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Monday, 15 October 2012


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Nature Calls because it was almost trying to be offensive in an non-political and unrelenting way.


I didn't grow up watching a lot of horror, and it's not a genre I really enjoy, so I've only watched a very few horror films all the way through, with full sound, etc., The original "Exorcist" and the original "Carrie" are on my short list.

[spoiler, but no matter: nobody here has ever seen this nor is it likely they will. I'll refrain from naming it to keep the google-bait to a minimum, but I've linked below]

But the movie I most wish I'd never watched is a 20-year old Korean film, an elegant drama of changing family life in modernity, about a traditional folk performer who deliberately poisons his daughter, causing permanent blindness to keep her from marrying and leaving the tradition.

The fact that I'd recently married a blind person may have had something to do with my reaction, so it may not affect others quite as viscerally. I have trouble even writing about it, though.


The phrasing of the question does lead one towards the idea of "unforgettable images" and, from that, horror. But I think it's a more interesting question to try to think of movies that are unforgettably stylistically, without being horrific (arguably Aguirre, the Wrath of God falls into that category -- there is horror, but part of what is unforgettable is just the image of Klaus Kinski on the raft starting to list ever more severely)

Blade Runner
The Terminator
I don't know if any of the Coen brothers films qualify, but the tone of, say, Miller's Crossing is hard to forget
Le Samourai
Pulp Fiction

In some sense no great film can ever be unseen -- because it sticks in the mind as a cultural reference point.


I didn't mean to point in the direction of horror, which is why I didn't include any horror films in my list. I just wanted to point to those, how do you say ... epically disturbing films, like Happiness or the one Ahistoricality won't mention. Or the one I'm trying to watch right now, The Isle, but which I keep turning away from.


Yeah, I try not to watch those sorts of movies . . .

Interestingly, though, I wouldn't have described Aguirre that way.


I hate nightmares for months after I saw it, as noted in the Facebook thread, which you should be able to see, as it's public. (And how this happened on Facebook and not Unfogged is beyond me, since it sorta kinda happened on Unfogged-by-proxy.)


I still think the problem with the idea (which, I know isn't serious) is that it seems easy to fall into "more pain" sort of machismo. I don't enjoy watching movies for which I feel like I either have to (a) deliberately suppress my natural emotional reactions or (b) feel emotionally manipulated from here to Friday. I feel like watching a bunch of movies which go for super-intense stimulus would end up feeling deadening.

But, as I said, I don't like horror (in any flavor, really). FWIW, though, John Rogers recommends Session 9


I didn't mean to make it a "TO THE PAIN!" contest. The opposite, really: films that don't feel manipulative but punch you in places you didn't know you had. Happiness did that to me, as did Donnie Darko, for different reasons, obviously.


I haven't seen either of those, but at least I do appreciate the Princess Bride reference . . .

Yes, I would agree, if you can find films that accomplish that without feeling manipulative that would be an interesting list of movies (not ones that I want to see, personally, but an interesting list).


Having grown up an American Jew, almost any Holocaust film falls into the "can't watch without feeling ill" category for me. I did watch Schindler's List, just because it was kind of required, but I won't voluntarily watch anything Holocaust-related. I've read my share of oral histories, memoirs, but that's as close as I'll get. I can't even stand fictionalizations: I'm told there are some great novels on the topic, but I won't do it.

I'm not sure that helps, though.

It's not a feature film, but I remember watching a short movie in high school about a Venus terraforming project that tragically succeeds. Deeply affecting, especially to a young geek.


Another film that is a classic, but parts of it just hurt to watch, is Harakiri. Considered a classic of the historical samurai drama, the centerpiece is a disturbingly long, drawn-out sequence around a samurai who is basically forced to commit seppuku with a bamboo-blade fake sword; then the "respectable" samurai who witness the event return the body to the family treating it as though the victim had done something shameful instead of one of the most heroically difficult and painful self-inflicted acts ever filmed. The scene of the suicide is bad enough; the scene returning the body is a nearly bloodless atrocity of the first order. Unforgettable.


I'm not as sensitive to Holocaust films as you are, Ahistoricality, because one of my Hebrew school teachers was a survivor and I hated him and his emotionally manipulative Holocaust stories with a white-hot heat. (E.g., if we had to go the bathroom after two hours of learning Torah portions, our request would be denied via a vivid story about what life was like in the camps. Eventually, we just went numb.)

