20 Criminally Underrated Films of 2018
5. The Wolf House | Cristóbal León, Joaquin Cociña | Chile
If ever Brothers Quay, David Lynch and Guy Maddin decide to make an animation film, I am certain it would look like The Wolf House. The eeriness & meticulous sound design of Lynch, Guy Maddin’s eccentricity and sad spirit of lost films are blended with the Lewis Carrol’s ‘Alice in Wonderland trouble-land (Colonia Dignidad)’ that results in the disturbing phantasmagoric narrative that pushes the boundary of unconventional cinema. It is not only the most inventive & imaginative animated film of the century but it re-writes the grammar for animation based on Manichaeism subjectivity that often alternates between beautiful and grotesque, horror and hope.
The entire space including the characters develops from paints, papier mâché, sculpture and paintings that undergo metamorphosis to reshape itself as if the objects have gained consciousness, and fall apart – like a cellular being coming alive in a house embodying Kafka, soon to disintegrate and extinct as if it never existed. A debut feature film from the duo of Chilean filmmakers Joaquín Cociña and Cristóbal León, The Wolf House is a dense and mysterious psychological drama that stitches the real-life ‘Colonia Dignidad’ terrorising inhuman acts with fables like ‘The Three Little Pigs’, ‘Red Riding Hood’ and ‘Snow White’. You can read the complete review of the most inventive and imaginative animation film of the 21st Century.
4. Long Day’s Journey Into Night | Bi Gan | China
‘Long Day’s Journey into the night’ is a staggering achievement in technical craft of the film-making which is equally balanced with the lyrical expressionism. The young prodigious Bi Gan’s sophomore effort feels to have narrative constructed from the same genes as of his audaciously remarkable debut film Kaili Blues. He does not limit his narrative space to the residue of Kaili Blues, instead, he takes it one step further, enticing us with the narrative fragments nurturing on memory piece of the protagonists who rummage through them, soaking up his unforgettable romantic tryst.
Bi Gan set up the entire first hour with abstract fragmented sequences to draw us into the journey of our protagonist through a coal mine – within the confines of his dream. What we witness next is the incredible piece of cinema that may sound gimmicky as it involves single shot take in 3D, but Bi Gan makes it one of the best cinematic achievements in cinema. It is immersive, alluring and hypnotic. Bi Gan is an auteur in making.
3. A Family Tour | Ying Liang | Taiwan, Hong Kong
The Chinese-born, Hong Kong-based director Ying Liang returns to film-making with ‘A Family Tour’ after his last feature ‘When Night Falls’ which created a political and social stir in China. It is his first feature film to screen at the New York Film Festival (NYFF-56). It’s an extraordinary autobiographical film that makes a subtle but a bold political statement against the authority stifling his freedom of expression.
The film reflects Ying’s agony and internal raging grief. He conjures up his rage and frustration evoked by a sense of displacement, develops into an emotional catharsis and embodies it in this film, in the character of film-maker Yang Shu. Ying examines the lack of a sense of belonging and identical crisis in this moving and poignant tale of a family. You can read the NYFF-56 review of the film here.
2. The Rider | Chloé Zhao | USA
Born in Beijing, schooling in London, and graduated from N.Y.U.’s Tisch School of the Arts, film-maker Chloé Zhao found her inspiration for her sophomore film ‘The Rider’ while working on her debut film ‘Songs My Brothers Taught Me (2015)’ on the plains of South Dakota.
The Rider is an astonishing work of art, blending the real-life people with a fictional story, thus it blurs the line between fiction & non-fiction. It delves deeper into the consciousness of humanistic values and creates an intimate story; Chloé Zhao has a sharp instinct to gauge an impulse, she has complete control over the complex blend of human emotions that defines an individual’s relationship with himself, animals and the society.
The Rider is criminally overlooked film of the year that needs your immediate attention. It captures the American dream & masculinity with utmost honesty that is rare to find in the American cinema. It’s a beautiful elegy that finds silence threatening and patience rewarding. You can read the complete review here.
1. An Elephant Sitting Still | Hu Bo | China
Influenced by the European art-house icons such as Bela Tarr and “Sixth Generation” of the Cinema of China,‘An Elephant Sitting Still’ is a staggering achievement in a film-making by a novelist-turned-director Hu Bo. It is hard to believe that this is the first and, unfortunately, the only film of Hu Bo. Hu Bo committed suicide after the completing it, and the film, in a way, reflects his psyche and in the hindsight, it is, as if, almost a suicidal note.
Often gloomy and drenched in bleakness, the film is a breathing example of miserabilism. An Elephant Sitting Still is a gritty romanticism of an apathetic condition of the four lonely spirits emerging out of this wretched town. All the four characters quintessentially embody everything wrong with the Chinese society and Government. It’s an important film that needs your time and attention, even if it is the bleakest film you would see in a long time. The complete review of the film could be read here.