Welcome to the ICM Forum. If you have an account but have trouble logging in, or have other questions, see THIS THREAD.
500<400 (Nominations Sep 22nd)
Polls: Animation (Results), 2016 awards (Aug 25th), 1987 (Aug 25th), Benelux (Aug 30th), Knockout competition (Round 1)
Challenges: Romance, UK/Ireland, <400 Checks
Film of the Week: Hospital, September nominations (Aug 30th)

What are the smartest films ever made?

Post Reply
mjf314
Moderator
Posts: 10771
Joined: May 08, 2011
Contact:

What are the smartest films ever made?

#1

Post by mjf314 » August 10th, 2019, 7:52 pm

What do you think are the smartest films ever made?
What does it mean for a movie to be "smart"? Use your own judgment. Different people might interpret the question in different ways.

My own choices are listed below, in the spoiler tag.
SpoilerShow
In chronological order, and limited to 1 film per director.

Pierrot le fou (1965)
Death by Hanging (1968)
Claire's Knee (1970)
WR: Mysteries of the Organism (1971)
Solaris (1972)
The Mother and the Whore (1973)
World on a Wire (1973)
The Phantom of Liberty (1974)
The Fifth Seal (1976)
The Hypothesis of the Stolen Painting (1978)
My American Uncle (1980)
The Rat Trap (1982)
Sans Soleil (1983)
Close Up (1990)
Ghost in the Shell (1995)
Extraordinary Stories (2008)
The Tragedy of Man (2011)
Endless Poetry (2016)

User avatar
beavis
Posts: 1859
Joined: Jun 20, 2011
Location: Amsterdam, Netherlands
Contact:

#2

Post by beavis » August 10th, 2019, 8:31 pm

smart for me would not be intricately plotted, with a clever twist or anything like that, but movies which try to tackle a philosophical problem or something similar, using the language of film in a non-superficial way. This can sometimes be very simple or minimalistic, sometimes very obscure and hard to get into if you do not know the keys (as in references to people, books and so on), but it will make you think; about life and humanity.

Only yesterday I saw Les Jeux de la Comtesse Dolingen de Gratz (1981) that falls right into that last category
It is based on very challenging surrealistic material, slightly comparable to Ruiz and Robbe-Grillet (with a dash of Duras and Borowczyk maybe), full of understated visual clues and eliptical references from the very start. Also touching on Edgar Allan Poe and Bram Stoker, even Jules Verne with texts inside text and sub-text. A very smart movie! The director never made another, but maybe she was more of a book author anyway...?

However, for the smartest I can name just these three: Stalker, Heroic Purgatory and Salo

mjf314
Moderator
Posts: 10771
Joined: May 08, 2011
Contact:

#3

Post by mjf314 » August 10th, 2019, 9:03 pm

smart for me would not be intricately plotted, with a clever twist or anything like that
When I googled smart movies, I found many movies of this type, but I tried to avoid them. I made an exception for the intricately plotted Extraordinary Stories.
but movies which try to tackle a philosophical problem or something similar, using the language of film in a non-superficial way
I included several philosophical films on my list. It's hard to think of philosophical films that have new interesting ideas, because I think most filmmakers aren't good philosophers, but I tried to pick films where ideas are presented in an intelligent or unique way.
Only yesterday I saw Les Jeux de la Comtesse Dolingen de Gratz (1981) that falls right into that last category
It is based on very challenging surrealistic material, slightly comparable to Ruiz and Robbe-Grillet
I haven't seen this film, but I think Ruiz's films are smart, and I included one on my list.

