PLEASE HELP, NON-AMERICAN FRIENDS: A LIST OF OBSURE, FOREIGN (TO US) FILMS

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).

Argentinian

  • 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.

Brazilian

  • Deus e o Diabo na Terra do Sol (1964) [God and the Devil in the Land of the SunPer 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.

Czech/Czechoslovakian

  • 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]
  • Nevesta (1970).
  • 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.

French

  • 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.

Greek

  • 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.

Italian

  • 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.

Indian

  • Poi (2006).

Japanese

  • Den-en ni shisu (1974) [Pastoral Hide and Seek]
  • Tokyo senso sengo hiwa (1970) [He Died After the War]

Mexican

  • Pafnucio Santo (1977).  Per Alon: “…seems promising… directed by Jodorowsky’s cinematographer… the trailer on YouTube is rather terse.”

Polish

  • 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.”

Russian/Soviet

  • 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.

Spanish

  • 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!

13 thoughts on “PLEASE HELP, NON-AMERICAN FRIENDS: A LIST OF OBSURE, FOREIGN (TO US) FILMS”

  1. Czech/Czechoslovakian

    * Adéla jeste nevecerela (1978). No English translation of the title. [Adele Hasn’t Had Her Dinner Yet – one of many titles].

    * Tajemství hradu v Karpatech (1981) [The Mysterious Castle in the Carpathians]

    Both of these are films by Oldrich Lipsky (known also for LEMONADE JOE – available in the U.S. on Facets DVD – and I KILLED EINSTEIN)

    Both are parodies/pastiches of Victorian pulp literature – ADELE spoofs the “Nick Carter” detective stories, featuring Carter investigating strange disappearances, which involve a carniverous plant, the ‘Adele’ of the title.

    Carpathians is more pastiche/parody, though the idea is from a story of Jules Verne, I believe.

    Both have some pretty surreal slapstick, but I’m not sure that they’d fall under the ‘weird’ definition. Both are worth seeing, however.

    Both were released on DVD, but there are no region 1 versions of Lipsky’s work, save for LEMONADE JOE (also worthy of review)…and a damn shame.

  2. José Luis Cuerda’s Amanece, que no es poco (which I believe was marketed in the UK under the name Isn’t dawn enough?, a tepid approximation of the idiomatic original) is most definitely a masterpiece of surreal humour. You have a serious candidate for The List™ there.

    I haven’t seen Perla’s adaptation of José Zorrilla’s classic play, but if he was even moderately faithful to the original I doubt the script would be surreal in any way. The main point of attraction, I believe, are the costumes Dalí designed for the film.

    Rosaura a las 10 is only borderline weird, with most of the strangeness coming from unreliable narration, much in the spirit of the broadly conteporary Rashomon. It helps that the titular character seems to materialise out of thin air on a wish by her male counterpart, but don’t expect anything outrageous. It is a very solid, well-written and -directed film, though, even if it hasn’t aged terribly well.

    I am not aware that any film versions of Eva Perón’s ghostwritten autobiography, La razón de mi vida, have ever been shown commercially. I’d guess that the 2008 date was a dud, as the Argentine National Film Institute database shows that a title with that name by Gustavo Charif is currently in post-production. Keep your eyes peeled for that one, because Charif has been consistently bizarre in his artwork, although this would be his first feature film.

    I’ll see what can I find about the Brazilian movies and keep you posted.

  3. Thanks LRob and Alon for your input, this is very helpful to decide which of these movies we should invest time in trying to track down and which we should skip! I’m updating the post with the information you supplied as we speak. Keep it coming!

  4. Walkower (1965) [Walkover] – A Polish movie, just drama, nothing weird, about a boxer who meets his ex girlfriend, after a night with her leaves for the decisive battle…

  5. Argentinian films…

    1) “Rosaura a las 10” (1958) is an interesting film, the script is based on a novel by Marco Denevi (same writer of Secret Ceremony, 1968, Joseph Losey).

    2) “La razón de mi vida” (2008-2010), was completed in this month. Release soon (Buenos Aires, Paris and Tokyo). I’m a member of the team in the production area.
    Trailer and teaser (in Spanish) in youtube: http://www.youtube.com/KINOREDfilms
    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.

  6. OK, a few updates here:

    Pafnucio Santo seems promising. It was directed by Jodorowski’s cinematographer, which is an endorsement by itself. I haven’t been able to locate a copy, though, and the trailer on YouTube is rather terse.
    Deus e o Diabo na Terra do Sol is an interesting, beautifully filmed and edited, movie about the drama of the Brazilian dispossessed. I can see how the ascetic mysticism it shows may have seemed grotesque to 1960 viewers in America or Europe, but I wouldn’t consider it weird by any measure. As for Terra em transe (variously distributed as Entranced Land and Land in Anguish in the English-speaking world), by the same director, I’ve read it’s more daring, but I haven’t had a chance to see it.
    I haven’t laid my hands on a copy of O anjo nasceu yet either, but it 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.

