Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Movie Preferences: Foreign and Independent

As I've mentioned before I don't watch very much television, and spend a lot more time reading than I do watching movies, but ever since I started checking out free DVDs from the library, which I've only been doing for almost a year now, I've been watching a lot more videos than I would otherwise.

Two types of films that I especially enjoy watching, though certainly not the only ones, are foreign language films and independent films.

These are not by any means new genres to me, I've seen several over the years in various places, but just that, neither going to the cinema or having premium cable for a few years now, it's been awhile. It wasn't really a priority to me though, so no big loss, but just that you could say that thanks to the public library's extensive collection of films, I've recently discovered a renewed interest in foreign and independent films, which is probably stronger than it had ever been before.

I go to the library frequently, finding something new to watch every week, but I do go through different phases of interest, sometimes being completely into watching movies, where I may watch as many as two in one night, a few times a week, and other times, I'll have a pile of DVDs sitting around for over a week collecting dust, having neither the interest or the time to sit down and watch them, no matter how seemingly interesting the description, preferring instead to read a book.

Watching a movie is a lot like going on a trip with a fixed itinerary and a predetermined destination, where you are basically just an observer along for the ride, and although the ride may be a lot of fun, and may even inspire and educate along the way, you still have no control over where you're going or how fast you're traveling. Whereas a book also takes you on a trip, but it is a more interactive experience, where the author is like a tour guide, but gives you more flexibility and control over where you travel, the things you see, how long you stay at any one location, and what associations you form in your mind between what you read and the images conjured in your mind in response to it.

Because I'm actively seeking to learn, even when relaxing, always eager to grow and expand my mind, absorbing new information, forming new connections of thought, even though it usually takes longer to read a book than it does to watch a film, for some reason watching movies feels like a much slower, tedious, and less rewarding process to me, not because of its slowness, but because of its shallowness, and it being a much more passive activity, engaging less of your mind and imagination.

Though some would disagree, saying that reading, rather than being more rewarding, is actually a more boring activity, because it is more linear, just black and white, text and space, an entirely solitary intellectual activity, and watching movies is more fun because it is a more social experience that stimulates more of your senses, gives you something to see and hear beyond mere words on a page. But for me, someone more interested in the acquisition of knowledge, with being stimulated by thought provoking ideas, a book more often than not tends to be a much fertile source.

This is probably the main reason why foreign and independent films interest me more than other films, because they tend to be more imaginatively stimulating and original, simply because they are so different, different either in the sense of it being a different language and culture, or different in the sense of it being artistically avant-garde in its representation, and so they tend to be more mentally engaging than is usually the case with ordinary films.

Well anyway, while we're back to the original topic of foreign and independent films, wanted to quickly mention some films I recently watched, that were either very strange, interesting, or all of the above.

Though reviewing movies is not really my forte, because, well in my defense, in order to do it right I would have to watch them more than once, methodically going over every detail, and it just doesn't interest me enough to do that, to write a critical movie review that requires several hours of preparation, when, no matter how good of a movie it was, seeing it once was more than enough for me, where I would rather just move on and read a book.

So this is not a review, just a short summary, followed by whatever thoughts and feelings came to mind in response to the film, in a stream of consciousness matter, and that's about it.

Three foreign and/or independent films I watched in the last seven days:

1. Enter the Void (2009)

This one I only half understood. Is probably one of the strangest movies I've ever seen, maybe not the strangest, but definitely in the top ten. It's also borderline pornographic, even though it is not labeled as such. Though nothing I would personally consider offensive, but is probably the most sexually explicit film I've seen without an X-rating. But the whole thing is done in a rather dreamlike, surreal manner, much like an R-rated Twilight Zone episode would be if it involved lots of psychotropic drugs, most notably DMT, and casual sex in the brothels of Japan. It's the story of American brother and sister, twenty-something expatriates living in Japan. The brother is a drug dealer, the sister is a stripper. Bla bla bla. The brother gets killed by the police in a drug bust gone bad, and the rest of the film is basically like an out of body experience under the influence of drugs, with many references to The Tibetan Book of the Dead. I don't think I'd call this a good movie so much, but is interesting in its strangeness to be worth seeing at least once.

2. Mary and Max (2009)

I don't normally like watching animated or clay animation type movies, but I actually thought this was pretty good. I thought it was really funny actually. I guess you would call it a black comedy. Definitely not for kids though, unless you let your children watch R-rated movies. Is more of an adult orientated claymation. It's the story of a little girl in Australia with no friends, with a lot of questions about life, becoming pen pals with a middle-aged man living in NYC who has Asperger's Syndrome and who also has no friends. In fact, his pen pal is the first and only friend he ever had. And the whole movie revolves around a series of handwritten letters the two exchange back and forth with each other over the period of several years. Again, not necessarily what I would call a great movie, but I thought it was really funny, and would recommend seeing it at least once if you have the chance.

3. The First Grader (2010)

The last and final movie is filmed on location in Kenya, and is in English as well as Swahili, because apparently the African country is a former British colony, so they speak English there. It's the story of an 84 year old Kenyan man, who enrolls in Elementary school with the hopes of learning to read and write, after hearing that the government was offering free education for all. He faces a lot of obstacles, because no one seems to want him there being in a classroom with children, but eventually he succeeds, learns to read and write, and has a positive influence on both his classmates and teachers alike. Not a really good review, but hey, it's late, and you can visit the link and read all about it. This one I would call a more family friendly film, that made me feel good in the end. And I also liked that it was filmed in Africa, and could probably say more about it another time, but I'll save it for the next film, another African film I plan to watch next, about female genital mutilation.

But that is all for now.