User avatar
beavis
Posts: 1859
Joined: Jun 20, 2011
Location: Amsterdam, Netherlands
Contact:

#4

Post by beavis » August 10th, 2019, 9:20 pm

mjf314 wrote:
August 10th, 2019, 9:03 pm
It's hard to think of philosophical films that have new interesting ideas, because I think most filmmakers aren't good philosophers
well cinema is not neccesarily equipped to mesh 100% with philosophy, maybe, but it is interesting to see what visual language can add to a debate. If we're talking about the debate about philosophy itself, the cinema got off to a very good start. There were many interesting thought on editing, the morality of it, the revolutionary force, the kuleshov effect and so on. Film theory became a thing, expressionism and impressionism were explored. (post-)modern philosophers started to think about cinema.... so good or not, there are many philosophers among them, and have been from very early on. Maybe not everything is new anymore, but a lot of interesting ideas are still being explored.

I can name many, but I thought it best to just name the ones I thought were the most challenging and engaging of what I've seen

User avatar
maxwelldeux
Donator
Posts: 6361
Joined: Jun 07, 2016
Location: Seattle-ish, WA, USA
Contact:

#5

Post by maxwelldeux » August 10th, 2019, 11:45 pm

For me, a smart movie is one that has a message, but one that is portrayed subtly, so you can enjoy a great movie, but then think about it and get another message. So first, I think a movie has to be great, but then that underlying message has to come through.

So 12 Angry Men is a great jury-room drama, but underneath you have the message of treating everyone equally and with the same respect and deference as anyone else; this makes it a "smart" movie to me. To Kill a Mockingbird, with a similar message, has the message at the forefront of the film; this doesn't make it "smart" to me, though it's a great film. So with that context, here are my thoughts on "smart" films:

12 Angry Men (1957)
La Vita e Bella (1997)
BabaKiueria (1986)
Boyz n the Hood (1991)
Do the Right Thing (1989)
The Salesman (2016)
Grave of the Fireflies (1988)
Dog Day Afternoon (1975)
The War Game (1965)
Er Ist Wieder Da (2015)
Pleasantville (1998)
Death of a President (2006)
Elephant (2003)
Get Out (2017)


User avatar
TajSamKojiJesam
Posts: 90
Joined: Feb 14, 2018
Contact:

#7

Post by TajSamKojiJesam » August 11th, 2019, 7:31 am

Kubrick's entire filmography from 2001: A Space Odyssey onwards; the amount of symbolic frameworks stuffed into these films is pretty much insane and unprecedented.

This site is a decent (though imperfect) intro to some of the more important readings of his films: https://archive.vn/rhnl0

User avatar
Onderhond
Posts: 2718
Joined: Dec 23, 2012
Contact:

#8

Post by Onderhond » August 11th, 2019, 10:28 am

A pretty tough question. I generally don't find films very "smart". Not in the twisty sense, not in the reflective sense either. Traditional examples that were already mentioned (like Kubrick or 12 Angry Men) I tend to find too constructed or simplistic. They are set up to support easily quotable morality, which I find has little use in the real world. Supercomputers turned evil and apes discovering tools can kill are not my idea of "smart".

One film I do appreciate is Patlabor 2. Strip away the silliness and you get a film that makes some fine points about how a single individual can strike fear into the heart of a nation. Even so, it's not the primary reason why I like that film so much.

User avatar
TajSamKojiJesam
Posts: 90
Joined: Feb 14, 2018
Contact:

#9

Post by TajSamKojiJesam » August 11th, 2019, 12:34 pm

Onderhond wrote:
August 11th, 2019, 10:28 am
They are set up to support easily quotable morality, which I find has little use in the real world. Supercomputers turned evil and apes discovering tools can kill are not my idea of "smart".
I don't understand what you mean by this. You mean, 2001 is a moralistic film about how humanity needs to be responsible with technology? I don't see it that way, even if we grant the theory that the character of HAL was intended as a diss to IBM.

2001 is interestingly the most straight-forward and simple film from his mature period, even though it ushered in the most critical analyses.

User avatar
Eve-Lang-El-Coup
Posts: 412
Joined: Feb 03, 2017
Location: Aussieland
Contact:

#10

Post by Eve-Lang-El-Coup » August 11th, 2019, 1:25 pm

It is not clear what you define as smart yourself, so I am at a loss as to why you chose the films you did. There seems to be a consistent similarity between the ones I've seen, which is a reflection on life outside the confines of reality, but hey, I'm just guessing.

