on GPS and Blackberry programmed FPs), suicidal secretaries and inept functionaries with hedonist intentions is in the works as we speak.

  20. Graham Rieper says:

    Run Home Slow, 1963, a super cheap psycho-western starring Mercedes McCambridge, music composed and conducted by 23 year old Frank Zappa. The score has motives from soon-to-be Mothers of Invention tunes like “Duke of Prunes.”

  21. Kyle Gann says:

    Greaser’s Palace, 1975, directed by Robert Downey, Sr. Kooky, surreal, and unbelievable. Jesus in a purple zoot suit parachutes into the Old West. Self-consciously asinine premise, gorgeous cinematography.