Courtesy of yale.edu

I recently attended the UR Cinema Group screening of “Argo” in Hoyt Auditorium. For once, the theater was nearly full, and the students clearly enjoyed the film, laughing and gasping at all the right moments.

Sitting in the crowd, I recalled a point once made by the film “Inception” — movies are like shared dreams. Still, the films we get to see in Hoyt are almost exclusively from within the past 20 years. Rarely do we get to see classic or art house films, which are usually independent films aimed at a specific audience rather than the mass market, on campus; you basically must do so on your own. Bearing this in mind, here are 10 of the best art house movies to see before graduating. Granted, there are probably hundreds of art house movies worth seeing, but these will at least provide a break from the latest blockbusters. They are entertaining but also stylistically brilliant and philosophically profound.

1.“The Last Emperor” — A lesser-known epic filmed in lush colors, this film traces the entire life of Pu-Yi, the last emperor of China. His picaresque journey from the Forbidden City to anonymity reflects the story of his country in the twentieth century. Incidentally, the movie is almost 100 percent historically accurate.

2.“The Seventh Seal”  –—  Capable of both disturbing viewers and making them laugh hysterically (sometimes in the same scene), this gem follows a Swedish knight as he returns from the Crusades. When Death comes to collect him, the knight initiates a game of chess, hoping to buy enough time to see his wife again. Bizarre images and challenging moral dilemmas ensue.

3.“Out of Africa” — Sometimes the best romances are the ones where the girl does not get the guy. This tale of a writer (Meryl Streep) and her aviator lover (Robert Redford) in colonial Africa is a fascinating portrayal of a particular moment in history as well as a heartbreaking story of lost love. The sweeping visuals of Africa and the lush soundtrack are overwhelmingly beautiful.

4.“Reds” — A movie about American Communists during the Russian Revolution that is longer than “Titanic?” Yes, that would be “Reds,” Warren Beatty’s glorious epic of star-crossed lovers, socialists, and revolutionaries. Fascinating interviews with the real-life contemporaries of the main characters are peppered throughout the film.

5.“The Last Temptation of Christ” —  Martin Scorsese’s violent, revisionist take on the Gospel is scored to a powerful rock soundtrack by Peter Gabriel, filmed in deserts that look like the surface of another planet, and daring enough to change the traditional story’s ending.

6.“Black Orpheus” — The classic Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice gets a 1950s face-lift. A young man must try to protect his lover from a killer pursuing her through the Brazilian carnivale. Voodoo, jazz music, and dancing abound in this one.

7.“The Best Years of Our Lives” — Everyone knows “It’s a Wonderful Life,” but few know this film, which beat the former for the 1946 Oscar for Best Picture. The film follows three WWII veterans — a man trapped in a bad marriage, a banker-turned-officer, and a man whose hands have been amputated — as they adjust to civilian life. This is an American epic in miniature, turning the lives of three people into a greater commentary on postwar America. Surprisingly, it has aged very well.

8.“The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou” — Wes Anderson has made some great movies, but this mad folly of a film – a bizarre comedy, a thrilling adventure, and a poignant consideration of old age, all at once – might be his best. Bill Murray stars as Steve Zissou, the drug-abusing maker of ocean documentaries who sets out to kill the shark that ate his best friend. Hilarity and tragedy follow, in equal doses.

9.“Spirited Away” —  A young girl is transported to a town of mythical creatures where she must fight to rescue her parents and stay true to herself. Quite possibly the greatest animated film ever made, “Spirited Away” is as inventive a fantasy as “The Wizard of Oz.”

10.“Fanny and Alexander” —  The fairy tale to end all fairy tales, this story of a family of actors unfolds like a great novel. When widowed Mrs. Ekdahl remarries an evil Protestant bishop who imprisons her and her children, the rest of the eccentric Ekdahl clan hire a magician in a last-ditch rescue mission. Extraordinarily well acted, the film’s shocking ending is open to endless interpretation. It might very well be the greatest film ever made.

These movies are different and perhaps have a bit more staying power than the latest  Hollywood movie screened in Hoyt. Check them out.

Gorman is a member of the class of 2014.

 



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