Here’s something like a mix-tape of movies that I offer up to you. Some are features, some are shorts, and some are in-betweeners. Watch them in the following order in one sitting, see how they play off each other and come at me in the comments section. Maybe you’ll find something that scratches that irrational itch of yours.
Oedipus Rex (Pier Paolo Pasolini)
This film flays me raw me every time I watch it, particularly the opening—a lyrical yet somehow grotesquely accurate portrait of childhood confusion. The fact that Pasolini draws parallels between his own life and the Oedipus story begs the question: are we cursed from the day we’re born to live out our own personal tragedies no matter how Greek or puny? If our tragedies lead to movies this insanely human, well then, it’s all worth it…I guess.
Tabu (Miguel Gomes)
This black-and-white beast ranks as one of my favorites of the past few years. Never before have I seen the second half of a movie so ingeniously illuminate the content of the first, i.e., it requires and deserves multiple viewings. This movie makes you glad just to be sad; watch it and weep.
Darkness Light Darkness (Jan Švankmajer)
Švankmajer must’ve made a deal with the devil; he seems to know it all. Forget Darwin, the Bible, and all that bushwa; watch this movie and learn how human beings actually came to be. In fact, watch all of his movies and learn everything you need to know about life…
There’s Nothing You Can Do (Benny Safdie and Josh Safdie)
Now that you’ve learned the true genesis of humanity via Švankmajer, let the Safdies teach you everything you need to know about New York anxiety in under five minutes. Hilarious. Manic. Somewhere between slapstick and documentary—something like the film equivalent of a Ramones song. I love this bizarro pearl and could watch it fifteen times every hour.
Doin’ Time in Times Square (Charlie Ahearn)
I often have this playing in the background when I work if that tells you anything about how much I love this friggin’ doc. Not only does it effortlessly capture a time (the early eighties) and place (Times Square), but it manages to pull off the towering feat of showing the tragedy of time lost. You can’t ask for much more. Watch it and weep, again.