Films: Independent

loose 8mm film
Coyau / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA-3.0

Making films is like taking a stab in the dark – it’s hard to know when you hit a target. Modern studio systems, in their infinite wisdom, have tried to qualify this process by trying to stab the same place over and over again, hence the sequels, prequels, remakes, etc.

So, as the studios focus on the lavish mega-spectacular stuff with the goal of hitting the lowest common denominator, these following gems are almost always made by independent sources and are a labour of love; their originality in story and direction work their way into my heart.

Chungking Express
Wong Kar-Wai’s film is split into two separate stories. He brings the heat and chaos of Hong Kong to life, and makes you fall in love with both the second story’s leads, kooky Faye Wong and dreamy Tony Leung.

Hugo Weaving plays a blind photographer, and befriends Russell Crowe while dodging his obsessive housekeeper, Geneviève Picot, in Jocelyn Moorhouse’s directorial debut. It tells the story with original characters and with a lot of heart but without ever getting sentimental.

The Sapphires
Based on a true story about an Aboriginal girl band playing in Vietnam in the 1960s – utterly glorious. Despite a tiny budget, it’s lovingly handled on all fronts, and with terrific music as well.

Little Miss Sunshine
One of my absolute favourites of the past ten years. I love this story of how a fractured American family comes together.

The Sessions
Beautiful, touching and sensitively done drama where John Hawkes plays a patient with an iron lung and the ever-sympathetic Helen Hunt is his sex surrogate. Keep the tissues handy.

The Visitor
Richard Jenkins plays the professor who gets unexpected guests. Tom McCarthy’s beautifully told and played story is about belonging – those who want to, those who won’t and those who can’t.

More Favourites:

  • Your Sister’s Sister  I get crushes on films like this – the plot may be slight but it’s done naturalistically (but without shaky handheld cameras), beautiful production value and excellent acting; with Emily Blunt, Mark Duplass and Rosemarie DeWitt.
  • Beginners  Ewan McGregor and a pitch perfect Christopher Plummer in Mike Mills’s bittersweet film about being authentic in love.
  • Celeste and Jesse Forever  Love this genre – smart women trying to navigate their messy worlds of relationships and careers. Its star and co-writer, Rashida Jones, is one I’m watching.
  • Birthday Girl  Beware of Russian mail-order brides…
  • 2 Days in New York  More feisty and fun than its predecessor (2 Days in Paris), Julie Delpy and Chris Rock make it all happen as her endearing, if exasperating, family come to visit.
  • Little Voice  Astonishing performances by Jane Horrocks, Brenda Blethyn and Michael Caine.
  • Les adoptés  Exquisitely told, shot and sound designed piece of loveliness about two sisters, directed and co-written by one of its stars, the talented Mélanie Laurent.

• It’s very difficult to get royalty-free images of contemporary films and/or of living persons, so apologies for the virtually picture-free post

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