What critically underrated, commercially unsuccessful or otherwise unknown movies always seem to crack your list of best-loved pictures? Why? They could just be lesser movies, films that may have gotten praise, but just kinda faded.
Some of mine:
After The Thin Man: The first of many sequels to the 1936 classic The Thin Man, this Nick and Nora adventure breaks my top ten. Featuring a bizarrely minimal, Dreyer-esque set design and cinematography and an amazing, nuanced performance from a very young James Stewart, it is, in my opinion, much better than the first. However, most people are only aware of the first film.
Housekeeping: Bill Forsyth’s 1987 picture, Housekeeping appears on Jonathan Rosenbaum’s list of 100 Alternative Top American Movies. A tale of two sisters who come to live with their quirky Aunt Sylvie, it can be interpreted two ways. One is simply of the two sisters drifting apart; one conforming to society’s expectations of normality, and the other freeing herself from the same. The other is a darker, more sinister view. Sylvie is clearly ill, exhibiting classic signs of mental illness such as accumulation of useless possessions, disconnects from time, etc. Of her two nieces, one escapes to a semi-normal life, while she attaches to the weaker of the two, taking emotional advantage of her and drawing her into a pointless life of drifting.
Showgirls: I can’t say anything about Showgirls that hasn’t been said better by Cervaise and others, but it is an interesting cinema experience. A feminist movie made from a misogynistic script. A biting satire of the American dream and American culture, funded by millions of dollars of those it was making fun of. Subverting an entire genre. Nobody got it. Brilliant.
Gates Of Heaven: Other than lavish praise from Ebert, this is a little known documentary, the first by a young Errol Morris. My feelings about this film are difficult to put into words; if you’ve seen it, you know what I am talking about. The candor of the intensely lonely people about their attachment to their pets, their surrogates for any love and affection, is immensely moving. The film is an intense look at the human condition, and how unfulfilling life can be if the most isn’t made of it, by design or circumstance. It’s difficult to pin anything about this film down, but it may be the most compelling film about the human condition ever made.