I have two French films to recommend. The first is Séraphine, based on the life of French painter Séraphine de Senlis. I recommend it especially for a transcendent scene in which the artist presents her paintings to her neighbors and employers.
The second film is Summer Hours, about a matriarch who has collected valuable art but when she dies her children can’t afford to keep the paintings because of state taxes. They sell most of the art to a museum and then must consider the difference between public and private art. I recommend it for death and art, what else?
Séraphine (France) 2008,
Music Box Films
List price: $25.95
Summer Hours (France) 2008,
List price: $39.99
Professor of sculpture, Grossmont College
While Akira Kurosawa’s influence on filmmakers is well known, Yume (Dreams) is a lesser-known film. Produced as a series of eight vignettes, it’s by far his most personal work. Each dream is stunningly beautiful. My personal favorites are The Peach Orchard, about Hina Matsuri and the destruction of a peach orchard, and Crows, where an art student seeks Vincent Van Gogh in his painting Crows (Van Gogh’s last painting).
When I want to revel in deception, treachery and scandal, I always return to Roman Polanski’s Chinatown. Robert Towne’s plot offers endless contortions, and the chemistry between Jack Nicholson, Faye Dunaway, John Huston, and Burt Young is perfectly choreographed by Polanski.
Yume/Dreams (Japan) 1990,
Warner Home Video
List price: $14.98
Chinatown (USA) 1974,
List price: $14.98
Each year I re-watch Brazil, Blade Runner, Harold and Maude, The Sound of Music, and West Side Story. But there are two I’d highlight.
One, Werner Herzog’s Aguirre: The Wrath of God. Sublime, atmospheric, and virtually silent throughout the entire descent from misty mountaintop to death going down the river surrounded by screaming monkeys. Bizarre and incredible.
And two, Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s The Marriage of Maria Braun. It’s so perfect in its form: stylized just enough and beautifully shot. Opens and closes with explosions. Displays full range of human emotions and situations, like an epic but encapsulated.
Aguirre: The Wrath of God (Germany) 1977,
List price: $19.97
The Marriage of Maria Braun (Germany) 1979,
List price: $79.95 (four discs)