    HTH.

  7. There’s a french movie out there called Themroc. I haven’t seen it on your site, but it has a cult status as an anarchist classic. The link points to a site with some screenshots. There are many reasons why I think this is the weirdest stuff I’ve ever seen:

    1) Nobody talks. NEVER. Only blabbering, grunting, moaning and screaming.
    2) It’s about a guy who goes bananas after losing his job. Basically he goes back to stone-age in the middle of some french town
    3) He lives from hunting and barbecuing policemen
    4) He shags his sister (though she looks young enough to be his daughter) and lives with another woman he found on the street while on his hunting trips
    5) His neighbours start to do the same after seeing how ‘successful’ he is with his new lifestyle. Of course, if you do this for some time, the FOOD WILL COME TO YOU.

    I know this sounds like a movie some 16 year olds on school vacation may have made, but it actually has a great cast, with Michel Piccoli playing the lead.

  8. We’re aware of Themroc and will be reviewing it eventually, though you can officially nominate it for review in the suggestion thread if you like. Obscure as Themroc is, there’s plenty of info about it out there, which isn’t the case with the movies listed above.

  9. I remembered I watched the French movie La Dernière femme (1976) by by Marco Ferreri. It’s not a weird movie but a drama much flavored by erotic with Gerard Depardieu as male lead and Ornella Mutti as female lead. I’m afraid it isn’t available in the US for much nudity and a baby being present in many sex scenes.

  10. Hi. I´m from Czech republic and my English isn´t good, so be indulgent, please. 🙂

    Pane, vy jste vdova! (1970) is probably the greatest czech crazy comedy by localy famous screenwriter Miloš Macourek and director Václav Vorlíček. This film is set in fictional middle-european kingdom – in this place is possible to transplant brain of one person to another person. Brain of murdered astrologer Stuart is mistakenly transplanted to woman, who look a like famous stage and film star Evelyna Keletti. Group of generals wants to use this woman with brain of homicidal maniak for killing the king of the country and overthrow the government. Unfortunatelly, in her head is now Stuart… This really funny fantasy comedy of errors offers – among the other things – great performance of Iva Janžurová in three roles – the astrologer imprisoned in woman´s body, the middle-aged actress and the homicidal maniac woman.

    Zítra vstanu a opařím se čajem (1977) – translation of the film title is “Tomorrow I Wake Up and Scald Myself With Tea”. This beautiful time-travel comedy is about twin brothers (both played by Petr Kostka), good one and bad one. Bad brother named Karel cooperates with neo-nazis and plans to use the time-travel machine to help Hitler win the WW2. But Karel choke himself with his breakfast and his twin-brother Jan (who knows nothing about the evil plot) impersonates him. As Pane, vy jste vdova, screenplay is also written by Miloš Macourek.

    Third film by screenwriter Miloš Macourek is Jak utopit doktora Mráčka (1974). This may be a little bit difficult to explain, because it contains specificaly czech fairy-tale creatures named “vodníci”. In old czech fairy tales, these vodníci are something like evil water-spirits. They drowns people, which cannot swim, and collects their souls in porcelain mugs. This comedy develops a funny idea that vodníci/water-spirits are real and lives in modern Prague as ordinary citizens. Young daughter of the last czech water-spirit family falls in love with Doctor Mráček, the lawyer, and her family wants to drown him.

    Miloš Macourek was writer with great imagination and very strong sense for humor and irony. He also wrote another extraordinary comedies:

    Zabil jsem Einsteina, pánové (1969, “I killed Einstein, gentlemen”) – another time-travel comedy about group of scientists trying to come back in time to 1911 Prague and kills Albert Einstein, because one of his theories allowed invention, which in future will cause women to grow beards and lose their ability to bear children. That film is maybe not as good as previous three, but still worth to watch.

    Čtyři vraždy stačí, drahoušku (1970, Four Murders Are Enough, Darling) is another film by the same team. The story is about shy school teacher George Camel (Lubomír Lipský, brother of Oldřich Lipský, director of this and previous film), who became coincidentaly considered as a mass murderer. This film is full of errors, disguises and comics-stylized settings. As Pane, vy jste vdova!, filmed in the same year, in this film also stars Iva Janžurová, this time as boss of criminal gang and master of disguise.

    All this films were released in the Czech Republic on DVDs with English subtitles. Among local viewers are widely known and quoted in daily life. 🙂

    1. Thanks Stuart! That information is golden and your English is just fine! I wish more Czech New Wave movies were available here in the U.S; I wouldn’t be surprised if the Criterion Collection looked at this avenue in the future. I am sorry, but I had to remove the YouTube links because I couldn’t verify their legitimacy.

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