Cinema used to be such a big part of my life... There was a time when a week was not complete without a movie to catch. I remember how it was all part of that "big-city" excitement for the freshly arrived, culture-and-experience-thirsty 19 year-old Art History student I once was (I switched majors to Literature after one year). Back in my hometown, there was only one movie theater with three screens, showing dubbed American blockbusters only. But here in Montreal, living in my own apartment for the first time, the choices and the ranges of movies seemed endless, as were the restaurants, shops, clubs, guys, etc... (Fond memories pause).
It's different now than it was 15 years ago though... There used to be over 15 theaters in the city center, with a great mix of chains and independent places... Then, one by one, they closed and were replaced by megaplexes. So today, there are probably as many screens as there used to be, but the outside-the-box offer is much more limited, because these places tend to show the same movie on five different screens so that it plays every fifteen minutes. Granted, I've only been to the movies twice since I was about 5 months pregnant, but I still find this sad.
Disclaimer: I am completely aware that my taste in movies is pretty weird. I can't really help it. Although once in a while I can and I do enjoy a well-made major American flick, they generally leave me completely underwhelmed and hungry for deeper emotion and meaning. I guess for me the plot is completely secondary as compared to the discourse and the feel of the movie.
Chacun cherche son chat (When the cat's away, 1996)
A really charming, cool, feel-good movie about how a single woman gets to know everyone in her Paris neighborhood after having lost her cat. Really just an excuse for director Cédric Klapisch to complete a successful study of characters about "a village" within a big city. I'm totally sold to the last scene, which includes Al Green's "So tired of being alone."
Until the end of the world (Bis ans Ende der Welt, 1991)
During my first year in university I went through this big Wim Wenders/U2 phase, and among his films this is both the oddest and my favorite one. It is imperfect (but I tend to love imperfect yet real movies) and incongruous, at best. It takes place at the end of 1999 (so it's a futuristic stake), while a nuclear satellite gone havoc threatens an imminent end-of-the-world, thus sending the planet into a weird social disarray. Despite the film's failure it has a great line-up of actors, and oh, the soundtrack. It's all about the soundtrack.
L'âge des possibles (1995)
I've only seen this once, but I've never forgotten it. It takes place in Strasbourg, France, among university students. It was something about the city (where I've completed my master's degree some odd years later, by the way), the actors' French lives (all at once simple and foreign and elegant) and their twenty-something angst. I loved my student years, university agreed with me, and I could certainly relate to their "difference", their dreams, their questioning, etc.
Garden State (2004)
This movie led me to have this big crush on its starring actor and director Zach Braff. I felt really attuned to his universe and sensibility. It was like: "Who knew that cute and quirky guy from Scrubs (still a great sitcom after all these years) had all of this inside of him?" Here, again, the stellar soundtrack plays a big role.
Bleu/Blanc/Rouge (Trilogy, 1993-1994)
The three colors are the ones of the French flag, and each is themed around the country's motto (Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité). Although the movies (which are only linked to each other by subtle allusions) take place in Paris and Geneva, they were directed by Polish filmmaker Krzysztof Kieślowski. They are all masterpieces of quiet, intelligent beauty and emotion, always intertwined with some darkness. I will always remember seeing Rouge at a university screening in 1994. After the movie, as I was gathering my things, someone climbed up on a makeshift stage and said: "We are honored to welcome the director tonight, and he is ready to take your questions." It was a complete and wonderful surprise, as he had been pretty much my idol for the last year. He died about two years later.
The Fearless Vampire Killers (1967)
I love pretty much all of Roman Polanski's work, but this is such a classic. It's a spoof of vampire movies, visually striking, hilarious, and very candid at the same time. It's also fascinating as this is how the filmmaker and his future wife Sharon Tate met and fell in love, especially given the tragic twist that eventually unfolded.
Before Sunrise/Before Sunset (1995, Sequel 2004)
The charm of these two rely on the physical and intellectual chemistry of the protagonists, played by Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy. Basically, both films solely consist of great conversations around beautiful European cities. Sunset, which is about the chance encounter of the one-time lovers nearly a decade later, especially moved me. Maybe because it makes us realize that, in retrospect, the one night they had spent together had been the defining moment of both their lives.
Almost Famous (2000)
I'm not sure what draws me to this movie so much, especially since I'm not a fan of the 70's at all, nor in style, clothing, or music. But I don't think I've ever felt more attached to a character than to this young journalist.
This is a wonderful small Czech film about how a grumpy old bachelor suddenly needs to care for a 5 year-old Russian boy (the enemy!) who doesn't speak his language. And obviously about how he will come to reluctantly and hopelessly fall in love with him, amidst the Velvet Revolution. I know I'm not a reference because I'm oversensitive and cry my heart out for all kinds of silly movies and TV shows, but just writing about this story makes me want to shed some tender bittersweet tears.
The Graduate (1967)
Seriously, I can't understand why all people remember from this genius movie is the famous leg-in-stocking Mrs. Robinson scene.
Singing in the Rain (1952)
I am not immune to musicals at all. This remains a true gem, full of innuendos and humour, and completely devoid of cheese.