How do you find movies to watch at home on a Saturday night? Flip through the hundreds of channels on cable? Scroll through the endless offerings on Netflix? Check out the ratings on Rotten Tomatoes? With so much to watch these days, the search can end up taking so long that we're exhausted by the time we've found something worthwhile.
As the founder of a brand new online film site, I'm constantly on the lookout for great films to recommend to my audience so that they don't have to spend so much time searching, and they can spend more time watching. On eflixir, we've curated over 3,000 uplifting Hollywood films so that our audience can be confident that everything they find on our site will entertain, provoke, and inspire. But that's still quite a lot to choose from, and therefore, there's still the need to make ongoing recommendations that our audience will appreciate and trust.
So last night I was looking for something new and interesting, and I came across a movie that I'd never heard of called Mr. Nobody. Written and directed by Belgian filmmaker Jaco Van Dormael, it had originally been released in Europe in 2010 without opening in the US, and then it made its American debut in November of last year without much box office fanfare. However, it featured an appealing cast (Jared Leto, Sarah Polley, Diane Kruger, Rhys Ifans and Juno Temple), it had gotten some decent reviews and ratings on various online channels, and the description ("In this sprawling sci-fi epic, the last mortal in a world of immortals reviews his life at age 120, considering multiple diverging realities that spring from a pivotal moment on a train platform") sounded intriguing, so I decided to give it a watch.
As an independent filmmaker myself, I am fairly adventurous with my selections because I am well aware that most movies don't have the advertising budget to render them visible amidst the glut of studio tentpoles. However, the majority of time when I take a flier on a film that I have never heard of, I am underwhelmed if not outright disappointed. This is certainly not to say that most blockbusters deserve all the noise and bluster that is made around them. Nor is it to say that all great movies get the recognition that they deserve. Some of my favorite films are foreign or indy titles that pass way beneath the popular radar. However, it is often the case that obscure movies are obscure for a reason. Even if they are decent, they are rarely extraordinary.
So my expectations were limited, but as the film began and progressed, I was quickly engaged, then enthralled and finally amazed. No summary can do Mr. Nobody justice, but in essence it is about a very old man in a futuristic society who tells his life story, or rather stories, in a series of what may either be flashbacks, dreams, or figments of his imagination, as his listeners try to make sense of it all and find, ultimately, that it may not be sense at all that matters. The cast, led by Mr. Leto, is spectacular. The script is dazzling and dizzying. The cinematography is sumptuous, and the special effects are special indeed.
You know a movie is great when you don't want it to end. By the time the credits rolled, I was aching for more. I was dumbstruck and in awe of this gorgeous, profound, mystifying film. I was exhausted, as if I'd just exercised really well, and my mind was abuzz with questions. What does it mean?! Does it matter what it means?! Is there meaning at all, or only love and loss and railroad tracks leading one way or the other? Ordinarily, I am a lover of clarity, but for the two plus hours I watched Mr. Nobody, I was fully taken by its hypnotic surrealism and provocative paradoxes. Like a zen koan in ravishing technicolor, it is a feast for the eyes, the emotions, the mind and the soul.
Similar to many of the comments I read afterwards online, I was left to wonder, amidst all of my other questions, why I and more people like me had never heard of this film. Simultaneously, I was a bit thrilled by its obscurity, like I had discovered something rare and valuable, or like I was suddenly privy to an exclusive club. Moreso, however, I had a powerful urge to share this treasure with everyone I could, not only for their sake, but so that we could spend hours afterwards discussing it.
Bad movies are left on the sticky floor with your empty popcorn box as soon as you leave the theatre. Good movies go home with you and leave you thinking about them for a little while afterwards. Great movies linger on the screen of your mind long after the projector has been turned off. The best of them, in my opinion, provide you something that you can pluck from the screen and apply to your reality. You want to talk about them, decipher them, grow from them.
I was so ecstatic to find "Mr. Noboby"not only because it is a new addition for my list of favorites, but because it provides so much food for thought and opens so many doors for conversation. I may not agree with all of its conclusions, but there are few things I love more than a well told story that entertains and simultaneously stimulates deep reflection and introspection. Do yourself a favor and watch this gem of a film, and then join the conversation with a growing community that is anxious to discuss, debate and celebrate great movies that matter.
Follow Marc Erlbaum on Twitter: www.twitter.com/eflixir