But as for Harakiri, if that's the film I'm thinking of, I saw it years ago on IFC's much-missed "Samuri Saturday Mornings." I saw every Kurosawa film for the first time there -- they played his non-samuri films too -- and basically most of what I saw of pre-1970 Japanese cinema. I wish they still did that, damn it.


It doesn't help that I have to teach the Holocaust at least once a year (as many as four times, depending on how many sections and if I'm teaching both halves of the World survey). Which means that I have to read dozens, scores, sometimes hundreds of undergraduate essays, test answers, etc., about the Holocaust on a regular basis.


Pan's Labyrinth, perhaps?

It was a good deal more violent than I am ever comfortable with in a movie. But, in this case, I was okay with that, because one should not be comfortable with the Spanish Civil War. It felt like the violence was there out of necessity, because anything else would be just wrong; and not just for shits and giggles, like with a lot of other violent movies.


I made a database of films we have to make it easier for friends to weed through them, and recently ditched it because it needed updating -- wish I had that in front of me now.

Most recently Nicolas Winding Refn's "Valhalla Rising" caught me most off-guard. It seems like an experiment. The main character has no lines, and the rest of the cast doesn't spend a lot of time talking to him, so the entire story (told in chapters) is dependent on the images. Refn cites Kubrick as an influence for his experiment.

Which brings me to "2001: A Space Odyssey." Mainly this is burned into my brain because I first saw it as a child when I was deathly ill with a scorching fever, and while my mother stayed up with me to mop my forehead, that was on. It might have been the perfect way to first be exposed to that film.

Then there was "Baraka" (similar to "Koyaanisqatsi"), which I saw in while in an altered state, alone, and an albino post-doc sat next to me. I didn't know him, but after the film, he turned to me and hissed, rather fiercely, "Did you get it? Did you get it!?" The film itself was choc-a-bloc of interesting images (that's all it is), but the albino made the viewing an experience.

I've never quite gotten over "Mulholland Drive," mainly because of the scene when Rita and Betty go to the theater (NO HAY BANDA!). The theater they go into is basically a larger version of the little box Betty falls through, as well as a mechanism for turning the film itself into an allegory of you actually going into the theater (a box) to watch the film you're watching as you're watching it.

As for the Cohen Brothers, "Barton Fink" has some images that are pretty difficult to forget -- "I WILL SHOW YOU THE LIFE OF THE MIND." And I'd put Fargo up there as well, but I grew up in that region, so that might not be fair.

I'd be remiss not to mention Ray Harryhausen's "The Golden Voyage of Sinbad" and the original "Planet of the Apes." I saw those when I was a runt of 5, and they've never left my consciousness. (Apparently "Planet of the Apes" hasn't left J.J. Abrams consciousness either -- he seems to channel that aesthetic in his apocalyptic shows whenever he can.)

And for now, at least without my database and off the top of my head, Tarkovsky's "Stalker" felt like a revelation when I first saw it.

Paul Renault

Seven years old, wandered into the den, turned on TV. Radio Canada was playing 'Un Chien Andalou'. The film was right at THAT scene.

I still shudder.

J.S. Nelson

Speaking of the holocaust, there's always

It might be a little hard to find, though.


It's making me crazy that no one has suggested "Don't Look Now" - 1) literally a film that tells you not to watch it, 2) featuring a main character whose problems are caused by looking, 3) is so bizarre and weirdly terrible that despite the fact that I last saw it ten years ago, I can still visualize every major scene.

robert wood

A couple come to mind.... There is a Soviet film from the early 80's about partisan warfare during WWII called Come and See, which was probably the most traumatic film I ever saw, and that includes Salo. It really still sticks with you, particularly its use of surrealism. Jodorowsky films tend to spook the undergrads, but they're usually either funny or boring for those outside that experience. The documentary Shoah was not exactly an easy one to get through either.


As for Jodorowsky, yeah, he's an acquired taste. But here's the way to experience El Topo in a way that will be both fun and burn itself into your limbic system:

See a Calexico concert cica 1999.

I caught one back then, and the stage was set up with a massive cinema screen behind the band. They showed El Topo on that screen -- no sound and the bottom of the film superimposed on the musicians -- while Calexico played a set that lasted the length of the film. In essence, their concert served as a soundtrack to a silent version of Jodorowsky's film.

Weirdly enough, this was in Dublin, Ireland, and I think the only people there who spoke English were me and the guy taking tickets. It seemed like EVERYONE else was either Spanish, Italian or French, and it was packed.

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