Intelligent for me, I'm not sure, I'd have to go away and think about it for a while. Films to my mind probably could be smart no matter what or how they present or who they're presenting to. I think it would be something I would feel during the watch and perhaps lose unless I made a physical note of it.

User avatar
Onderhond
Posts: 2718
Joined: Dec 23, 2012
Contact:

#11

Post by Onderhond » August 11th, 2019, 3:39 pm

TajSamKojiJesam wrote:
August 11th, 2019, 12:34 pm
You mean, 2001 is a moralistic film about how humanity needs to be responsible with technology? I don't see it that way, even if we grant the theory that the character of HAL was intended as a diss to IBM.
It's certainly one of the bigger themes of the film. Whether HAL refers to IBM doesn't matter much, but Kubrick's barren vision of the future (we eat drab food from machines, supercomputers turn against us, culture is all but absent) is a little hard to miss. Add to that the intro where the bone becomes an instant murder weapon and Kubrick's vision of humanity and technology annoyed me no end.

User avatar
TajSamKojiJesam
Posts: 90
Joined: Feb 14, 2018
Contact:

#12

Post by TajSamKojiJesam » August 11th, 2019, 6:20 pm

Onderhond wrote:
August 11th, 2019, 3:39 pm
but Kubrick's barren vision of the future (we eat drab food from machines, supercomputers turn against us, culture is all but absent) is a little hard to miss. Add to that the intro where the bone becomes an instant murder weapon and Kubrick's vision of humanity and technology annoyed me no end.
I wouldn't say this vision of his is inaccurate, but in any case I wouldn't say it's moralistic. The interesting thing about 2001 is that, same as Tarkovsky's Solaris, it's a deeply religious film that deems humanity incomplete without some sort of spiritual or otherworldly intervention. Funny how one of the best religious films (IMO) was made by a supposed atheist.

The reason why I think the movie's narrative is so smart and ahead of its time is because of, like I said, the various symbolic frameworks it covers. Not only does the story successfully capture the spirit of the time it was made in (wariness of the destructive capabilities of technology + psychedelic mind expansion + gung-ho optimism in scientific progress), but it's also fascinating how the motif of humanity's "rebirth" is framed by the story about space exploration, which is fittingly enough itself full of birth-related imagery (Discovery-penis, astronauts-sperm, Bowman-surviving sperm, Monolith-vagina, Stargate-fertilization, chamber-gestation, exiting through the Monolith-birth).

The story is also heavily influenced by both alchemy and Kabbalah, and these mystical elements are mirrored in the four chapters of the narrative. These chapters are metaphoric of the alchemic four principles of creating a Great Work - nigredo, albedo, citrinitas and rubedo, as well as the Great Realms of the Kabbalistic Tree of Life - Malkuth (Earth Realm), Yesod (Moon Realm), Tiferet (Realm of Sun but also switchable with Saturn; Kubrick originally intended to have Saturn instead of Jupiter but the SFX team struggled with the ring) and Kether (Sublime Realm). Kubrick also plays with numerology (e.g. the year 2001 is chosen because it's of the uttermost importance in alchemy, as a year of the great transmutation of humanity).

Come to think of it, I'm not sure if there were any films prior to this one that are so packed with multifunctional metaphors and meaningful, original storytelling. It's pretty amazing, and some of Kubrick's subsequent films even top it in this regard (though most aren't necessarily better because of that).

User avatar
albajos
Posts: 5734
Joined: May 24, 2016
Location: Norway
Contact:

#13

Post by albajos » August 11th, 2019, 6:26 pm

People can analyze a movie to death but that doesn't mean that was the original intention.

Nothing of this exists in the original books

User avatar
TajSamKojiJesam
Posts: 90
Joined: Feb 14, 2018
Contact:

#14

Post by TajSamKojiJesam » August 11th, 2019, 6:40 pm

albajos wrote:
August 11th, 2019, 6:26 pm
Nothing of this exists in the original books
In this case, the book didn't come before the movie, Kubrick and Clarke worked on the script and the novel at the same time, and the novel was published shortly after the film. The screenplay is inspired by a few of Clarke's short stories, but is a whole different beast.

