Six on Saturday 16th January

Plants in Film

Good morning, I’m glad to be back joining in on all the Six on Saturday shenanigans once again. There are many, many more posts containing six photos of things on a Saturday over at The Propagator. For my part, having been out in the wet and cold all week, I didn’t much fancy doing it all again this morning; I’ve opted instead for a cosy, inside, pop-the-kettle-on, put-your-feet-up kind of vibe instead. Without further ado (and in no particular order), here are six films about plants:

1. Adaptation (2002)

Six on a Saturday Adaptation

This film was written by Charlie Kaufman (of Being John Malkovich fame), so nothing about it is straightforward. Are you ready? Nicholas Cage stars as Charlie Kaufman (that’s right, the writer of the film), first appearing on the set of his previous film Being John Malkovich. Nicholas Cage also stars as Charlie Kaufman’s fictional twin brother, who has decided to try his hand at being a screenwriter. Charlie Kaufman is struggling with writer’s block and a general inertia whilst trying to adapt a book called The Orchid Thief into a screenplay. The Orchid Thief, it’s author Susan Orlean and it’s orchid poaching protagonist, John Laroche, are all real entities as well as characters in the film. Ultimately, the film ends up being a fictionalised version of itself being written.

That probably isn’t quite clear, but then neither is the film. In terms of plant content, it does have a good go at portraying the obsession of collecting plants, which I’m sure many of us can sympathise with. Hopefully, none of us will Spoiler Alert! end up getting eaten by an alligator for our troubles. In general, however, the focus is on people. Despite ostensibly being about orchids, and the desire to make “a simple movie about flowers”, the actual plant content is relatively low. The film is mostly about Charlie Kaufman and the process of writing screenplays – it’s very self indulgent (a problem that his character acknowledges and laments – of course!) to the extent that there’s barely room for plants to fit in the picture.

2. Léon (1994)

Six on a Saturday Leon

In my humble opinion, this film doesn’t do a lot wrong. Jean Reno plays an emotionally stunted hitman (Leon), Natalie Portman makes her debut appearance (and also one of her finest), Gary Oldman chews pretty much all of the scenery, and most importantly, it stars an Alaonema (A-‘Leon’-ema) as itself. The Alaonema is given a subtle but important role as Léon’s longstanding and only companion. I think it’s probably there as a sort of open metaphor to put our own projections onto: whilst Léon is evidently attached to the plant, taking time to save it during the final shootout, it is never explicitly stated why it is so important to him. That is really up to the viewer to decide.

Whereas the previous film is very much an acquired taste, Léon much more enjoyable, but violent, film. It focuses on the basics and does them well: plot, character and plants.

3. Little Otik (2000)

Six on a Saturday Little Otik

I had never heard of Jan Švankmajer before coming across this strange/wonderful/disturbing film last year, but I’m certainly glad to have done so. The Czech director specialises in stop-motion animation and surrealism; Little Otik has both. The plot is based on an old fairytale (which is told simultaneously throughout the film) about a childless couple who adopt an old tree stump as their own. The stump comes alive and also becomes rather ravenous.

The film has a wry humour throughout, which is sometimes funny, but sometimes deeply disturbing – I’ll say no more. Where plants are concerned, it’s about a living tree stump, so I don’t think we could really ask for more. If you’re after something a little different, Little Otik might be for you.

4. Attack of the Killer Tomatoes! (1978)

Six on a Saturday Attack of the killer tomatoes

Have you ever heard the phrase “Well they blew the budget on that one”? In this they quite literally did. The accidental helicopter crash which appears in the film cost $60,000 of the approximate $90,000 budget. You might be able to guess the plot of this film: there is a deadly attack of tomatoes that kill people. This involves tomatoes of various sizes wobbling slightly whilst making munching noises. Someone then looks directly into the camera and screams.

At no point is anything taken seriously. One of the main characters drags an opened parachute around after him whilst wielding a sword. The trailer should give you a good idea about what you’re in for:

Interestingly, I finally got round to watching the second of four Killer tomato films: Return of the Killer Tomatoes! (1988) last night. It pretty much carries on in the same vein.

