Need a stocking stuffer for the film buff in your life? Try one of these:
A dying bureaucrat tries to build a children’s playground. Something of a departure for Akira Kurosawa, this small, focused urban drama is miles away from the samurai epics he’s better known for. Yet this study of a man’s search for meaning is perhaps Kurosawa’s most moving film.
In the Bleak Midwinter (aka A Midwinter’s Tale)
Unemployed actors attempt to put on an unorthodox production of Hamlet at Christmastime. Kenneth Branagh made this small, modest film (in black and white) about a community production of the play about the Danish Prince right before he tackled his own oversized film of the play. Think of it as a kinder, gentler Waiting For Guffman.
La Passion de Jeanne d’Arc
The trial and death of Joan of Arc. One of the greatest films ever made, it was long thought that the original version of this movie was forever lost. A chance discovery in a laundry closet yielded a virtually pristine print. The dialogue (such as it is for a silent film) is taken directly out of the transcripts of the real Joan of Arc’s trial.
Conflicted, perfectionist hitman in 1960s Paris plans one last hit. Alain Delon is just too cool as contract killer Jef Costello, who makes one fatal mistake and then watches as both the police and the underworld slowly close in on him. A cool, elegant, clever noir.
Texas oilman goes to Scotland to convince recalcitrant locals to sell out; arrives, finds that locals aren’t recalcitrant at all. In Bill Forsyth’s engaging comedy, little is what is appears to be. The humor is relaxed and unforced, and the sly, deadpan pacing makes this film a welcome respite from the frantic, in-your-face pace of modern films.
Either an extended metaphysical meditation on the nature of man, or a cracker-jack action flick about a pair of escaped convicts on a train. You decide. Personally, I think that it’s both. Starring John “father of Angelina Jolie” Voight as one of the convicts and Eric “Julia’s older brother” Roberts as the other convict.
The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the Eighth Dimension
Buckaroo Banzai is a neurosurgeon/rocket scientist/rock star/comic book hero who saves the world in his spare time. Starring Peter Weller, Jeff Goldblum, Ellen Barkin, John Lithgow and Christopher Lloyd before they became big stars. One of those cult films that’s too smart for its own good (c.f. Repo Man), this is a funny, entertaining comic book come to life.
Tombes du Ciel (Lost in Transit)
Man loses passport on flight; is forced to live in the international zone at the airport. Inspired by a true story. This is unfortunately not available commercially, but if you’re lucky enough to catch a screening or a bootleg copy, get your hands on it. Not a big film, but a very human one. The great Jean Rochefort is utterly charming as the befuddled passenger.
A 16-year-old pregnant high-school dropout and a thirty-something sociopathic electronics genius who still lives with his father have nothing in common. Right? Right? Filled with deliberately over-literate dialogue and characters who are just too darn smart for their own good, it’s the closest that Hal Hartley ever came to writing a romantic comedy.
Wings of Desire
Angel falls in love, decides he wants to be human. Infinitely better than the Hollywood remake. A long, intentionally indirect movie about love, desire, and what it means to be human, this is probably Wim Wenders’ most accessible film.