This week brings the release of Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter, a film that is, in a weird way, based on another film — it’s inspired by an urban legend that has surrounded Fargo for years. The connection between these two films is undeniably unique, but the idea of making movies about other movies isn’t.
Below, we present a list of films about films. By that, we don’t simply mean films that remake or reference other movies, or films about the filmmaking process, but movies that center around other movies that actually exist in our world.
Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter (Fargo)
Fargo begins with the claim that “this is a true story,” but a bit of digging around and some common sense should tell you that’s not strictly accurate. Nevertheless, Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter chronicles the events that follow after one woman decides to take those words at face value. She leaves Japan for the American Midwest, in search of the suitcase buried by Steve Buscemi’s character in the movie.
Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter has a few things in common with its not-quite-source material: a snowy setting, a bleak sense of humor, an obsession with finding money. But Kumiko comes out from under Fargo‘s shadow to become its own thing, a delicate story about loneliness, depression, and film-borne fantasy.
Baadasssss! (Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song)
As a 13-year-old boy in 1971, Martin Van Peebles had a role in Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song, written and directed by his father Melvin Van Peebles. Thirty years later, Martin would go on to write and direct his own film about the experience, casting himself as his own father.
Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song was a low-budget, non-studio release with an all-black cast, a minority crew, an X rating and a revolutionary plotline. In short, it was everything studios thought they didn’t want — until it went on to make lots of money, leading to the invention of the blaxploitation genre. Baadasssss! takes a clear-eyed look at that moment, chronicling the unique and not-so-unique challenges that came with the making of the film.
Shadow of the Vampire (Nosferatu)
Nearly a century after its release, Nosferatu still holds up as one of the greatest vampire movies ever made. It’s is anchored by an iconic performance from Max Schreck as the titular Nosferatu, and was so influential in the vampire canon that we forget it invented some of the tropes we’ve come to take for granted.
Well, what if the reason Schreck was so effective was that he was an an actual vampire? That’s the premise of Shadow of the Vampire, a twisted, funny, and, we hope, highly fictionalized “making of” movie about the 1922 film. John Malkovich is monstrous in his own way as director F.W. Murnau, and Willem Dafoe proves almost as good at playing Schreck as Schreck was at playing Count Orlock. Wait, does that mean Dafoe is actually Shreck is actually a vampire?