FEATURING: John Abraham, Ayesha Takia, Ranvir Shorey, Kiku Sharda, Paresh Rawal
PLOT: K, an arrogant businessman and highly-addicted chain smoker, agrees to enter a smoking-cessation program after his wife threatens to leave him. Going to the address his friend gave him, K is led through a labyrinth and forced to sign a contract which specifies that his loved ones will be harmed in increasingly severe ways every time he smokes a cigarette. Naturally, K relapses into smoking and is caught, eventually winding up trapped in a nightmare world.
The script (at least its early sections) bears some striking similarities to Stephen King‘s short story “Quitters, Inc.,” which was previously a segment of the 19865 anthology Cat’s Eye. The writer/director admits the story was an inspiration, although the credits do not mention King.
No Smoking was Anurag Kashyap’s third movie, but the first one released in India. His debut, Paanch, was never released outside of international film festivals due to state censorship (for violence and drug use); his second film, Black Friday, a true crime story, was delayed while a court case was pending and released after No Smoking. He later achieved mainstream success with 2009’s Dev D, an adaptation of a popular novel.
No Smoking was a colossal flop in its native India, where it baffled audiences with little exposure to psychological thrillers or surreal cinema.
INDELIBLE IMAGE: The bathtub sitting alone on a snowy plain in Siberia, just in sight of what appears to be a Soviet-era gulag, which appears in dream sequences at the beginning and end of the movie.
THREE WEIRD THINGS: Hitler’s Indian buddy; Fosse’s cigarette cabaret; banana peel suicide
WHAT MAKES IT WEIRD: No Smoking isn’t quite what would result if David Lynch got a wild hair to direct a Bollywood film—but it’s a reasonable approximation. With it’s theme of bad men forced to forgo their vices against their will, a bit like a Hindi twist on A Clockwork Orange, as well, only with more elaborate musical numbers. With the tropes of Indian popular cinema colliding against a Western-style neo-surrealist narrative, No Smoking is neither fish nor fowl; it totally confounded Indian audiences used to simple stories with happy endings, and it will probably confound you, too.
The Internet Movie Database is a wonderful and a terrible thing. Wonderful, because it allows you to create impressively thorough lists of potentially weird movies. Terrible, because it may tease you with the names of intriguing movies you may never be able to see.
Below is a list of dozens of highly-rated movies that have been tagged with “surrealism” or similar keywords, broken down by country. To my knowledge, none of these movies is currently available on DVD, and I suspect that several of them may never have been translated into English. Any information on these titles by people who are familiar with them would be of enormous value to us in deciding whether or not we should invest time in trying to track them down. So, my non-American friends, please have at it! If you leave a comment with some information on any of these titles, I’ll update the body of the text to reflect it. (Information supplied by readers is added in bold).
Razón de mi vida, La (20??) [The Reason for My Life]. This showed up on the IMDB as a highly rated 2008 release a while back. Now, the link goes to a movie of the same name, but it has no rating and is listed as a 2010 release. OFFICIAL UPDATE: Per Kino Red: “completed in this month. Release soon (Buenos Aires, Paris and Tokyo). Trailer and teaser (in Spanish) in youtube: NOTE: The film is not based on the Eva Perón autobiography. The title of the film is ironic or parodic about the Eva Perón’s book.” I will add that the trailer looks very promising!
Rosaura a las 10 (1958) [Rosaura at 10 o’clock]. Alon thinks it’s only borderline weird at best.
Deus e o Diabo na Terra do Sol (1964) [God and the Devil in the Land of the Sun] Per Alon: “interesting, beautifully filmed and edited, movie about the drama of the Brazilian dispossessed… but I wouldn’t consider it weird by any measure.”
O Anjo Nasceu (1969) [The Angel Was Born]
Per Alon: “…seems to be famous for its unconventional camerawork and editing. The film tells the story of two murderers, one of whom has mystic visions, and was regarded as quite gory for its time.”
Terra em Transe. No English translation of the title. Per Alon, Entranced Land or Land in Anguish. Has read it’s more “daring” than Deus e o Diabo na Terra do Sol by the same director.
