Seem to be mired in good films these days. Bad ones too but I don’t bother writing about those quite as much.
Waltz with Bashir (2008)
Don’t know why it took me this long to get to this. Is there any doubt left that animation has earned its seat at the serious film table? Put this together with the Miyasaki films, and the devastating Grave of the Fireflies, or the stylistic whirlwind of Casshern (discussed here) and you realize this genre goes way beyond any simple toy stories. This is not only brilliant animation but it is one of the finest war, or more properly, anti-war films out there.
Based on a true story, it involves an Israeli soldier years after his service trying to piece together an elusive past. He visits his comrades and together with their partial memories forges his way to a terrible event. Though the ending to this film might not have been absolutely necessary, the few minutes of documentary evidence of the basis of this film surely ranks among those photos of the Mai Lai massacre or those of the concentration camp mass graves.
Yacoubian Building (2006)
Quite a change of pace here from an Israeli animation to an Egyptian urban narrative. As frustrating and rich as modern Cairo, this film is built on the interwoven lives of the tenants of the venerable Yacoubian apartment building. Its underlying though openly stated theme is the degeneration of Egypt, of the attempts to live honourably amongst widespread corruption, and of the few moments of transcendence despite the knee deep moral squallor.
The Idiots (1998)
This is the most challenging film of the three. The incorrigible Lars Von Trier (of the Kingdom, and much much more) made this film quite a few years ago under the Dogme rules (essentially taking filming down to the basics). Basically, we have a group of people who go out in public and pretend to be mentally challenged. They take turns on who plays the caregiver.
This skates so close, and openly deals with the issue as well, to being tasteless. There are scenes in this film that are not violent or scary but nonetheless difficult to watch. The last ten minutes of the film is almost unbearable. But that is typical Lars as well.
He is a curious fellow as witness his very geeky appearances at the end of each episode of The Kingdom, and here he takes his idiots from the film as backup singers for his rendition of You’re A Lady. Funny odd and strange, shades of Fatboy Slim’s Praise You.