The Cinematheque’s mission is to promote films that are mostly unknown. In addition to screening films, I’d like to recommend things too. Here are a few hidden gems I watched recently.
This was a film that I thought I wasn’t in the mood to watch because the summary on the back makes it seem depressing. In my attempts to become better acquainted with Agnés Varda’s work I checked it out from my library and had it sitting in my room for weeks. When I finally decided to give it a chance, Vagabond pleasantly surprised me.
The film tells the story of a young woman, Mona, camping and hitch-hiking her way through France in the winter. The film attempts to trace the last moments of her life through interviews with people who crossed paths with Mona on her trip. The film is depressing since you know from the beginning that her journey will end tragically, but her experiences with the people she encounters along the way are what makes the film interesting. And the message of the film is what I like most: to live unconventionally and completely free from rules and commitments is hard, but for a woman it is even more of a struggle. The people Mona meet judge her for being independent and alone, pity her for having nothing, and eventually all end up disappointing her. I think I need to buy the Agnés Varda box set on my next trip to dvd planet.
Eric Rohmer’s Pauline at the Beach makes me want to spend every day at the beach lounging around, meeting new people. It definitely reminded me that I desperately need a vacation.
The film centers on a young girl, Pauline, and her summer vacation with her older, beautiful cousin, Marion, at the beach. While Marion starts dating a sleazy guy who sweeps her off her feet, Pauline begins a romance with a local boy. Meanwhile, both Pauline and Marion get sailing lessons from a dreamy guy who loves Marion, but who she rejects because he’s too nice.
Overall, I love Pauline’s attitude. She’s open to the possibility of romance, but she refuses to let it get her down when it ends up not working out.
I’ll admit I’ve reached a point where I have a hard time watching films that aren’t French, but I’m currently trying to cope with my problem. Today I watched Peter Yates’s Breaking Away, which is an excellent step in trying to recover from a French film addiction. This is one of my all-time favorites. It centers around four young friends, Dave, Mike, Cyril, and Moocher, who just finished high school. They are known as “Cutters”, or losers, in their small town since they’re not in college and they don’t have jobs. Dave is obsessed with Italian cyclists, Mike dreams of playing college football, Moocher plans on getting married, and Cyril remains hopeful even though he didn’t get a planned basketball scholarship. All four guys are funny, lovable, and inspiring.
The film has beautiful cinematography and an excellent screenplay. All the performances are great too, but I think my favorite is Daniel Stern as Cyril. He’s probably the character that gets the least developed storyline, but he’s very likable and optimistic. I admire the fact that he has the confidence to walk up to a cute girl in a popular hang-out spot with a bowling ball stuck to his hand and say “So…what’s your major?”