Critics are putting together their year-end lists of the best films of 2009. One of my personal favorites has popped up on a few lists, namely topping the list by the New York TIMES' Manohla Dargis. It is probably a movie you've never heard about as it had a very limited release here in the US. But it is one of the most unusual, bleakly beautiful and cinematically incredible films you will ever see. There is also a scene about halfway through that is the most unbelievable 15 minutes I have ever seen in a movie. Ever.
The movie is called "Tulpan" and it's a romantic dramedy set in the steppes of Kazakhstan. OK--I know that one line description is likely setting off alarm bells. But trust me...this movie takes you to a place you will likely never go in your life and makes it something of an adventure. Basically, "Tulpan" is a love story at it's heart about a family's attempt to marry it's daughter while raising some very peculiar animals on a wind swept plain. With a stark realism and a simply told story, this movie is almost documentary-like in its clear-eyed look at a way of life that is hard and hard to describe.
Currently, "Avatar" is everywhere, promising to take you to a world you've never seen before. Sure...but it's a world that doesn't exist. Remarkably, Kazakhstan is an actual place on this planet with real people and a group of animals with more personality than a Pixar barnyard. The only warning I need to give is that this movie is long and takes a certain amount of patience. It also helps if you have a massive TV to appreciate the film's epic landscape and gorgeous cinematography. But I guarantee that if you stick it out, this movie and the people in it will stay with you forever.