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From absurdist and side splitting Norwegian crime dramas, to thought-provoking tales of South Korean romance and laughable examinations of human hubris in excess, this list of world cinema’s top comedies is essential viewing for any lovers of hilarious cinema.
The Little Death is a surreal and purposefully disjointed comedy from Australian director and writer Josh Lawson. The plot follows several threads of narratives to unearth the taboos that lurk behind the unassuming façades of metropolitan suburbia. It’s glued together by the theme of sexuality and climax, while the viewer is taken on a journey of absurd revelations that’s lightly reminiscent of Dylan’s Under Milkwood in its focus on local folk, their unspoken desires, hidden fantasies and personal troubles.
A glorious and entertaining meta film that does well to critique the processes of international filmmaking and deconstruct the myths surrounding national prejudices and stereotypes,The Gold Bug tells the tale of a joint Swedish-Argentine filming endeavour that hits tumultuous times because of the ostensibly patriotic machinations of one of its members. The script is excellently put together too—alive with striking turns of phrase, unforgettable rebuttals and acerbic commentary to boot.
A fast-paced Norwegian pseudo-gangster comedy of Lillehammer proportions, Chasing Berlusconi tells the story of past-it, down-and-outer Bjarte, a former harness racehorse jockey who hatches an elaborate plan to hit the headlines and reap the glories of his former days once more, all with the help of prized eponymous stallion, Berlusconi. Cue an absurdist series of happenings and hilarities that soon see Bjarte wrapped up with the local mob and a host of other shady characters determined to make Berlusconi work for them.
Winner of the Grand Jury Prize at the 2014 San Diego Asian Film Festival and veteran of the Sundance screens (where it garnered largely positive reviews), Appropriate Behavior is a fantastically compelling, cultural comedy that examines the impossibility of conforming to a number of divergent stereotypes all at the same time. There’s also a drop of Persian identity crisis in the mix, with protagonist Shirin wrestling with the constraints of her bisexuality, New Yorker energy and Middle Eastern heritage throughout.
A warming and curious exposition of a Korean romance, Hill Of Freedom recounts the tale of Mori—a man determined to reignite a former love with fellow language student Kwon. The theatre of action and also the namesake of the piece is a hip café in the well-to-do districts of Seoul, while the entire plot levers on Kwon piecing together the narrative in a series of flashback scenes and revealing interludes. As the story unfolds, Mori’s character also becomes entwined with that of Youngsun, the barista of the aforementioned café and a worthy third point in the tale’s dynamic love triangle.
Land Ho! is a heart-warming tale of friendship that sees former brothers in law Colin and Mitch hit the wildernesses of Iceland in a bid to ward off their widower depressions. Their cumulative late-life crises end up spilling out in a bout of hedonism and adventure that sees geriatrics transported to the heady house clubs of Reykjavík and the bubbling nudist spas of Iceland’s volcanic backcountry alike, all framed by a perfectly crafted script that’s chuckle-worthy and tear-jerking in equal measure.
Listen Up Philip is a tale of egoism and unchecked hubris that joins the indifferent and arrogant eponymous novel writer Philip (Jason Schwartzman) at the height of his career, immediately before the publication of his highly-anticipated second novel. The story focuses on the relationships Philip has with his girlfriend, Ashley (played by Elisabeth Moss of Mad Men fame) and his literary idol, Ike Zimmerman (Jonathan Pryce), whose holiday home soon becomes the theatre of action and the place where Phillip can indulge his own narcissistic whims.
A retro hit back to the funky days of 1985 in Ocean City, Maryland, where self-titled protagonist Radical Miracle finds himself confronting the growing pains of East Coast American pop culture. Expect oodles of gaudy, patterned costumes, rolling surf and sun, all set to a baseline of hip hop and wrapped up in a compelling central plot line that’s something like ping pong’s answer to the bobsled’s Cool Runnings. With laughs aplenty, it’s no wonder that this one has already garnered awards at the Sarasota Film Festival and positive reviews in The Hollywood Reporter and Screen International.
Far away from the glitz and glamour of Tel Aviv, or even the energetic streets of Jerusalem, Zero Motivation joins a company of female Israeli non-coms as they battle with the ennui of a far flung posting in what seems to be the most mundane and listless backwater military office in the entire Middle East. As boring as the setting may make this one seem, there’s rarely a dull moment throughout – as the plot unfolds and the characters develop and the viewer begins to understand the potency of the powers that be in this land of militaristic dissatisfaction.
Mr Kaplan is a curious and idiosyncratic comedy that tells the story of the eponymous hero Jacob Kaplan, a Jewish escapee of Nazi controlled Poland during World War II, who’s now consumed by the listlessness of a life spent living in exile in Uruguay. The call to action comes when Mr Kaplan thinks he’s unearthed evidence that a former officer of the Third Reich is living in hiding nearby, and the subsequent quest for justice turns out to be a ridiculous and deadpan affair of absurdities and perfect comic moments.
If you like your comedy as dry as a Spanish Albariños and as Scandinavian as they come, then Bent Hamer’s 1001 Grams may just be the thing for you. Unfortunately, the piece just missed out on a nomination for Best Foreign Language Film at the Oscars this year, but there’s little question that its deep, philosophical and occasionally highly absurd examination of the interfaces between scientific certainty and human emotions will strike a note with many viewers in 2015.
If You Don’t, I Will
If You Don’t, I Will is an emotional and dry comedic exposition of married life submerged beneath decades of ennui and suffering from a unexpressed indifference on the part of the film’s two major players—Pomme and Pierre (played by Emmanuelle Devos and Mathieu Amalric). The story does well to question the meaning of love and companionship, and unfolds in curious style as one half of the partnership decides to break away from the listlessness of marriage for the contemplative powers of nature.