5. Adéla Ještě Nevečeřela (1978)

Six on a Saturday Adela

My favourite translation of the title of this film is ‘Adela hasn’t had her dinner yet”. Another Czech film, more stop-motion animation, more plants: they’re doing something right over there. The plot follows Detective Nick Carter (a character who has been appearing in novels since the 1880s) as he attempts to solve a case involving a nefarious botanist known as ‘The Gardener’ and the titular Adéla (a musically trained man-eating plant).

With it’s fantastical plants and bizarre gadgets, this film is pretty enjoyable. Where films and plants are concerned, man-eating plants are a common trope, but this film has a lot of fun with it. If you don’t mind watching with subtitles (or you speak Czech), this one’s well worth a watch.

6. Little Shop of Horrors (1960)

Six on a Saturday little shop of horrors

To finish, possibly the most famous of all films about plants. This film has since been made into a musical which itself was made into a film (with another one in the works) but the plot remains the same: incompetent young florist feeds giant talking, man-eating plant. The florist now has to balance his new found success, his romantic intentions , and the needs of the plant.

The original Little Shop of Horrors is very much a B-movie: it even re-uses the set from a previous film. However, I think there are two things that cheaply made films seem to do well: music and chase scenes. This film contains a pretty decent jazz score and a thoroughly entertaining chase scene. It also features Jack Nicholson in a very early role as very strange dentist.

Phew, well there we are: Six on Saturday. Six films of varying degrees of quality and plant content. Make sure you have a look at some other Six on Saturday posts. Also, feel free to suggest any plant-based films I can add to my collection, I intend to do full length reviews of them all in time. Little Joe (2019) is on my list, particularly as it made a friend’s ‘worst film of the year’ list. Thanks for reading and stay in touch!

8 thoughts on “Six on Saturday 16th January”

  1. Admiral Custard

    Day of the Triffids
    Black Dahlia
    Grow your Own
    Tulip Fever
    The Rose
    Driving Miss Daisy
    The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
    Days of Wine and Roses
    Ladies in Lavender

    Is that enough?

    1. Why thank you Adm. Custard RN GCSE Hons.

      Certainly Day of the Triffids and a rewatching of Grow Your Own will be on the cards. Perhaps Tulip Fever too – here’s the title of a review from IMDB: “Gorgeous production cannot disguise the contrivance and melodrama”. Hmm sounds promising.

      I think some of the other suggested films might be plant related in title alone; luring in honest phyto-curious film lovers, only to blindside them with an esoteric re-reading of the same old tropes. I’ll investigate further.

      Thanks for commenting!

  2. Black Narcissus? You are stretching the point regarding Six on Saturday, but I do admire your do and dare attitude. Will it be six iced drinks in the summer when it is too hot to go outside?

    1. We can but try! Actually, in the end it was quite a nice morning here – I should have waited an hour or two and headed outside! Never mind, variety is the spice of life.

  3. All those plant movies – and I’ve only seen Leon. I think my favourite film with plants as an obsession is Green Card. Andie MacDowell’s character can’t lease a New York apartment with an amazing conservatory unless she’s married so she comes to an arrangement with Gerard Depardieu’s as he needs to get a green card to live in the States. The conservatory apartment is gorgeous so I understand her motivation!

    1. Excellent suggestion – I’ll have to give that look! For some reason your synopsis reminds me of A New Leaf, which I didn’t include as I think I’ve lent it to someone. Both films feature an unlikely romance and a leading lady with a plant obsession.

      I’m not surprised you haven’t seen some of them – there’s a few obscure ones there!

  4. Well, that is a first. A post about films with plants in. Love it and have only seen The Little Shop of Horrors but not the 1960s version. Fantastic. Are the Dicentra flowers knitted?

    1. Glad you enjoyed it!

      The Dicentra was crocheted by my lovely wife as a present – I think it was one of her more fiddly projects!

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