Strange uses of Moving Pictures
February 7, 2009 11:49 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for film recommendations. Films (of any length) that use approach their subject matter in abstract or otherwise unusual ways. Some of my favorites in that vein are Koyaanisqatsi and Baraka, Outside In, Powers of 10, Gantz Graf, Der Lauf Der Dinge, C'etait un Rendezvous, Fast, Cheap, and out of Control, and The Fourth Dimension. Things like this that, in their own weird way, impart some understanding. Bonus points for no dialog.
posted by phrontist to Society & Culture (24 answers total) 30 users marked this as a favorite
Man with a movie camera.
posted by kickingtheground at 11:55 AM on February 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

Electroma really reminded me of Koyaanisqatsi.
posted by tapeguy at 11:55 AM on February 7, 2009

I'm a fan of Ernie Gehr and Stan Brakhage films, which are extremely abstract. I like Gehr's work a lot more than Brakhage's. My favorite Gehr films are one that is shot from a glass elevator at a hotel in San Francisco --- somehow he manages to create the impression that you are floating among San Francisco's skyscrapers --- and one that was shot of vehicles backing up, turning around, and driving away in a parking lot. Sounds boring, but unbelievably beautiful if you ever get a chance to see them; there is no dialogue in them. I don't think they're available on video. Gehr's most famous film, I think, was shot in a hallway of a university, but I don't think it compares to the two I have described.

I'm also a big fan of Wenders' work. He has some shorter films that are beautiful --- Tokyo-Ga, a kind of filmic meditation on Tokyo, and Notebook on Cities and Clothes (I may have mangled that title) are two good ones. I also like his longer "road movie" Kings of the Road that, although it is a narrative film, is so slow and meditative that it has its own abstraction, and there is very little dialogue.
posted by jayder at 11:56 AM on February 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

I recently rented a couple volumes of Charles & Ray Eames' short films — they did Powers of Ten which you mention; there's a lot more where that came from.
posted by hattifattener at 12:09 PM on February 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

I just got Repo! The Genetic Opera, which is described as a futuristic, fantasy, horror musical. I haven't watched it yet but it sounds utterly funky, memorable and unique.
posted by camworld at 12:36 PM on February 7, 2009

Thirty Two Short Films About Glenn Gould is the gimme here.

Krzysztof Kieślowski's film series, like The Decalogue or the Three Colors Trilogy use a number of films which explore interconnected elements in films with rather different themes or storylines.

The Umbrellas of Cherbourg isn't an opera, and isn't quite a conventional narrative film; it explores the use of music and color in film in ways that have never quite been duplicated.

If we're discussing experimental film -- Brakhage, the Eames et al, Peter Kubelka's films are less common and fascinating.

Jacques Demy's films, especially Playtime, approach filmmaking and comedy in a truly unique way.

This is going to sound crazy, but if you end up liking the above, you should also check out Speed Racer, which is a big, weird, wonderful experimental film that people hated because they expected it to be the next same-old Hollywood blockbuster.
posted by eschatfische at 12:42 PM on February 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

Jacques Demy's films, especially Playtime

That's what I get for mentioning The Umbrellas of Cherbourg and Playtime in the same post. That was supposed to be Jacques Tati.
posted by eschatfische at 12:44 PM on February 7, 2009

I saw "Gambling, Gods and LSD" last week on TV and think it meets your specs though it wasnt my cup of tea.
posted by canoehead at 12:57 PM on February 7, 2009

Kenneth Anger's Scorpio Rising
posted by Joe Beese at 1:17 PM on February 7, 2009

What about the films of Derek Jarman?

Maybe not what you're looking for, but. Also, I think Dreyer's The Passion of Joan d'Arc is one of the most beautiful films ever made. The Anon 4 "score" on the Criterion Collection version doesn't hurt at all.

You might want to check out UbuWeb and The Auteurs , both mentioned on MeFi before.

I'm not at all a Matthew Barney film and I can't deal with this myself, but the Cremaster Cycle may be interesting to you.
posted by theefixedstars at 2:38 PM on February 7, 2009

Sans Soleil, and I second Man With A Movie Camera.
posted by SoftRain at 2:42 PM on February 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

Not sure quite what you're after given that list of films. But maybe Microcosmos.
posted by madmethods at 2:59 PM on February 7, 2009

2001: A Space Odyssey. Esp. the end bit.
posted by macadamiaranch at 3:13 PM on February 7, 2009

Have you seen Ilha das Flores? A most unusual documentary, only 15 minutes long.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 4:00 PM on February 7, 2009

I was just going to say Ubuweb -

Their Film and Video section is a fantastic resource.

Piotr Kamler
Thanatopsis(Ed Emshwiller)
Intestinal Fortitude (Colin Barton)
Paul Glablicki
Stan Vanderbeek (FPP)
Walerian Borowczyk

Those are a few recommendations off the top of my head. Any Kenneth Anger will do you well - his films are really beautiful.

Maya Deren - Meshes of the Afternoon, Ritual in Transfigured Time

I'll try to think of some more...
posted by louche mustachio at 6:40 PM on February 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

Norman McLaren
Spook Sport
Pas de Deux
A Phantasy
posted by louche mustachio at 6:52 PM on February 7, 2009

Harry Smith
Heaven and Earth Magic (excerpt)
Early Abstractions 1 2 3 4
Mirror Animations
posted by louche mustachio at 7:01 PM on February 7, 2009

Seconding Sans Soleil, adding La Jetée.
posted by vkxmai at 9:24 PM on February 7, 2009

James Benning's films are great. I'm partial to "One Way Boogie Woogie", but I'm also really excited for RR, his latest.
posted by bubukaba at 12:48 AM on February 8, 2009

posted by spandex at 8:11 AM on February 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

Looks like I'm a bit late to this interesting thread, but it's at least conceivable that you'd enjoy my animated short Gone.
posted by edlundart at 8:01 PM on February 10, 2009

Paul Schrader's Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters isn't way out there, but it's definitely a bit unique for a biopic-slash-literature-adaption. It weaves together Mishima's last day with his childhood and, oddest of all in execution, these minimalist, hyper-colorful set pieces enacting his stories. Criterion just re-released it, along with Patriotism.
posted by ifjuly at 5:53 PM on February 22, 2009

I forgot to mention Philip Glass did the score to Mishima, which might be relevant since you like Koyaanisqatsi.
posted by ifjuly at 5:54 PM on February 22, 2009

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