All the hubbub yesterday about funding the Veronica Mars movie made us think that we should make a plug for the effort to restore and digitize the classic French movie musical by Jacques Demy, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg. It's the 50th anniversary of the film this year and Demy's family (lead by the awesome director Agnès Varda) is trying to raise a modest 25k Euros to finish paying for the process of restoring it to its original splendor for a debut screening at the Cannes Film Festival in May (and for all posterity). If you've never seen the movie, it's full of colors, awesome wallpapers, a 20-year old Catherine Deneuve in her first major role, sung dialog all the way through (it totally works), the realities of young love, the town of Cherbourg, lots of great shots, and a main song that will be stuck in your head for weeks. Watch it regardless, but you have 32 days to help them meet their goal and keep one of the best movies alive for years to come.
Film Diary: Krylya, 1966, directed by Larisa Shepitko
Russian director Larisa Shepitko's career was cut way too short when she was killed in a car accident at age 41, but thankfully we have access to her two major works through Criterion's Eclipse Series. Wings is her first feature after graduating from the All-Russian State Institute for Cinematography and it is already a mature, quietly stunning film. The combination of a memorable performance by Maya Bulgakova as the main character, universally human moments, and beautiful compositions makes this film stand its ground with its contemporaries and mourn for all that could have been for this remarkable director. I highly recommend both Wings and The Ascent.
A lot of people these days have Netflix instant and it seems like they're always searching for some good movies to watch on it as it's mostly a way to watch old episodes of Cheers (at least for me). I dug around and thought I'd make a list of art movies I enjoyed that maybe you haven't watched yet (and a few that are well known that you should return to). I never studied film and really am just a person who loves movies and loves to talk about movies and so these are not professional recommendations if-you-will, but just a movie-lover's picks. With that, I say "enjoy" (hopefully)!
**note: I am not endorsing Netflix in any way as there are certainly better sources to find movies like your local indie video store, but since so many people use it I thought it was worth making a list.
Les Bonnes Femmes, 1960, directed by Claude Charbrol. A lesser-seen movie from the French New Wave. At times charming, suspenseful, violent and atmospheric, and always beautifully shot. The ending alone is worthy of a long conversation.
Metropolitan, 1992, directed by Whit Stillman. This is my favorite movie; a comedy of manners about a group of friends that goes to deb parties in the late 80s. Whit Stillman writes dialog like no one else, full of literary charm, youthful questioning and the heightened reality that is (was?) the Upper East Side. The cast of first-time actors makes it more realistic and awkward. See it twice to get more references.
The Bicycle Thief (aka Bicycle Thieves), 1948, directed by Vittorio De Sica. Considered one of the best movies ever made, this Italian neo-realist film is a must-see (it should be noted that this isn't the best print of this movie, but worth seeing anyway). Done entirely with non-actors, it is bleak, beautiful and yes, totally depressing.
32 Short Films About Glenn Gould, 1993, directed by François Girard. An unconventional biopic co-written by Don McKeller (who wrote and starred in the cult classic tv show Twitch City) which presents the life of genius and all-around weirdo Glenn Gould as 32 different short vignettes, structurally referencing Gould's most famous recording, Bach's Goldberg Variations. Even if you have no interest in classical music this is worth seeing for its originality. Famously there was a Simpsons episode inspired by the movie called "22 Short Films about Springfield" (which I also recommend).
A Woman is a Woman, 1961, directed by Jean-Luc Godard. A French New Wave color wheel starring Godard's then-wife and muse, Anna Karina. Not my favorite Godard, but a great movie that is definitely worth seeing if you love '60s aesthetics and Pantone swatches.
Alice, 1988, directed by Jan Svankmajer. A retelling of Alice in Wonderland by this incredible and creative Czech director & animator. Using live actors interacting with stop-motion animation, this adaptation is bizarre enough to do justice to the writing and create a dream-like world that is genuinely unique. All art students should see this. NOTE: not for kids, it's too scary!
The Gleaners and I, 2000, directed by Agnes Varda. (UPDATE: The Gleaners and I is not longer available on Netflix Instant streaming, but it is still a great movie and definitely worth renting from somewhere.) A documentary by New Wave director Agnes Varda (who's one of my favorite directors: see dvd versions of Cleo from 5 to 7, La Pointe Courte, etc) about gleaners in modern day France inspired by the Jean Francois Millet painting "The Gleaners." I'll admit that sounds extremely boring, but it's the "and I" of the title that makes this film. Varda is so charming and relatable to the gleaners in the movie that you find yourself smiling throughout and looking at what we leave behind in a different way. Ok, maybe it still sounds boring but trust me, it's not--it is truly great.
So there are a few recommendations to start with. Please tell me what you think and in the future I'll post more. Thanks!
Film Diary: Lásky jedné plavovlásky, 1965, directed by Milos Forman
I've always known about Milos Forman from his more Hollywood fare, but had never seen any of his earlier Czech work. I really loved this film for its beautiful shots, wonderful simplicity, and resilient humanity. His protagonist Andula was played by his former sister-in-law Hana Brejchová in her first film and he captures her unconventional beauty in such artful ways.
It's not an epic movie, but it captures a small-town girl's story with situations that are sadly comical and ultimately timeless.
photos by Yvonne
Film Diary: Qui êtes-vous, Polly Maggoo?, 1966, directed by William Klein.
This DVD was another random library pick we added to our pile of movies to watch, but after seeing a Louis Malle film that William Klein worked on (Zazie dans le métro) which was so visually interesting, we pushed it up in our queue. Turns out he was a famous photographer for Vogue and for his directorial debut, things start off like a somewhat surreal fashion documentary...
The movie seems to be referred to as a spoof on the fashion industry, but its scope is broader than that. While it satirizes fashion, politics, reality television, and pop culture, it also questions what makes art, identity, and self. It doesn't quite rise to the level of masterpiece as there is a rather silly side plot which detracts a bit. Overall though, it's beautiful to look at with an amusing absurdist sensibility.
The titular character of Polly Maggoo is played by model Dorothy McGowan in her only film role. It would have been interesting to see what else she could have done as an actress as she's very charismatic and perfect in this role. She reminds me of a cross between Sarah Ferguson and Diane Keaton and you can see why she was one of Klein's favorite models. It's funny that as in the film, she was discovered in a mob of Beatles fans.
There are also some great animated sequences that will bring to mind Terry Gilliam's Monty Python work and the closing credits are presented as an awesome continuous illustrated landscape.