Independent vs. Mainstream Film

Independent vs. Mainstream Film and My Picks for Indie Films
Here’s something I almost posted about a couple of days ago, except of course that the Hand of Fate wiped it out somewhere in the data transfer. So I lost the preamble to it, which was about how I’d been teaching my students on Wednesday last about complaining. It was fun, because it wasn’t anything to do with grammar, it was all about tone of voice and delivery and a wee bit of acting. Deadpan complaint just doesn’t work, it sounds like statement of fact, so we worked on that for a while.


I chose “America” as an easily-complained-about subject for the class during a lull, and the complaining started again. Eventually, someone brought up film. You know, American movies… “white handsome American man saves the world” is just as boring for non-Westerners as Westerners, it seems. After a few generalized complaints about American film, we had almost no time left in the class, so I promised that we could talk about films, and what is wrong with Hollywood, the next day.

We did just that. It was interesting to see what my students had to say about films… the standard kinds of complaints I imagined, and more. One student complained that Korean films are becoming more mindless, more distractive entertainment instead of thought-provoking entertainment of the Aristotelian “instruct and delight” type. (She didn’t bring up Aristotle, that’s me extemporizing.) But what was a little bit shocking to me was that I was at a distinct disadvantage in the class… I had not bothered to go to films like Black Hawk Down and Pearl Harbor, but many of my students had, and brought it up with comparisons to Rambo and Independence Day, both of which are pretty understandable points of comparison in my opinion.

I managed to get in a comment about the skewed American viewpoint in the movie U-571, which plays at making it look as if the Americans cracked the Enigma Code. (A much better movie to watch on this subject is the film Turing, a painful film about the British mathematical genius Alan Turing who made sense of how to crack the German enigma codes and helped win the war… and then killed himself out of embarrassment when he was publicly outed as a homosexual.) This started in on a discussion of the links between politics and depiction of the world in film… though of course we used much simpler language to talk about it. We looked at America, but only managed to talk about one Korean film in this respect, the recent Jiburo, which, through the story of a young boy who is left with his grandmother for a few months while his mother adjusts to divorced life, embodies the absolute cultural schism between the oldest and youngest generation of Koreans, and dreams of reuniting Korea somehow culturally and spiritually.

Anyway, I promised my students a list of films that I thought didn’t match our complaints, and this is what I came up with.

North American

  • Bowling for Columbine (on guns and American culture)
  • Henry Fool (about poets and crazy people, by Hal Hartley)
  • American Movie (about crazy Americans making horrible independent movies)
  • Vernon, Florida (about uneducated American people, very funny)
  • The Hanging Garden (about a family not dealing with a gay sonís suicide; Canadian)
  • The Cube (a weirdo fantasy about being trapped in a meaningless prison; Canadian)
  • The Sweet Hereafter (about a bus accident, dir. Atom Egoyan; Canadian)
  • Donnie Darko (just very weird)

British & Aussie

  • Orlando (from a Virginia Woolf novel)
  • Holy Smoke (dir. by Jane Campion, about cult-like religion)
  • Heavenly Creatures (about two girls who killed one girlís motherÖ real story)

Good non-indie films

  • Hearts in Atlantis (about childhood and psychics)
  • Wings of Desire (German) (about angels and the meaning of life)
  • The Kingdom (Danish, just weird, dir. by Lars von Trier)
  • Breaking the Waves (about love and sacrifice, dir. by Lars von Trier)
  • Dancer in the Dark (about love and sacrifice, dir. by Lars von Trier)
  • Black Cat White Cat (insanely funny, gangsters and regular people in old Yugoslavia, dir. by Emir Kusturica)
  • Underground (also dir. by Kusturica, a weird movie about the collapse of Yugoslavia start in WWII)

I also, of course, gave them a link to the Internet Movie Database.

I’ll try to do up a list of Korean movies and a discussion of the content thereof, but that’s a while away and, given the unavailability of these movies in most places outside of Korea, it’s not a huge priority at the moment. But it’ll come sometime.

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