Explore the world of original plots and unique storytelling with Sylvy, a film major and chronic indie fan. She will steer you toward the best that independent cinema has to offer at home and abroad, past and present.
Now go get the popcorn ready…
By Sylvana Fernandez
Volver (To Return)
Director: Pedro Almodóvar
Release Year: 2006
I watched Volver on Pay-per-view a few months ago with my best friend Lourdes and the consensus after watching it was something like this: “Oh, wow.” The Oscar-nominated film is definitely not your typical movie. In the film Raimunda (played by Penelope Cruz), her daughter Paula and her sister Sole travel back to their Spanish hometown to visit their elderly aunt Paula, who raised the women after their mother Irene, father and aunt died in a fire. Aunt Paula keeps mentioning that Irene is living with her, but she’s senile and the village is famed for how superstitious its residents are, so Raimunda and Sole just blow it off. After their return to Madrid, Raimunda goes back to work, and when she arrives at her house she finds that her daughter killed her husband for trying to rape her. Raimunda is busy hiding the body – in a freezer at a restaurant she’s supposed to watch over for her neighbor – when her sister tells her that their aunt has died. They set off for the funeral and when Sole comes back to Madrid, she finds her mother, looking very much alive, hiding in the trunk of her car. This is where things really pick up. Raimunda hated her mother so her return is kept from her for a while, and when she does discover it, she doesn’t want to speak with her. Sole, with the help of a family friend, begins learning the true story behind the fire and ultimately, the cause for Raimunda’s grudge against Irene. Almodóvar is known for making the ironic aspects of life hilarious, and this film, which you would imagine to be tragic and serious, is not the exception.
Run Lola Run (Lola Rennt)
Director: Tom Tykwer
Release Year: 1998
If you’ve ever wondered what consequences your minor actions have on the outcome of your life or on the lives of others, you’ll love Run Lola Run. The idea is simple: Lola’s boyfriend Manni (Moritz Bleibtreu) is involved in some dirty business. He loses 100,000 deutschmarks that belong to his boss on a train and he has to deliver the money in 20 minutes. He calls Lola (Franka Potente) to ask for her help, and she sets off running across Berlin to prevent him from robbing a supermarket, which he sees as his only other alternative. How the idea is carried out is what makes it unique: 20 minutes into the film, the story has reached its end. But then the situation repeats itself a second and a third time, with different outcomes based on the most minimal of encounters Lola has as she goes on her mission. Each story is thought-provoking, fast-paced and unexpected, and the film overall is philosophical but never boring. The pounding techno soundtrack, tons of special effects and Potente’s (known in the U.S. for her part in theBourne films) intense performance make the film even more fascinating.
Á la folie… Pas du tout (He Loves me, He Loves me not)
Director: Laetitia Colombani
Release Year: 2002
This has to be my favorite French movie ever, and it’s the first movie I’d recommend to anyone who wants to see foreign cinema. It takes the cliché phrase “There are two sides to every story” and creates a masterpiece out of it.Audrey Tautou plays Angelique, who is a lovable, wide-eyed, innocent artist with a promising future and a gorgeous boyfriend, Loic. But suddenly Loic leaves Angelique hanging, and the entire tone and plot of the film are changed, as is our notion of who is worth siding with. This is probably the best performance Tautou has ever given, using some of the same charm she employs in Amelie but then adding a sinister dimension to her role. Director/screenwriter Colombaniis also brilliant, making the plot twist unforeseeable until it actually happens and managing to not make the story drag along after that. I don’t want to ruin any surprises, but the film progressively gets creepier, making it worthy of its “romantic thriller” tag. It can also be seen as a dark comedy, with its choice of music (expect to hear Frank Sinatra’s “L.O.V.E” several times) and unbelievable ending. In the end, this fascinating film will remind you of one of the most important lessons in life: it’s all in how you see it.