In between watching whatever comes his way, Niels Matthijs has been dedicating his time and effort to highlighting the films he loves. With a soft spot for contemporary Asian genre cinema and a sweet spot somewhere between auteur and genre, he has written for ScreenAnarchy while keeping a fully detailed overview of all his watches, review and interviews on onderhond.com.
Rather than give a regular rundown of my all-time favorite weird films, I figured it would be more interesting to highlight some films that have fallen (or are on the verge of falling) through the cracks. Films that are so odd, different and out there that they managed to divide even the most hardcore fans of unusual cinema.
Back when I was first becoming serious about film (the late 90s) the internet wasn’t what it is now. When I got my hands on VHS cassettes with bad copies of Tetsuo or Eraserhead, I felt like I had just made the biggest underground discovery ever. Things are different now, with many websites and communities out there doing their very best to spread the word about weird and off-kilter cinema. Nowadays, talking about Tetsuo doesn’t feel too different from gushing about the latest Marvel film, so it felt unnecessary to go that route. But from time to time I’ll hit a film so delightfully different that I can’t imagine how it could’ve slipped under the radar. These are the films I would love to give that extra push.
I made a first draft for my shortlist, which turned out to be rather voluminous. To narrow it further down to 10 films, I checked IMDb and Letterboxd for sub-1K vote counts. I also tried to stay away from familiar directors and took a bit of care not to swamp my list with Japanese films (a personal soft spot and a country known for having poor export channels). The result is the following list of beauties, which I’m sure will hold some secrets for even the most hardened cult fan. In alphabetical order:
01. Ambiguous Places [Uron na Tokoro] by Akira Ikeda
Don’t be fooled by the low-key poster of Ambiguous Places, this is not a simple Japanese drama. Ikeda was supposedly inspired by dream logic when making this film, and boy does he have some crazy dreams. It’s a wildly absurd comedy about a small rural town and its oddball inhabitants, made even stranger by the utterly deadpan delivery of the comedy. The mix of wacky creatures, odd rituals and near-comatose performances makes this a tough sell, but it sure made me laugh out loud a lot.
02. Baby Bump by Kuba Czekaj