Movies are a funny business. They are made and presented to critics, and to the public, in good faith. Sometimes the critics love something and the public doesn't. Sometimes the opposite happens. Sometimes nobody loves a movie. But occasionally, due to bad timing, bad advertising, or other unknowable factors, the critics or the public simply misread or dismiss a movie. At that point, the movie belongs to only a few lonely souls who found something in it that was worthwhile or wonderful. Here are a handful of those kinds of movies, all streaming on Netflix.
To the Wonder
Terrence Malick's sixth movie in 40 years was also his first to be received with complete indifference. Like Malick's universally acclaimedThe Tree of Life, To the Wonder (2013) employs a slow, dreamy, drifting quality. However, it's presented on a much smaller scale, focusing on one man and his relationships with two women, which must have seemed less worthy than the more personal/cosmic themes of The Tree of Life. Nonetheless, To the Wonder gets closer to the emotional truth of a relationship than most normal movies, and the addition of Javier Bardem as a tormented priest brings a fascinating layer, leaving both God and love ultimately ungraspable. Ben Affleck stars in a purposely emotionally clouded role, with the beautiful Olga Kurylenko and Rachel McAdams as the alternating objects of his affection.
Story of a Love Affair
The Italian filmmaker Michelangelo Antonoini has, like Malick, sometimes met with strong acclaim, and sometimes bafflement. His exemplary feature debut, Story of a Love Affair (1950), doesn't seem to enjoy the reputation of some of his more famous movies (like L'Avventuraand Blow Up). Yet it's a striking work, showing a master filmmaker fully formed from the start. The story has wealthy factory owner Enrico (Ferdinando Sarmi) hiring a detective to investigate his beautiful young wife, Paola (Lucia Bosé). She reconnects with an old lover, Guido (Massimo Girotti), and they begin to plot an affair—and worse—violence, but soon their passion begins to fade. Antonioni places his lonely figures in forlorn, empty and industrial landscapes, pulling them apart and emphasizing feelings of isolation, ennui, and disconnect. And yet the film still has its moments of crackling passion and secret suspense.
Twilight (coming 10/1)
Speaking of detectives, the mystery story Twilight (1998), by Academy Award-winning writer and director Robert Benton, also received very little attention when it was released in 1998 (and now it's overshadowed by a much more famous "Twilight"). Paul Newman stars as a retired detective. He once located the missing daughter of a movie star couple (Gene Hackman and Susan Sarandon) and now lives with them, doing odd jobs. One day, a simple errand inadvertently opens up a twenty-year old murder case. Benton (Kramer vs. Kramer) spins the mystery with cleverness but places a more tender, observant focus on his characters, deftly balancing humor and pathos. The great cast also includes Stockard Channing, James Garner, and a young, fresh Reese Witherspoon. It was co-written by novelist Richard Russo, whose Nobody's Fool was filmed by Benton four years earlier.
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