The Best Films You've Never seen

Glenn's easy and wonderful guide to unusual & fantastic films (old and new, black & white and colour, silent and sound, independent, mainstream, & arthouse) from all around the world. 10 great films (including guilty pleasures) reviewed each month with trailers, stills, gifs & more.

A Canterbury Tale (U.K) (1944) (Drama)

(This is a extract from the film as the trailer is unavailable)

During the Second World an American soldier arrives in England. Disembarking from his train in a sleepy Kent village during late at night, he meets two other travellers, an English soldier, and a London ‘Land girl’. Leaving the station, the girl is attacked by a stranger who pours glue on her hair before running away. Over the next few days, the trio set out to find out who is notorious ‘Glue man’ who has been regularly attacking local girls.

This film is by the celebrated Powell and Pressburger partnership, responsible for some of the most unusual and artistic films ever to come out of British film studios (See September - Black Narcissus). The film was commissioned by the government, to help the war effort – specifically to get English audiences used to the idea of having American soldiers over here, and to introduce American Soldiers to the idea of England. The film updates Chaucer’s medieval ‘Canterbury Tales’ (about pilgrims) using contemporary characters and settings, but goes far beyond the brief, resulting in a very strange film. At first glance, the movie is a whimsical mystery drama – but deeper is nothing less than a love letter to an idea of ‘England and ‘Englishness’. In this (it has to be said, very ‘conservative’ and ‘establishment’) view of ‘England’, tradition, history, the past, the church, the countryside are all held up as values. Modern audiences are also likely to notice the way (as in most British films of the time) all the characters, speak in ‘Home counties/BBC’ accents, regardless of their background - The land girl, though supposedly working class, laughably, has a posh accent. Despite reflecting some questionable values and featuring a few excruciating accents, the film can be enjoyed on many levels regardless of ones politics. Among its many strengths are its unusual story and characters and strange mixture of drama, mystery, and romance. With its emphasis on landscape, pilgrimage, identity and its strands of romanticism and mysticism this is fascinating stuff.   Based partly on Powell’s childhood experiences, the film, part drama, part documentary, makes great use of real wartime settings and people. The main characters, with the exception of the likable American Sergeant - a real life soldier, are all actors. Another key character in the story is Culpepper (a terrific Eric Portman), the local squire, and historian who has a intense passion for the past. Among the modern day pilgrims, the land girl is also especially sensitive to the landscape around her, and in a key scene (see above) - one of several mystical moments -  while walking the ancient track way in the countryside, she hears the sounds of pilgrims of long ago.Particularly notable is the stunning black and white photography. There are great shots –, Canterbury after a bombing raid, the Cathedral itself or rural life in Kent in general. Particularly nostalgic are the scenes of the school children (like generations before and since) playing war with sticks. As such, besides telling a engaging if odd story,  the movie is a fascinating window onto a society long gone – In this rigid class ridden world,  Squires, Vicars, etc are pillars of society, while rural life and crafts still thrive. Even while the film was being made though, change was in the air – women were leaving the home in large numbers to do work alongside men and by end of the war (a years later), the public had voted by a massive majority for a socialist government.Seen today, A Canterbury tale is a strange but strangely engaging film. Enjoy.

Dancer in the dark poster (See April)

Dancer in the dark poster (See April)

Bjork ‘Dancer in the dark’ (see April)

Bjork ‘Dancer in the dark’ (see April)

10 Great Films for April

Dear Tumblers’
,Sorry about the two month gap. Like a lot of other Tumblrs I’ve had a lot of trouble getting logged on. Anyway, I’ve managed to put together 10 films for this month (including a guilty pleasure). The themes of this months selection ranges from the environment (The Grizzly Man, Manufactured Landscapes) ,haunted houses and books (The Haunting, Inferno) ,doomed love (The Isle) and Otters (Ring Of Bright Water). So whether your taste is for social realism (Kes) or 70s Kitch ( Abba The Movie) i’m sure there should be something for everyone this April, Enjoy :)

This months selection is;

Guilty Pleasure of the Month - Abba The Movie (Austrailian/sweden) (1977) (Music)

Ring of bright water (U.K) (Drama)

James, a Londoner, finds himself drawn to an inquisitive Otter he sees on display in the shop window. On impulse he buys the Otter who he names Midge. After a while it becomes clear despite adapting his home he must find other more suitable accommodation. He packs up taking Midge with him moves into a run down cottage in a rural part of the Scottish Highlands. Getting by beach coming James and midge soon make the acquaintance of a female doctor and her dog and friendship blooms.

 Once upon a time, animal films were a staple part of family films, though in recent decades the genre has almost died out. Films about animals which tug at the heart strings still get made of course those these days they are likely to take the form of (often Walt Disney) animations, these days more than likely C.G.I. This is one of the best films from the heyday of live action Animal movies. And unlike many of its contemporaries, it doesn’t insult the intelligence with lashings of sentimentality. Sure Midge is adorable and the setting pretty, and has a plot that can tug at the heartstrings, but the film is a tougher proposition than would expect, with some surprises along the way. With likable characters, a beautiful setting, and plenty of gentle humour and romance along the way and Midge himself – the film couldn’t fall to enchant. Warm, gentle uplifting, family entertainment. Lovely.

Ken Loach’s ‘Kes’ (See April)

Ken Loach’s ‘Kes’ (See April)

A tense moment in the unusual Korean fairy tale based horror, Hansel and Gretal

A tense moment in the unusual Korean fairy tale based horror, Hansel and Gretal

Korean Horror ‘Hansel and Gretal’

Korean Horror ‘Hansel and Gretal’

The Isle (Korea) (2000) (Drama/Thriller)

The Isle

An unhappy young woman, mute, works at a lonely seedy resort of floating cabins by a water inlet. One day, another lonely young man, (a cop, on the run after shooting his partner’s lover), hires a cabin.  Starved of affection, over time they form a strange tortured relationship with tragic results.

 This is a real oddity. Part drama, part thriller, part twisted love story, it is quite unlike anything seen in the West. From the start this is a very unusual story, with an offbeat setting and characters. Unlike standard characters in films of the West, these lovers rarely speak (in the case of the woman – not at all). Much of the story is told visually. Beautiful shots and dreamy soundtrack adds to the eerie mood of the film. Ultimately the film is about loneliness and the difficulties of communication – certainly these two have very serious communication problems. Throughout the film is an undertone of perverse eroticism. (It is fair to suggest that the director has some very serious issues with regards to women, sex and relationships to sort out). In the West, much has been made of the film’s scenes of cruelty to wildlife and the main characters self harm - in particular the notorious scenes involving fish hooks ending up where they shouldn’t (definitely not for the squeamish). There is however much more to the film than this and though it arguably runs the risk of pretentiousness – it’s a refreshingly personal and original achievement. Beautiful, mesmerising, warped – decide for yourselves.