How can you go wrong with this one? Based on an Elmore Leonard novel, The Big Bounce is set in Hawaii, directed with snapping fingers by underutilized genre pro George Armitage (Miami Blues, Grosse Point Blank), and graced with likable star Owen Wilson, as a small-time criminal who’s angling for a big score despite his better judgment and the advice of sympathetic local judge Morgan Freeman.
Georgian artist Sergei Paradjanov, after the eye-opening primitiveness of his 1964 film Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors, grew more abstract in his storytelling and more hellzapoppin with his folk-art imagery. This demanding and astonishingly beautiful film depicts the life of Armenian poet Sayat Nova (which Paradjanov mixes with the myth-tales of Nova’s own writing), and The Color of Pomegranates is a fabulous visitation of ancient Russian-Arab-Turkish-style fusion, as seen in the most surreal icon art.
One of the great mid-century import hits, Black Orpheus, a vivid Brazilian film, is an infectious retelling of the Orpheus-Eurydice myth, set during Carnival and feverish with hip-swiveling hustle, exploding local color, and sleeve-worn heart. Never underestimate the raw energy of South American partying.
We can still wistfully recall the days when, in the movies at least, developing world vacation spots were playgrounds for rich people who dressed in tuxedos and gowns, danced, ballroom style, under the palm trees, and nuzzled in the equatorial moonlight. Flying Down to Rio introduced the pairing of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers (but as the second leads, after Dolores Del Rio and Gene Raymond), and it features splendid tunes (by Vincent Youmans and lyricists Gus Kahn and Edward Eliscu) and a good amount of pre–Production Code bralessness—all under a fake Brazilian sky.