GB Hajim is the director, co-writer and chief animator of the Certified Weird Strange Frame: Love and Sax. We described that film’s visuals thusly: “Imagine dropping a hefty dose of LSD on the set of Blade Runner, and you walk through a door and suddenly you’re in the Star Wars cantina. Now, imagine that experience animated by the team behind Fantastic Planet working under the direction of Ralph Bakshi, take that result and square the weirdness quotient…”
Strange Frame is available on iTunes, Xbox, Playstation, Netflix, and most everything else, but if you really want to support the filmmaker and get all the features, the director recommends picking up the DVD from Amazon.
Strange Frame was GB’s first feature film. He makes his home in Hawaii. GB’s current project is the feature film Mermaids’ Lament.
Some of the very best of weird movies vanish into obscurity as soon as the actual print of the film wears out. I am thinking of the 1991 half hour film by Aussie filmmaker Shane McNeil called the Apocryphal History of Meat Part IV – The Brotherhood of Meat. Witty and weird, this movie is an excellent treatise on vegetarianism with lots of exploding meat to keep its tongue in cheek. A list of weird documentaries could be forthcoming—it would definitely include another Australian gem Cane Toads: An Unnatural History and Chris Smithʻs American Movie.
To me, the hallmark of a weird movie is a moment so unique that it can only be brilliant in the context of the certain refined bizarreness a filmmaker has created. Shu Lea Cheangʻs cyberpunk porno I.K.U. (which literally means “cum” in Japanese) has such a great moment, when two of the leads are singing karaoke into rotating throbbing dildos. Unfortunately, the rest of the movie drags, so it doesn’t make my cut for top ten. I also left off some gems that have just become too familiar, and therefore less weird, like The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
1. Bliss (1985), Dir. Ray Lawrence
The movie is a surreal journey of a man who, at the moment of death, has an epiphany so strong that when he wakes he cannot tell the real lies of his life from the lies his brain is telling him. Youʻd think that cockroaches erupting from his chest would be enough to tip the guy off, but youʻd be wrong.
The moment: Harry is having a bad day. His friend offers him a joint. His day only gets worse, beginning with rain. In the downpour, an elephant sits down for a rest, crushing Harryʻs car. Harry, unfazed and very stoned, tries to drive the now roofless car home and is surprised when the police pull him over.
The other reason I love this film is the way it points out the craziness of modern society in contrast to the more sane but difficult life on an anarchist commune. Another film to watch in this vein is How to Get Ahead in Advertising.
If the fact that this trip fest was made in 1943 doesn’t blow your mind, you donʻt have perspective. The sound track is eerie, but stripped of any pretension. Each element in the movie is used for maximum impact—a knife, a key, camera movement, a mirrormask. Yes, decades before Neil Gaiman, Maya made an image of a mirrormask that will be etched on my mindplane for life.
The moment: A cloaked woman turns to face you, but she has no face. Only a mirror.
3. THX-1138 (1971), Dir.
Lucas has said he was an experimental filmmaker, and given the strengths and weakness of his filmography I strongly agree. THX-1138, his directorial debut, is the most powerful film he has ever made, full of predictions for our future. One of the most outlandish ones at the time was the blanket medication and semi-sedation of the population to keep them under control and help them “fit in,” beginning with small children. Today there are mandates to give children ADHD and ADD medication so they can “fit into” the classroom environment. Creepy truth and more contained in this movie.
The moment: The image of the savior and the audio accompaniment: “Let us be thankful we have commerce. Buy more. Buy more now. Buy. And be happy.”
Everything about this movie creates a unique experience. The design of the landscapes, plants, and creatures put you in a different realm. Then the film actually captures an alien kind of intelligence – a certain detachment about life and death that has been copied so many times now.
The moment: The whole movie!
If you like this one, watch Laloux’s Gandahar (1988) as well. Animated boobies, need I say more?
5. The Fall (2006), Dir. Tarsem Singh
There are a whole group of movies like The Fall. Not storywise, for each is unique, but they are movies that are children’s fairy tales that children really shouldn’t see: movies like Mirrormask and Coraline (sewn on eyes? WTF were they thinking?) Singh’s movie even has a little girl being told the story, ala The Neverending Story, but this girl has to get a dope fiend his fix in order to hear more of the tale.
The moment: The horse flying through the air in the beginning is a start, but the movie has so many incredibly fantastic moments that you will be doubting the filmmakers claim that no special effects were used.
I love Henry Selick and Tim Burton‘s The Nightmare Before Christmas. I was even blessed to have been on the set when they made that movie. If you take away the sugar and add a lot of hardcore, marginal drugs, you begin to approach the work of the Brothers Quay. They are the true modern masters of stop motion animation. They get seriously weird with the incorporation of real meat, bugs, and porcelain dolls in their animated films. Terry Gilliam chose this short film as one of his all time favorites.
The moment: When the wind up monkey begins to play.
Full disclosure: I have over 2000 tracks of Pink Floyd live on my computer. Much of Strange Frame‘s art was drawn while I listened to Floyd. I even begged Pink Floyd’s management for two years to be a part of my film, and in the end they did. You can rightfully say I am obsessed with Pink Floyd and Roger Waters’ writing. The Wall has been analyzed so extensively I donʻt think I can add anything new.
The moment: When the blood hits the water in the sink while ʻPink,’ played by Bob Geldof, shaves off his eyebrows; or, when he looks up from playing the piano: “Hey, is there anybody in there?” Nobody has captured being baked out of your mind better than that moment.
In a world that is aesthetically similar to Gotham or Dark City, another childrenʻs tale that is not for children unfolds. Youʻve got a scientist trying to steal children’s dreams to stay young, cyborgs, Ron Perlman playing a giant strongman, a pair of evil Siamese twins, and a little girl. If you donʻt find something to love in this movie, someone has stolen your dreams.
The moment: When Santa Claus’ arrival becomes a terrible nightmare.
I am fascinated by the native people of Australia. My first exposure to them was through Walkabout, but there are other movies that I love for the same vibe: Peter Weir’s The Last Wave and Werner Herzog‘s Where the Green Ants Dream. The early works of Roeg are all ripe with weirdness: definitely worth a viewfest are The Man Who Fell to Earth with David Bowie, the thin pale alien himself, and Track 29 starring Gary Oldman and produced by ex-Beatle George Harrison. Okay, I’m allowed to get off subject.
The moment: When the trees begin to look like sexualized human limbs. Maybe that’s just me.
10. Orlando (1993), Dir. Sally Potter
Not enough women on this list! Not my fault. The film industry and independent investors fund ten male-directed films for every one they fund with a woman at the helm. That being said, Orlando is both brilliant and strange, with a man played beautifully by Tilda Swinton,who is immortal. The story follows him through time and a few gender changes.
The moment: When the angel suddenly appears and sings to Orlando. Not only is his appearance unexpected the choice of music seems so out of left field to wrap the movie in a weirdness usually reserved for the likes of Ken Russell.