Best Avant-garde Films (1)


1. MEMENTO (2000).

A man that suffers from short-term memory loss uses tattoos, Polaroids and notes to hunt for the man he believes murdered his wife.

Techniques used: Memento is presented as two different sequences of scenes: a series of colour sequences displayed in reverse order, and a series in B/W that are shown chronologically. The two sequences “meet” at the end of the film, whereby producing one common narrative.

 2. CUBE (1997).

Seven complete strangers of widely varying personalities are involuntarily put in an endless, surreal, Kafkaesque maze (cube) comprising deadly traps.

Techniques used: Cube was filmed entirely on a soundstage. Only one cube, measuring 14 x 14 x 14 feet, was actually built, with only one working door that could actually support the weight of the actors.

 3. WAKING LIFE (2001).

A man strolls through a dream meeting a variety of characters and discussing the purposes and meanings of the universe.

Techniques used: The movie was entirely rotoscoped, though it was shot using digital video with a team of artists drawing stylised colours and lines over each frame with computers, rather than being filmed and traced onto cels on a light box.

 4. TIMECODE (2000).

Four frames of simultaneous action that alternately follow a smitten lesbian lover as she obsesses over her partner’s casual relationships as well as the tense goings-on of a Hollywood film production company.

Techniques used: The movie is constructed from four continuous 90-minute takes that were filmed simultaneously by four cameramen; the screen is divided into quarters and the four shots are shown simultaneously.

 5. L’APPARTEMENT (1996).

With a plot more tangled than a spider’s broken web, this French drama follows the romantic obsession of Max (Vincent Cassel), a young corporate hotshot who leaves his successful new world behind to search for his elusive lost love Lisa (Monica Bellucci).

Techniques used: Known for its complex plot and stylish direction, teasing the audience with changes in settings and time that form a labyrinth of deception.


A puppeteer discovers a portal that leads literally into the head of the movie star, John Malkovich.

Techniques used: Cinematic cloning of John Malkovich when entering his own head as well as the bizarre and rather outrageous storytelling of Charlie Kaufman.

 7. RUN LOLA RUN (1998).

A woman has 20 minutes to find and bring 100,000 Deutschmarks to her boyfriend before he robs a supermarket.

Techniques used: Through three different versions of the same run, recurring themes of determinism, cause-effect relationships, and chaos theory are ever-present.

 8. IRREVERSIBLE (2002).

Events over the course of one traumatic night in Paris unfold as the beautiful Alex is brutally raped and beaten by a stranger in the underpass.

Techniques used: Reverse-chronological order as well as multiple takes that were edited together using digital processing, creating the illusion that scenes were filmed all in one take, with no cuts or edits.


After a car crash on Mulholland Drive renders a woman amnesic, she and a perky Hollywood-hopeful look for clues and answers across Los Angeles in a twisting, mind-bending venture beyond reality and dreams.

Techniques used: Complex narrative, dreams, consciousness, fantasy, and alternate realities all played out in David Lynch’s twisted mind.

 10. FUNNY GAMES (1997).

Two psychotic young men take a father, mother and son hostage in their holiday home, forcing them to take part in sadistic “games” with one another for their own amusement.

Techniques used: Breaking the fourth wall, blurring the lines between reality and fiction, and extreme manipulation of both the characters and the viewers.

Written by Conley Low

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