The new year is an opportunity for reflection, and with many away from their desks, a time to catch up on those cultural experiences one might have missed. These five films traverse genres and eras to each offer a discerning viewer a variety of life-affirming viewing experiences. Tuck yourself in and enjoy.
Bande à part by Jean-Luc Godard (1964)
Released in English as “Band of Outsiders”, Bande à part is Jean-Luc Godard’s nouvelle vague masterpiece. An adaptation of the novel Fools’ Gold by Dolores Hitchens, the film follows two aspiring criminals (Claude Brasseur and Sami Frey) as they convince a young and naïve languages student (Anna Karina, then Godard’s wife) to join them in robbing her wealthy aunt.
Bande à part is typical French new wave and quintessential Jean-Luc Godard, who also acts as the film’s narrator. Its wit, its attitude and its melancholy make it an inimitable illustration of all the sadness and calamity of youth.
The Holy Mountain by Alejandro Jodorowsky (1973)
A psychedelic and surreal fantasy romp doesn’t even begin to describe this film by Chilean director Alejandro Jodorowsky. Originally dubbed La Montaña Sagrada, the film made its debut at the 1973 Cannes Film Festival, followed by only a limited run—though it fast became a fan favourite.
The Holy Mountain starts by introducing us to a thief who appears to be an incarnation of Christ, who then meets an alchemist and from there joins the thief on a spiritual quest. Far from a mere fodder for trippers, this madness has satirical bite, for which it has become a cult hit.
A Single Man by Tom Ford (2009)
A film that sits on the shelves of lovers of beauty across the world, A Single Man was Tom Ford’s directorial debut, and garnered a Best Actor nomination for lead actor Colin Firth. The film is set in 1962, and follows the story of George Falconer, a gay British university professor living in Southern California.
Tom Ford’s exquisite eye is on show here, crafting a stylish picture of life in 1960s California. Laced with melancholy, Colin Firth’s outstanding performance stays with the viewer long after the final scene.
Tree of Life by Terrence Malick (2011)
Bold and ambitious, Tree of Life is a star-studded drama that tells the story of a middle-aged man’s experience growing up in 1950s Texas, while deftly exploring the origins of life on earth, and the very meaning of life itself.
Where one could perhaps describe A Simple Man as minimalist, this film is maximal—all cinematic elements (light, sound, score) are used to their very limits to create a film that pushes to the very edge of what cinema can be. Its near constant biblical references make Tree of Life reverential in nature, and utterly unforgettable.
Les Demoiselles de Rochefort by Jacques Demy (1967)
One of the lesser known French musicals of the 1960s is this sweet romance starring Catherine Deneuve and Gene Kelly. Les Demoiselles de Rochefort, or The Young Girls of Rochefort, takes place over the space of a weekend, when two sisters (Deneuve and her real life sister Françoise Dorléac) visit the seaside town during a fair in the town square.
What ensues is a farcical romance, filled with missed connections and hysterical misunderstandings. Interspersed with Michel Legrand’s masterful score, Les Demoiselles sparkles with all the wit and optimism of any of the great twentieth century musicals.
Photography:Getty Images/Gene Lester