HERE AT THE STRANGER, we have a weak spot for certain pompous films. Generally, films must be foreign (or at least foreign-seeming) to qualify as truly pompous--Americans are still too eager to please to really just "blow it out their ass," as critic Lester Bangs would say. Pompous films should be made by Marxists or simple egoists, and they simply cannot be humorous. After all, the pompous world is a dreary, serious place. Here are a few to ponder.

dir. Wim Wenders

It's hard to say who gets more loftily pretentious about the American desert: homegrown artists or Europeans. Paris, Texas gives you the best (and worst) of both worlds--Sam Shepard's pauses and gnomic utterances feebly hint at buried significance, while Wim Wenders' opening visuals of the film's hero wandering the wasteland come right out of Existentialism 101. But wait, before it's over, we must also have slow meditations on family, fathers and sons, and the insurmountable divide between the respective desires of men and women. That the film works as well as it does (which is pretty marvelously) has less to do with the talents of its writer and director than the fact that all this yearning for significance is draped across the rail-thin, sunbaked frame of Harry Dean Stanton, who brings a welcome goofiness to the mythopoetic yearnings, and just the right touch of crazed desperation to the somber silences. BRUCE REID

dir. Mike Figgis

I recently watched this film again and realized it should only be watched once. So if you've never seen it before, this is a great pompous film. You'll be impressed by the film's bombastic images (mysterious Arabs killing a beautiful white model in the desert) and its overblown concern with philosophical themes like "What is the meaning of death?" and "Is there a connection between sex and death?" To cap it all off, the film's retelling of the Garden of Eden myth daringly imagines Adam as a muscular black man and Eve as a blond white woman. Indeed, even God is not that pretentious. CHARLES MUDEDE

dir. Peter Greenaway

It takes a lot of balls for a filmmaker to take a stab at Shakespeare. In director (no wait--he's a "painter!") Peter Greenaway's case, lots and lots of them. His 1991 interpretation of The Tempest is nude-alicious, but it takes more than coed full frontals to make an art film. It takes confusion, density, and stodgy British actors. Oh yeah, and brilliance. Prospero's Books can be hard to follow at times--the film is thematically slippery as it explores the magic in Prospero's 24 books, and Prospero (Sir John Gielgud) speaks many of the other characters' lines from The Tempest--but Greenaway and cinematographer Sacha Vierny created their own magic with complex, thoughtfully composed imagery that begs for the pause button. Truly, some scenes are so rich in detail that you'll want to watch this on the biggest screen possible. SCOTT McGEATH

dir. Theo Angelopoulos

First of all, there is not a single shot in this outrageously ponderous work that lasts less than three minutes. Second, the film is about the most idiotically bloated themes: the inescapable loss of time, the internal life of the artist, the persistence of borders. Third, and most pompous of all, it stars Teutonic non-being Bruno Ganz as a man who is dying of cancer. But then the somber, elegiac music starts up, and you see that this film is just gorgeous, stately, profound, and lavishly visualized, its themes actually saved by a persistent, ingrained faith in the solvency of the image. Best of all, at a mere two hours, Eternity and a Day is actually one of the director's shortest films. JAMIE HOOK

dir. Stanley Kubrick

Before he went "Pompous Lite" with Eyes Wide Shut, Kubrick threw all the tethers off his ego to make this three-hour costume drama about a rambling nobleman among the brothels and parlors of 18th-century high society. But what makes this film such a pompous treat is Kubrick's unfettered fastidiousness. At his insistence, all costumes had to be the real deal, made with actual fabric from the 1700s. Barring that, all cloth had to be washed in a specific kind of very expensive tea, to attain the desired color. Kubrick then demanded that NASA lend him a superduper, one-of-a-kind space lens so that he could shoot scenes with only candles for light. Now pardon me, but that is just ridiculous. Other directors had shot candlelight scenes hundreds of times before, and no one ever complained. Then again, Barry Lyndon is a stunningly gorgeous film, and those candlelight scenes--wow! JAMIE HOOK