RR Films: Strange, Disturbing and Surreal

Are Michael and Boris being controlled by aliens?, by Russia?, by the Daily Express?, by the casting of runes? Weren’t they once bessie mates who then fell out big time last year and yet seem now to bessie mates again? Do they belong to the same political party as their boss? Do either of them understand where they are, what they are supposed to be doing or even what they really, really want? It’s difficult not to regard it all as a Mad Hatter’s Tea Party where Alice May simply gets more confused by these nutjobs. Pity it’s all quite important….

I confess I quite like a puzzle and, although this one makes no sense (other than in disgustingly ego-centric ways), I’m happy if a film makes me deliberately confused so that I can try to figure it out. Sometimes it doesn’t work, of course, and I have to accept that either I’m too dim or the film-maker is too inept or too-clever-by-half. I think the latter description applies to Leos Carax, the auteur of Holy Motors, a film I raved about a few years back. I’ve since watched it again and endured the tedious Q&A session with Carax on the DVD and yet I’m still not much wiser. But I am sure it is strange, disturbing and surreal.

Maybe you find such films annoying but I’m sure you’ve occasionally reached the closing credits and wondered what you’ve just been watching. Tell us about them, whether or not you recommend them.

(This was actually a Song Bar – not an RR – topic, curated by sev earlier this year. It’s all the same to me.)

24 thoughts on “RR Films: Strange, Disturbing and Surreal

  1. It has to be “Eraserhead”, which I found really unsettling and disturbing when I first saw it, and still gives me a queasy feeling now.

    Part of me wishes that I’d never seen it at all.

    • People of a certain age who, like me, went to see David Bowie on the “Station to Station” tour at Wembley Arena in 1976 will have seen this film on a massive screen along with around 8,000 other people ! Surreal or what !

  2. I think I picked “A Pigeon Sat On A Branch..” for some other topic but it (in fact Roy Andersson’s entire Living trilogy) would fit well here.
    This is probably the least disturbing or surreal scene in the film. Quite jolly, in fact.

  3. For disturbing films I would suggest another David Lynch film, namely “Blue Velvet” but I certainly wouldn’t recommend it as I can’t stand it ! Also “Donnie Darko” with Jake Gyllenhaal which I liked a bit more would fit the rubric ! For confusing I would recommend “The Big Sleep”, Howard Hawks’ classic 40s thriller which has so many murders in it that even Raymond Chandler who wrote the original novel didn’t know who had committed them all !!

  4. I rather like strange and disturbing films – L’année dernière à Marienbad is one of my favourites, Robbé-Grillet script and all. Mrs Abahachi is much less of a fan, so I don’t get to watch them very often (still haven’t seen Berberian Sound Studio, for example, despite it sounding rather interesting). Most of the things coming to mind at the moment are a bit normal, however – The Company Of Wolves is great, for example, but not nearly as odd and haunting as the Angela Carter stories it’s based on.

    I do find the end of 2001: A Space Odyssey incredibly annoying…

    • For several years I taught a class, The Film & the Novel, one of the featured films was ‘Marienbad’, I never thought of it as disturbing, more intriguing time change and memory.
      The film came to the classroom as 3 -16mm reels, once I mistakenly showed them out of order, 1-3-2 rather than 1-2-3, nobody commented, it looked the same whatever the order.

  5. It’s a novel that kept coming to mind at first here – The Dain Curse. Throughout most of the book i was wondering, exactly wtf is going on here, has he lost his marbles? And of course it all gets tied up and makes sense in the end. No idea if it ever got made into a film.

  6. I always thought Being John Malkovitch was so weird it good. And although I don’t remember the intricacies of the plot any more, I remember the Korean film Old Boy really disturbing me.

  7. Mother! Fever dream, home invasion, creation myth.

    Some clunky & obvious metaphors & not as good as Black Swan, but a lot better than Noah (but what isn’t).

      • I saw Mother! less than two months ago yet it didn’t come to mind when I was considering this topic. Which is hard to explain since it fits the bill pretty well. Daft as this may seem, I need something I can pin a theory on for me to enjoy films like this; all my theories for Mother! went up in flames (pun intended) and I was left with a lot of startling images, some nasty scenes and a lot of Acting. It’s an impressive creation nonetheless.

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