The time has arrived to once again plunder the murky treasure trove that is a Down With Film’s writer’s recently watched Netflix list. Amidst the schlocky exploitation delights such as Nude Nuns with Big Guns (it’s real, you can, and most probably will Google it) and straight to DVD instant classics including Strippers Vs. Werewolves vying for your ever diminishing attention (thanks internet) there’s also a wealth of brilliant television and cinema at your fingertips and some obscure gems just waiting to be uncovered and appreciated in all their high-brow critically acclaimed glory.
Starring Willem Dafoe as professional mercenary Martin David, The Hunter follows David’s enlistment by military biotech company, Red Leaf, in their efforts to retrieve a DNA sample of the largely believed extinct Tasmanian tiger under the guise of a university biologist – whilst also destroying any remains of the mythical creature ensuring nobody else acquires the precious resource. Despite the somewhat mystical premise of The Hunter’s plot, it is ultimately a film rooted in the realities of the Tasmanian landscape upon which it was entirely filmed, depicting a constant battle between natural beauty and man-made savagery – a dichotomy further accentuated by beautiful cinematography, precise editing and nuanced characterisation. The traditional tropes of ‘the outsider’ entering into a rural community are present in force; unruly confrontational brutes in the town drinking hole; lonely heavily medicated widows in the house upon the hill; foul-mouthed yet charming children; and most notably a series of grisly discoveries waiting to be unearthed by David and the locals alike. Fortunately the well-trodden storytelling ground still brims with life due to the potency of Dafoe’s steadfast, lone gunslinger performance – which once again proves how capable he is at embodying an underlying sense of menace to his characters. Stylistically the film feels very similar to that of traditional and contemporary westerns as man battles man in a wilderness that holds no prisoners. A strong supporting cast including Sam Neill as the local man about downtrodden town, love interest Frances O’Connor and Animal Kingdom’s formidable Sullivan Stapleton only further contribute to at times heavy going, yet more often than not a piece of haunting and meditative Aussie cinema without a crocodile in sight.
El Bulli: Cooking in Progress
In case you’re not a fan of dark hunting thrillers or maybe you just have an insatiable filmic appetite then your second choice is that of the wonderfully quaint yet stoutly ambitious documentary, El Bulli: Cooking in Progress. Profiling the legendary three Michelin star Catalonian restaurant El Bulli, a foodie mecca famed for its implementation and unrivaled development of molecular gastronomy. Now, you may have no interest at all in your run of the mill celebrity chefs and stingy haute cuisine but ultimately the story of El Bulli is one of inspiration and dedication to achieving perfection in your chosen field. You witness a year-long development of dishes, staff and the restaurant itself that journeys through some of Spain’s most colourful locations filled with even more colourful characters; none more so than widely considered ‘greatest chef alive’ Ferran Adrià, who resembles more of a Mafia boss than culinary pioneer. The lengthy and frustrating creation and preparation of each dish mirrors that of an artist slowly but surely perfecting an exhibition piece to be unveiled to the world’s media. Undoubtedly the same high-profile pressures rest on the shoulders of Adrià and his colleagues but the resultant, if highly pretentious, works of art they create are just as fascinating and striking to look at and sometimes a little bit of pretention can go a long way to proving you’re the best in the world at what you do.