Also, of course Kubrick's adaptations differed from the novels. Take The Shining for example, where he took King's novel and imbued it with a staggering bunch of his own original themes and meanings that have no relation to what King wrote. This is why the common criticism "the film differs too much from the novel" is ridiculous to me.

Also, it's not like I'm talking out of my ass. Kubrick's films usually contained mystical symbolism, I thought this was common knowledge.

User avatar
albajos
Posts: 5734
Joined: May 24, 2016
Location: Norway
Contact:

#15

Post by albajos » August 11th, 2019, 6:44 pm

It's common knowledge that people tend to overanalyze movies.

User avatar
TajSamKojiJesam
Posts: 90
Joined: Feb 14, 2018
Contact:

#16

Post by TajSamKojiJesam » August 11th, 2019, 6:46 pm

"Overanalyze". Sure.
What exactly is so ludicrous in the above reading?

User avatar
RedHawk10
Posts: 453
Joined: Feb 06, 2017
Contact:

#17

Post by RedHawk10 » August 11th, 2019, 7:01 pm

A Brighter Summer Day is the first thing that comes to mind. A few others: Dead Man, Twin Peaks: The Return, Contempt, Eyes Wide Shut.

mjf314
Moderator
Posts: 10771
Joined: May 08, 2011
Contact:

#18

Post by mjf314 » August 11th, 2019, 8:11 pm

Eve-Lang-El-Coup wrote:
August 11th, 2019, 1:25 pm
It is not clear what you define as smart yourself, so I am at a loss as to why you chose the films you did. There seems to be a consistent similarity between the ones I've seen, which is a reflection on life outside the confines of reality, but hey, I'm just guessing.
My list includes several types of smartness, so they're not all smart in the same way. Some are philosophical (e.g. World on a Wire, Close Up), some are scientific (e.g. My American Uncle, W.R.: Mysteries of the Organism), some have intelligent dialogue (e.g. Claire's Knee, The Mother and the Whore), and some use film techniques, or other art forms, in an intelligent way. Some films on my list may fit into more than one of these categories.

User avatar
beavis
Posts: 1859
Joined: Jun 20, 2011
Location: Amsterdam, Netherlands
Contact:

#19

Post by beavis » August 11th, 2019, 9:39 pm

movies that represent science are maybe an even rarer beast than the purely philosophical movie
Zanussi is the only director that comes to mind who is able to capture scientists in a realistic way
I also like how Rohmer sometimes represents the acedemic world, like in Conte de Printemps (1990)
Are there other good examples I am overlooking?
My American Uncle is indeed a very interesting one in this respect!

mjf314
Moderator
Posts: 10771
Joined: May 08, 2011
Contact:

#20

Post by mjf314 » August 12th, 2019, 1:45 am

beavis wrote:
August 11th, 2019, 9:39 pm
movies that represent science are maybe an even rarer beast than the purely philosophical movie
Zanussi is the only director that comes to mind who is able to capture scientists in a realistic way
I also like how Rohmer sometimes represents the acedemic world, like in Conte de Printemps (1990)
Are there other good examples I am overlooking?
My American Uncle is indeed a very interesting one in this respect!
I couldn't decide which Rohmer film to include so I just picked one randomly. Maybe I would've included Conte de Printemps if I had seen it.

Zanussi's Camouflage was about the academic world.

I can't think of any other realistic portrayals of scientists.

User avatar
1SO
Posts: 606
Joined: Dec 30, 2011
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Contact:

#21

Post by 1SO » August 12th, 2019, 1:58 am

Primer (2004)

List Promoter
Posts: 32
Joined: Oct 12, 2018
Contact:

#22

Post by List Promoter » August 13th, 2019, 8:11 am

Jean-Luc Godard (1930-) Filmography as director

Post Reply