Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Favorite Underrated Dramas - Bernardo Villela ""

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Favorite Underrated Dramas - Bernardo Villela

Bernardo Villela is about to enter his fourth year of obsessive film blogging. His baby in that regard is The Movie Rat, which features movie reviews, analysis & insights on a wide range of topics. There are new or updated posts daily. His other experience includes writing prose and plays, feature and short film editing, writing and directing short films as well as television commercial copy-writing and directing. To read a more detailed biography on his other works visit his production company's site. For information on his novella or other upcoming works visit his Amazon store. For random thoughts follow him on the Twitter.

When I heard about Rupert Pupkin's Underrated Dramas series, I was delighted. As opposed to my comedies list this list proved many more possibilities based on what I've seen such that I have been posting ancillary lists on my site leading to the debut of this, the ultimate list here.

Now, as he and many have mentioned, and as I have come to realize recently in my personal film awards; the term underrated is perhaps ill-fitting, but the most relatable word to most. Essentially my criteria is that the film must be one I greatly enjoy, obviously find moving in some way and seems to be greatly overlooked. This is regardless of what the box office or critics said about the film at the time.

So how did selecting the underrated dramas differ in methodology from comedies? Well, for this list I wanted the films to have very specific attributes: first, they had to be produced overseas or performed in a language other than English. The reason for this is that foreign films render drama and human emotion very well, they tell stories in ways outside of the norm, and by virtue of being foreign releases are generally not as well-known or as lauded in the US as they should be.

Second, whenever possible for this list I wanted to pick films that were either out of print or hard-to-find. To me this adds to the underrated aspect of said films because they are that good they should not be so scarce.

Thirdly, if at all possible, I wanted variety in terms of country of origin and decade of release and I just barely managed to hit that criteria also.

Unlike last time all my honorable mentions are featured on my site, so without further ado let's proceed to the list.

1. Ofelas (Pathfinder) (1987, Dir. Nils Gaup)

This was actually the first film that came to mind for me. In a similar vein to the comedies list, I wanted to also chose some titles I've been fond of for a long time. Yes, this film was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the Oscars, however, the class of 1987 was one of the most stacked ever in terms of quality such that this film has faded from memory over time. It also makes it in part because unlike other selections there were no other Norwegian contenders really.

It's a wonderful, very visual interpretation of Lapland myth by Nils Gaup. I remember it being quite a mesmerizing experience the first time I viewed it. Adding to its credentials as being underrated this film was remade as Pathfinder in the US many years later, but just from the trailer I could tell it was so far from the inspiration that I wanted nothing to do with it.

2. O Pagador de Promessas (The Given Word) (1962, Dir. Anselmo Duarte)

A while back I wrote a long rumination on what qualifies as an emblematic film for a given country. Being a dual citizen of the United States and Brazil this question is one that weighs heavily on my mind as it pertains to Brazil. In the piece cited this film as one of the big, famous important films I had yet to see.

I rectified that and was astounded by the simple power of it. To this day it remains the only Latin American production to win the Palme d'Or but I had to buy a French import to see it, so I say that makes it fairly underrated, and as to a question of a definitive film: it might just be. For as specific as the "Promise repayment" in Brazil is, where a mix of Catholicism and native religion happens, once that's explained in an opening title card the rest of the tale is fairly universal, thought-provoking and heart-wrenching. Yet, from my prospective, having a cultural insight, it's an extremely emblematic work that is a pillar of Brazilian cinema that needs to be more widely regarded.

3. Le jour avant le lendemain (Before Tomorrow) (2008, Dir. Marie-Hélène Cousineau and Madeline Ivalu)

Each of the past two years while nations are announcing their official selections for the Oscars I have posted my thoughts on what could, in a perfect world, be done to improve that process. However, one aspect that always crept in the back of my mind, and I'd like to discuss this year if I can find people who would be willing to discuss it; is the dilemma of countries where multiple languages are spoken. Now, Canada may not immediately come to mind as one of those nations in the Oscar conversation, but when you're talking about the Fast Runner Trilogy, you realize you probably didn't think of First Nations.

While this is the third installment to a trilogy it is a conceptual one rather than a literal one. In fact, the middle installment is still on my massive to watch list. It was one of my favorite films of 2009, and a winner of Best Cinematography at my BAM Awards. To not regurgitate too much of my review it quietly and gently tells a tale of generations, of keeping traditions alive and coming-of-age, and by virtue of its limited release and its not being in French it is vastly underrated in my opinion.

4. Kauwboy (2011, Boudewijn Koole)

Here is another film I've had cause to write about on quite a few occasions. Kauwboy, in large part, was responsible for the shift in focus of one of my awards from Most Underrated to Most Overlooked. This film despite its accolades and awards (There are quite a few besides the ones I bestowed upon it) has not found US distribution, and it may not.

When looking into global cinema more closely that's an unfortunate aspect you likely didn't think of too much prior, I know I didn't. Having seen a film of this caliber you sit and hope it will find distribution, but know it likely will not and it's a shame because given availability it could definitely find an audience. Kauwboy is a sensitively told tale, that's carried in a herculean manner by Rick Lens and underscored precisely by the singing and melodies of Ricky Koole. If you have occasion to see it I cannot recommend it highly enough.

5. Valahol Európában (It Happened in Europe a.k.a Somewhere in Europe) (1948, Dir. Géza von Radványi)

One thing that happens when assembling a list like this is you are usually comparing apples to oranges, on occasion there will be an apples to apples comparison and you have to go with the better choice. I considered this and Germany Year Zero to fill an unexpected post-World War II niche that called out. This film gets in not only as Hungarian representative, but also because I believe It's better than Germany Year Zero.

It's currently out of print and, like many underrated films, it's one of those I wouldn't have even known existed if...The if in this case being the fact that it's the cover image to a book on Hungarian cinema I was reading. When I read about the film I knew I had to see it. It used to be that melodrama would always work on me, and good ones still can and do; however, this film quite slowly, subtly emoted the pain and unfortunate circumstances off the screen such that I was taken aback by the fact that I was so actively, suddenly and violently brought to tears by it.

If you can find it through a reseller it's well worth the time. I know I'm not parting with mine.

1 comment:

zombivish said...

YEs! YES! YES! Another Pathfinder lover! The rather barebones r2 german dvd is one of the most prized in my dvd collection.