Have you been binging on the shows that you have watched a million times before? Do you complain that you haven’t watched good cinema in a long time? Do you call yourself a cinephile? If the answer is “yes” to all of the questions above, you might want to take a look at these films. Here’s a list of Ten criminally underrated movies available online. Go watch now! Oh wait.Read this first!
10) Thelma – Joachim Trier (Netflix)
‘Thelma’ by Joachim Trier tells us how beautifully one can use the trope of horror. A girl with ‘supernatural powers’ (having been one with nature) attempts to locate the source of her anguish. She fails to locate the unconscious point of trauma that is devouring her every second. The gaze of her parents, her affection for a classmate, her fear of being associated with the devil by her parents time and time again make us want to locate the source of the absurd events in the movie and question their very existence.
9) I, Daniel Blake – Ken Loach (Netflix)
” I, Daniel Blake, am a citizen, nothing more and nothing less.” Ken Loach presents us with an alternative sequence of events, an antithesis to the greatest of calamities, the forgotten tales of struggle. These counter narratives struggle to find gaps against the brutal coercion of the phantom of collective history. A lost Daniel Blake tries to get his job back. However he is stuck in the labyrinth of heartless protocols and blank platitudes. In great resentment, anxiety and agony, he must primarily prove his existence.
8) Ee. Ma. Yau – Lijo Jose Pelissery (Amazon Prime)
Ee. Ma.Yau by Lijo Jose Pellissery is a mock epic contemplation on the nature of life and death and validity of promises. Toeing the lines of Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying, it is an attempt on the part of a modest family to give a grand send off to the patriarch of their family. Ironically the dead intrigues curious individuals more than the living ever did. A clueless son must endure the blows inflicted by a number of carefully crafted obstructions. It is a visual delight especially if we consider the limitations imposed on movement and the subsequent free play of the aesthetics.
7) Echo – Runar Runarsson (Mubi)
‘Echo’ by Runar Runarsson is the ideal refuge for an adroit flaneur. Christmas in Iceland is just another day fraught with empty embellishments. A place where mortals engage in the mundane chores of life within the sublime glee of Christ. Runarsson’s Iceland can be Mrinal Sen’s Kolkata, Tarkovsky’s Russia or Joyce’s Dublin. These artists seek substance, an illusion that has abandoned mankind a long time back. A burning house, a nostalgic woman, a querulous couple, a naive lover – all engaged in the futile attempt of seeking a centre, a specific meaning in profound nothingness. Every frame is a near perfect tale of agony. It is a beautifully shot movie. It is Iceland at it’s best and at it’s worst. These stories happen everywhere. Runarsson does the tedious task of specifying the universal and how!
6) The Death of Mr. Lazarescu – Cristi Puiu (Netflix)
‘The Death of Mr. Lazarescu’ by Cristi Puiu is similar to the death of Santiago Nasar in Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s “Chronicles of a Death Foretold”. It is the death of compassion and duty. The inevitable in the modern world is an event impeded by indifference and delay. The life of the Other is insignificant. The agonising sequence of events almost makes one laugh. The numerous procedures , the burden of repeating one’s name time and time again, the futile tests, make this movie a symbol for the modern man’s anxiety, his existential crisis.
5) Jonaki – Aditya Vikram Sengupta (Netflix)
‘Jonaki’ reminds one of the poetic nostalgia in Andrei Tarkovsky’s ‘Zerkalo’ ( Mirror). An old woman on her deathbed is reminiscent of her childhood, the way she was oppressed by her mother, her affair with a handsome man, her slow fall into despair in order to find herself. An orange that fell out of her pocket when she was in school still affects her. She still wishes to burn the clothes she had to wear when she was forced to marry someone against her will. Aditya Vikram Sengupta in ‘Jonaki’ paints a beautiful yet haunting picture like Terrence Malick did in ‘The Thin Red Line’. Her recurrent trauma, her tears would remind one of a bird without wings. But with the greatest amount of enthusiasm, it wants to fly to the zenith of blissful existence.
4) Death of Insane – Sanal Kumar Sasidharan (Mubi)
‘Death of Insane’ offers much more than Sanal Sasidharan’s personal take on censorship, surveillance and ideology. The director believes we are stuck in the Huxlian loop, a domain plagued by a flexible yet constant ‘maker’. One who decides the food we eat, the clothes we wear, the person we love and the dreams we dream. In John Milton’s “Paradise Lost” bliss existed without reason and the spirit of enquiry was a contemptuous offence. A dream that is different must be the dream of an insane man. It is a tale of oppression and systematic marginalisation that must be watched by all.
3) Bhonsle – Devashish Makhija
Bhonsle’ is the story of a self ostracised Marathi man. He is a prisoner of indefinite solitude stuck in the middle of a futile tussle between the Marathis and the Biharis. However Mr. Bhonsle, being aware of these vain squabbles, desires to get back in the Police Department. Affected by a fatal disease and an unlikely bond, he struggles to find meaning in a world that is suffering collectively. One of the most visually stunning movies ever produced in India, ‘Bhonsle’ shatters the superficial distinctions that affect the life of every Indian at some level every day. Devashish Makhija, the director of the movie has a vision that must be protected at every cost from the scathing myopia of mediocrity.
2) Horse Money – Pedro Costa (Mubi)
A ‘dead’ man (Ventura) contemplates the nature of light around him. The past has never abandoned Ventura. The past is a book of forgotten stories that Ventura must remember before the regret in his eyes turns bitter, the voices turn faint. In ‘Horse Money’ we can locate fear of a different kind. The ghosts are tired of interacting with each other. Full of disdain they must now observe each other. In silence they must locate the unconscious sentences, the roads not taken, the misplaced lines in a song. Pedro Costa is an important name in Portuguese Cinema. The dominance of shadow in ‘Horse Money’ is Costa’s agony, his fear of limitless desolation. The movie is a visual treat, the story is almost an unconscious narration. It is as if Pedro Costa wants us to know the difference between how little we are worth and how much we assume we are… Alas! King Ozymandias. A special shout-out to the cinematographer. The synchronized play of light and shadow is awe inspiring.
1) The Sacrifice – Andrei Tarkovsky (Mubi)
‘The Sacrifice’ by Andrei Tarkovsky is a forgotten gem often lurking behind the shadows of ‘Mirror’ , ‘Stalker’ and ‘Solaris’. The dialogue in the opening scene reminds us of the conversations between Vladimir and Estragon in “Waiting for Godot”. Tarkovsky tries to assign a certain amount of symmetry to nothingness, he tries to design the structure of despair. A man must sacrifice what he values the most in order to protect a world that is almost in ruins. The Tarkovskian paradigm involves the potent presence of imagery, silence and colour. ‘The Sacrifice’ has everything. The Wailing lady in the movie represents everything at stake before the sacrifice is made. This is an important movie, as the limelight for once is not on Tarkovsky but on the rigid world that nauseates him, nauseates hope, nauseates glee.
Honourable Mentions : Moothon, Aurora- 2010(Netflix), Wild Tales (Amazon Prime), Cat-sticks (Mubi), A moment of Innocence (Mubi), Cold War (Netflix).