Some quick responses on the flicks I've seen since joining Netflix...
The Suspended Vocation. This is a French film by an expatriate Chilean director named Raul Ruiz, and while it's a tough one to recommend, I find myself thinking about it quite a bit. It's a complex tale about a monk who finds himself in the middle of a theological debate/intellectual turf war between two factions in the church. The thing that makes it a tuff film is that Ruiz has obviously decided to avoid any kind of melodramatic techniques; the actors all seem like real people caught on hidden cameras, so the acting has none of the, y'know, actoriness we expect from even the must subtle and underplayed movies. It works just fine if you accept it, but the deliberate blandness of the performances is so far removed from what we expect from movies that I can see why Ruiz hasn't found a popular audience. I dug this film, though. It's actually hard to get actors, whether pros or not, to refrain from acting it up.
Nightbreed. This Clive Barker obscurity has some glorious Goth Monster People Tableaus, and if that sounds good to you then by all means give this one a rental. It's set in an underground monster city, and characters spend a good chunk of time wandering around seeing wierd monster-folks in their funky habitat. I could watch two hours of that. Sadly the story turns into a dopey drive-in movie style battle between monsters and one-dimensional bad cops. The other two Barker movies I've seem had some substantial thematic stuff underlying the monster action; this time it was dumbed down. Was Barker trying to "give the people what they want?"
Tetsuo. Pretty much anyone who would like this flick has already seen it, but this gonzo low-budget SF movie is an interesting companion piece to Godard's Alphaville. Both movies create a low-budget SF art-movie vocabulary that I find compelling, but Tetsuo replaces Alphaville's icy Gallic cool with a hyperkinetic punk style. Godard went out and found stuff that looked futuristic, while the Tetsuo gang made monster suits and didn't worry if they looked ridiculous. The transformation of people onto machines is a hypnotic metaphor for unhealthy growth and mechanization.
Cartoons That Time Forgot. This Ub Iwerks collection is hypnotic. Iwerks was Disney's largely unsung collaborator on those early Mickey Mouse shorts, and these shorts hold up as beautifully crafted early cartoons. None of the stories or gags will be unfamiliar to anyone who has ever watched an old toon; unlike Disney or the Fleischer Bros. Iwerks wasn't an innovator. But Iwerks was a consummate craftsman; his characters have grace and style; these dancelike performances showcase what dancers call a vocabulary of movement that is simple enough for kids to follow. I'm beyond clumsy, but as a performer I have to be able to "speak" my own vocabulary of movement; I've been thinking a lot about how to teach myself to handle the challenges of what you might call narrative movement, and I've bben watching these with an eye on the simple yet effective use of movement to communicate.