Adéla jeste nevecerela (1978). Per LRobHubbard: translates to Adele Hasn’t Had Her Dinner Yet. From the director of Lemonade Joe(which we do plan to review). “Spoofs the ‘Nick Carter’ detective stories, featuring Carter investigating strange disappearances, which involve a carnivorous plant, the ‘Adele’ of the title.” No Region 1 release. Worth seeing, but not necessarily weird.
Akumulátor 1 (1994).
Jak utopit doktora Mrácka aneb Konec vodniku v Cechách (1974) [How to Drown Dr. Mracek, the Lawyer]
Kytice (2000) [Wild Flowers]
Lepsie byt bohaty a zdravy ako chudobny a chory (1993) [It’s Better to Be Wealthy and Healthy Than Poor and Ill]
Nejasná zpráva o konci sveta (1997) [An Ambiguous Report About the End of the World]
Pane, vy jste vdova! (1970) [You Are a Widow, Sir]
Postav dom, zasad strom (1980) [Build a House, Plant a Tree]
Sedím na konári a je mi dobre (1989). No English translation of the title. Probably never translated into English.
Tajemství hradu v Karpatech (1981) [The Mysterious Castle in the Carpathians]. Per LRobHubbard: from the director of and similar to Adele Hasn’t Had Her Dinner Yet (above) but a pastiche/parody. The idea may be from a story by Jules Verne.
Tisícrocná vcela (1983) [The Millennial Bee]
Zítra vstanu a oparím se cajem (1977). No English translation of the title.
La Cicatrice intérieure (1972). Written by and featuring glacial chanteuse Nico (best known here for her work with The Velvet Underground).
La Dernière femme (1976) [The Last Woman]. Despite the presence of a young Gerard Depardieu, I am not sure this was ever translated into English for home video. Controversial on release due to its sexual content. Per Irene, not a weird film.
Souvliste tous! Etsi tha paroume to kouradokastro (1981) [Barbecue them!]. A Greek correspondent tells me this is basically unknown even in Greece and no DVDs are available. It is on Google video, with no English subtitles.
Capricci (1969). By Carmelo Bene.
Don Giovanni (1970). Also by Carmelo Bene.
Fantozzi (1975) and Il Secondo tragico Fantozzi (1976). These popular Italian comedies seem to have never been released in America. I gather Fantozzi is something like the Italian Monsieur Hulot?
La Rabbia (2008). With Faye Dunaway and Franco Nero in the cast, I would assume this might see the light of day soon.
Den-en ni shisu (1974) [Pastoral Hide and Seek]
Tokyo senso sengo hiwa (1970) [He Died After the War]
Pafnucio Santo (1977). Per Alon: “…seems promising… directed by Jodorowsky’s cinematographer… the trailer on YouTube is rather terse.”
Ewa chce spac (1958). No English translation of the title. Per Irene Goncharova, “a mere comedy… I didn’t find it weird.”
Jak daleko stad, jak blisko (1972) [How Far, How Near]
Walkower (1965) [Walkover]. Per Irene Goncharova, “A Polish movie, just drama, nothing weird.”
Den vyborov (2007) [Election Day]. Per Irene Goranchova: “…absolute trash, a really BAD Russian movie. I sometimes laugh watching it. Bad, bad, bad! Nothing weird…”
Posetitel muzeya (1989). [Visitor of a Museum]?
Sobachye serdtse (1988). Literally, Heart of a Dog. Based on a Mikhail Bulgakov novel that was also adapted by the Italians into a film called Cuore di cane. Produced for television? Per Irene Goncharova: It was a television production, although there may also be another filmed version. “…a good movie, quite weird.”
Zhena kerosinshchika (1988) [Kerosene Salesman’s Wife]? Per Irene Goncharova: hasn’t seen it, but looks weird from the description.
Amanece, que no es poco (1989). No English translation of the title. Per Alon, English translation may be Isn’t dawn enough? “…a masterpiece of surreal humour. You have a serious candidate for The List.”
Don Juan Tenorio (1952). Alon thinks it’s unlikely to be weird, mentions that its notoriety may come from the fact that Salvador Dalí served as the costume designer.
In the interest of thoroughness, we’re potentially saving a spot on the List for all these movies, so any help as to whether they are must-sees or duds will be greatly appreciated!
Celebrating the cinematically surreal, bizarre, cult, oddball, fantastique, strange, psychedelic, and the just plain WEIRD!