It's not that I am not fond of conventional musicals. THE SOUND OF MUSIC, PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, and THE PRODUCERS are some of my favorite gloomy-day films. But what really gets me excited are more experimental, genre-bending musicals. Below are my three favorites.
Air vents, the only not horribly depressing thing this film has to offer.
DANCER IN THE DARK
DANCER IN THE DARK is one of those films that people either really love or really hate. I adore this film for many reasons. It stars the strange and talented Björk, who I practically worship as if she were a god. It was directed by Lars von Trier, who, like I mentioned in a previous column, is a troubled man who makes very disturbing yet beautiful films. The film featuring singing and dancing and tragic things, all of which I enjoy in a movie.
The most prevalent complaint I have heard about DANCER IN THE DARK from other side of the opinion spectrum is that it's just too sad. This is very true. Very sad things happen to Björk and her character's son and pretty much everyone else in this film. It's as if von Trier awoke one rainy day and decided to write a screenplay about the saddest things he could imagining happening to someone, and then convinced a bunch of other people that creating a movie about these very, very sad things would be a good idea.
This is probably exactly what happened. Remember this is the same director who made MELANCHOLIA, which features a giant planet (aptly named Melancholia, the most enormous metaphor for depression in the history of film) that is going to hit the Earth and kill everyone. This is one sad guy we're dealing with.
Despite the incredible, reality-defying sadness of this movie, it's one of
my favorites, ever. Peter Bradshaw of the British newspaper The Guardian calls DANCER IN THE DARK "perhaps one of the worst things in the history of the world."1 You decide.
Pure joy in the face of unspeakable murderous acts.
"I've Seen It All," the song from the film that was nominated for an Oscar and sums up depression quite succinctly.
THE HAPPINESS OF THE KATAKURIS
Director Takashi Miike is best known for his extremely violent horror films, especially ICHI THE KILLER, which is still banned in many countries because of its high level of violence and gore. The same year Miike released ICHI THE KILLER, he also brought a lovely horror-musical combo called THE HAPPINESS OF THE KATAKURIS into the world (According to Wikipedia, Miike-san directed and released fifteen films in the years 2001 and 2002. Apparently directing films is all he ever does. Ever.)
This film tells the story of a lovely Japanese family that opens a bed and breakfast on a beautiful mountain top. All is well, until all of their guests are murdered. In reaction to this, the Katakuri family starts to sing about how shocked and upset they are.
This movie is probably the greatest thing ever to exist. It features two claymation sequences (Googling "claymation" produces a still from the film as the first result), dance numbers, characters flying through the air, scenes of characters running through mountaintop fields in a very SOUND OF MUSIC-like manner, and lots and lots of murder and singing.
Sadly, YouTube does not have any musical numbers from the film, but the
trailer gives you a pretty good idea of what you can look forward to.
The huit femmes of HUIT FEMMES.
HUIT FEMMES (English: Eight Women)
Here is yet another film that combines songs with murder, but HUIT FEMMES is by no means horrific but rather a whodunnit spoof featuring oddly cheerful songs as a group of eight women try to figure out who murdered their male relative.
A French family has gathered together to celebrate Christmas, only the celebrations are ruined once the master of the house is found in his bedroom with a knife in his back. His wife, his two daughters, his mother, his sister, his sister-in-law, his maid, and his cook are left figure out who among them committed the murder (or was it someone from outside the house?), all while continuing to sing lovely, though sometimes melancholy songs. Song titles include "There is No Happy Love," "Dad, You're Out of Touch," and "So As Not To Live Alone."
Featuring more plot twists than the number of songs and women combined, HUIT FEMMES is very funny, and the perfect solution if you're feeling despondent after viewing DANCER IN THE DARK but can't handle the bloody strangeness of THE HAPPINESS OF THE KATAKURIS.
Here is a song from the film. I couldn't find any song clips with subtitles. The chorus translates to "You, my love, my friend, when I dream it's of you. My love, my friend, when I sing it's for you. My love, my friend, I can't live on without you."
Feel free to share comments on these films or other off-beat musicals. Thanks for reading.
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Aug 20, 2012 2:03 PM
|Hi again. I've had DANCER IN THE DARK recorded for awhile but haven't gotten to it yet, so it's on my list. It's one of those movies that I've always heard mentioned by friends in kind of hushed tones, as being one of those movies you need to be prepared for when you watch it. I feel like I'm used to those kinds of movies, but I'm continuously taken aback when I see one that manages to do its job really effectively. |
I've also seen a few of Lars Von Trier's other movies, so I know what I'm in for with him. The other ones are MELANCHOLIA, which I actually thought was kind of a relief compared to some of his other ones, BREAKING THE WAVES, which was incredibly depressing and actually made me cry when I saw it, and ANTICHRIST, which is in a category unto itself. I saw you wrote about the last one elsewhere - it's one of the only movies I've seen that actually made me yell in shock watching it. But all of these movies are really well done of course.
I've seen Funny Games too by the way. That's a really f*cked up movie because it's so disturbing AND at the same time so funny. It's a really weird experience. The original is on Netflix Instant Watching, I believe, but I've heard it's pretty much identical to the American version shot for shot. So I figure why bother? Haneke claims he intended the movie to be in English all along anyway.
As far as bizarre musicals go, have you ever seen PINK FLOYD THE WALL? That's one of the darkest, most format-bending musicals I've ever seen. It's one of my favorites. I actually saw the live version of it last month in Raleigh. HEAVY METAL's a musical too I guess. I've seen that one but not the sequel, HEAVY METAL 2000 (I'm thinking it's probably pretty similar though). Another musical that's strange and pretty depressing overall is PENNIES FROM HEAVEN. And some others that came to mind, which I haven't seen, are the two FANTASIA movies and this movie (another I have recorded and am getting around to) called AMERICAN POP, which I think is also purely animated and filled wall to wall with music.
Somebody needs to do a new musical that's really dark, don't you think?
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I watch cinema the way most people eat sugar: constantly and without consideration that I could survive without it. Sometimes I like to write about it.
I like movies, especially anything generally labeled “disturbing,” “bizarre,” or “trippy.” I collect movie posters but don't take very good care of them. I work in a library, which brings me much joy. I also like tea, dark beer, taking naps, and the art of conversation. I think the appreciation and creation of art, whether it be film or literature or music or anything, brings more meaning and value to the human experience than any other activities, which is my excuse for spending more time inside with movies and books than outside exercising and socializing.|
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