I’m a great lover of independent movies. I respect and admire them in general a lot more than Hollywood movies. So I thought it fitting to make a list of the ten best indie dramas I’ve seen, and would recommend to others. In no particular order:
Sex, Lies and Videotape (1988)
Of all the films I’ve seen that can be classified as raw, true indie; independent cinema at its heart, Steven Soderbergh’s Sex, Lies and Videotape has to be the best. Fantastic performances from James Spader and Andie MacDowell make this a very thought-provoking, intriguing drama which is not easy to forget.
I’ve mentioned this before; I love this movie. Love it with a passion. Sure, it’s not for people who are looking for any coherent plot with constant developments, but it is an extremely powerful character story about an actor who has faded into obscurity and the people around him. Shot magnificently by Sofia Coppola, this is her best film.
The Brown Bunny (2003)
Okay, I’ve ranted about this one enough. I love it. Every time I watch it, I like it a little bit more. It might be quiet and uneventful, but Vincent Gallo’s silent expression says so many words that don’t need to be spoken aloud. A heartbreaking story of loss that doesn’t try to be overly emotional, but just works the way it is. Though certainly not for everyone, this is, IMHO, a hauntingly beautiful movie.
Darren Aronofsky’s first movie is a fast-paced story shot in black-and-white about a man obsessed with numbers who believes that the entire world is made up in patterns that can be translated into numbers. Some of Aronofsky’s most well-known camera techniques, such as mounting the camera on the actor, are well established here in setting a mood of claustrophobic closeness.
Thomas Vinterberg’s Dogme 95 gem is one of the top ten films I always recommend. Because people always have different reactions to it, but even when you’re disgusted, it holds you tightly in its grip. A young man, at his father’s 60th birthday, reveals to a crowd that he sexually molested him at a young age and is indirectly responsible for his sister’s suicide. Chaos ensues, and Vinterberg captures it so brilliantly, with a film that is well-written, shot, and superbly acted.
Me and You and Everyone We Know (2005)
Miranda July’s film examines society in a frank and honest manner reminiscent of Todd Solondz, but distinctly different in style. The type of multiple character drama I absolutely love, Me and You and Everyone We Know is a stunning, brutally frank and explicit look at the people around us; the people in this film are likely to be either me, you, or someone we know; thus the title.
Looking at this list you might be wondering where Todd Solondz’s Happiness is. Well, I could only include one Solondz film here so I thought I would make it Storytelling instead, since more people haven’t seen it. Various storylines involving rape, racism, and exploitation unravel in one of Solondz’ more tragic films, a tremendously underrated gem.
Never Let Me Go (2010)
This adaptation of the bestselling novel is a distraught, harrowing movie which tells a tale involving rather dark themes with an almost tender lightness, as if being viewed by a passive or naive child. This gives it power, especially when the subject matter is, in a way, genocide ostensibly for the purpose of harvesting organs. But again, the way it is told is in an almost ironically light manner, which makes the subject matter all the more disturbing.
Blue Valentine (2010)
Derek Cianfrance’s “love story” is a film that will make all couples stop and think about their relationship. Where is it going? Will we end up like them? One of the most important films of the year, undoubtedly, it is a dramatic and painful look at a fracturing relationship as we examine simultaneously its early, carefree days and the downward spiral to a sadly inevitable oblivion.
4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (2007)
Easily the darkest film on this list, 4 Months… is also the one which is closest to reality. In Romania, in the 80s, it is illegal to have an abortion, but one woman attempts to do so by hiring an illegal doctor to perform the procedure, with unexpected consequences. The film is shot so unbelievably coldly that a shiver runs down my spine even when nothing is happening. That’s powerful.
Well, there’s my list. If there’s anything you’d like to add, please leave a comment below, and I’d suggest taking this seriously as a list of recommendations; I recommend these movies to the people around me, and thus I recommend them to you.