What does strange stand for? Technically it simply means something that is different from the normal. And for me at least, that instantly translates to something interesting that one hopes will be stimulating. After all – while ‘normal’ can be done very well in creative terms, strange still equals innovation. Experimentation. The unusual in terms of emotion, philosophy and technique. It is strange that explores the limits of experience – in places where the normal cannot exist or would melt within seconds of creation. The basic problematic and rather dreary world/values/outlooks that surround us desperately needs a kick in the pants – and strange is one of the things to do that. And many directors seem to agree on that one, for films with that undeniable touch of the strange and maverick are a permanent part of cinema.
Of course, if you want to even begin to explore the stranger side of cinema, you have to explore films from all over the world. It is almost a rule of thumb that the further you get from the US and the UK, the stranger strange films become. And not only because the culture they are from is unfamiliar to us. Of course, the motherload comes from Japan. Many people would think that everything the Japanese produce is strange, of course. I think that cultural difference and strange are not the same thing, but even so, there is no denying that some of the most strange and exciting imaginings have indeed come from Japan.
Strange can almost inevitably equal disturbing since it takes us away from the familiar and throws us into the bizarre. And vice versa. And it is no coincidence that many of these films are horror movies or have a horrific nature. Indeed, some of these films are deliberately shocking and some are among the most extreme movies ever created. However, not all. It is perhaps more interesting when a film manages to be ‘strange’ without deliberately attempting to upset people. Just by being what it is. Stating it’s case, even though that case is something many would find ‘strange’. And that is the rarest of all.
In my quest for strange films, I have of course, researched many similar sites and discussions and it is interesting to note that the prevalent attitude here seems to be one of ‘out-stranging’ everyone else. As though being strange is a competitive sport. In essence – the basic approach of people engaged in this sort of discussion is something like “Duh – you call that strange? You don’t know nothing! THIS is strange.” Well – great. I am happy for you.
Such a list is inevitably a personal thing, as is the definition of strange. To some people, dear old Tim Burton is strange. Of course, this list is also far from a comprehensive one – certainly not a ‘top 10’ or a ‘best of’. There are many good films that I haven’t seen yet – Jodorowski and Bunuel and Arabel for instance. Instead of any such pretences, this is just a collection of films that struck me as really offering something to broaden and stretch the mind and if you see something you don’t know that sounds interesting, then i have done my job! Also, if you know anything that maybe should be here but isn’t, then don’t hesitate to tell me so! I am always looking for new things to watch and there seems an unending stream of possibly certifiable directors producing obscure films that may or may not contain genuine nuggets of this strange magic.