Thankfully there's always an exception or two. The first easier-access contender this year is Landscape No. 2 (official site) from Slovenia, readily available at Netflix and Blockbuster.
The film begins like a mystery drama, as two thieves steal a painting (the titular landscape) from a decorated general's home. The younger thief Sergej (Marko Mandic) ignores his boss Polde (Janez Hocevar) who has warned him to stick to the art. Instead he helps himself to extras, pocketing money and paperwork from a safe. Unbeknownst to either thief, the stolen documents detail a grim war crime from World War II which would ruin the reputation of, you guessed it, the man they just stole from. It's so damning it could incite civil unrest given Slovenia's post-war psychic scars. Shit, as you may have guessed, will hit the fan.
At first, though, the film seems to be settling for slice of blue collar life dramedy as the thieves socialize with friends and caddish restless Sergej darts between his wallflower fiancee Magda (Barbara Cerar) and his randy girl-on-the-side, Jasna (Maja MartinaMerljak). When these two share a scene, the clothing is not safe. The sex scenes are graphic, hot and funny and serve as an open mouthed (with tongue) reminder that American filmmakers are totally prudish.
an actual frame from the film. No, I shan't explain it.
The athletic sex scenes and especially the character bits, are only deceptions. For as the movie progresses it becomes ever more clear that what we're dealing with is political allegory and the characters are, quite possibly, not characters but statements like Apolitical Youth of Slovenia or The Past. While it's always a bit difficult to read political commentary in films from countries outside your own, I feel safe in assuming there's a lot of one thing standing for the other in that so much of the last third of Landscape No. 2 seems too direct. The film's final lines in particular seem closer to theme statements than dialogue.
Even more shocking than the film's ample displays of flesh though was the violence, which is portrayed just as graphically. The film veers uncomfortably close to the slasher genre for this squeamish viewer as the death grip of The Past begins to reveal itself as a theme of No Future. One murder, though exceptionally well staged and absolutely gripping in the surprise of its ferocity, scared me so badly that I actually had to leave the room for a moment the next time I assumed a character was done for.
It's not for the squeamish and probably not for the Academy. Still, there's something to be said for bold and forceful filmmaking even if you sometimes wish the confident director would carry a mallet rather than a sledgehammer. B-