So, here we are again. Another lockdown, another what-to-watch-on-tv crisis. And, with the current closure of galleries, a lot of us art lovers are left scratching our heads wondering what we can possibly do to pass the time. But don’t panic — I’ve selected six artsy films that are definitely worth a watch.
1. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (2015)
The title is pretty self-explanatory: the “me” in Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is Greg, a sarcastic teenager from Pittsburgh in his final year of high school, who spends most of his free time making stop-motion films with his best friend (or “co-worker”), Earl. But of course, there’s also the “dying girl”, Rachel, who is not actually a close friend of Earl or Greg’s — she is, at first, their classmate with cancer — until Greg’s mother insists that he starts hanging out with her. This might not be the first film that comes to mind when we think “artsy” or “art-house”, but rest assured, this is much more than a coming-of-age teenage drama.
The constant thread of whip pan shots, echoing The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014), captures the familiar gallery-esque feel of stepping into an exhibition room and panning each individual artwork. Yes, Greg and Earl remake art-house classics, but only at the end of the film do we come to realise that Rachel is the true artist of the entire story. Visually and emotionally, this film is a masterpiece.
2. The Young Girls of Rochefort (Les Demoiselles de Rochefort, 1967)
If you liked La La Land (2016), then this French nouvelle vague musical will most definitely add some colour to your lockdown. The plot centres on twin sisters Delphine and Solange, who teach ballet and music respectively. But despite their different passions, dress sense and hair colour, these twins long for the same thing: true love and a life outside of their hometown.
The film builds upon similar themes and stylings of its musical cousin, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (French: Les Parapluies de Cherbourg), but this is certainly the most happy and cheerful of the two. In a swirl of singing, dancing and vibrant poppy colours, The Young Girls of Rochefort (French: Les Demoiselles de Rochefort) is the perfect escape from the dreariness of quarantine. Oh, to be a young girl in Rochefort.
3. Midnight in Paris (2011)
Speaking of France, who doesn’t dream of a Midnight in Paris? I was hesitant about including this film at first due to the controversy surrounding Woody Allen, but the beauty of the setting and talent of the actors makes me think it still has a valid place in this list. The film stars Owen Wilson as a disillusioned screenwriter and aspiring novelist who, on a tag-along vacation to Paris, travels back in time every night at, you guessed it, midnight. He meets and learns from some of his favourite artistic heroes, including Salvador Dalí and Pablo Picasso. But what I love most about Midnight in Paris, aside from its nostalgic cinematography, is that it’s a film made for creatives — behind the whimsical blend of comedy and romance lies a touching commentary about the life of an artist. Plus, the film features Claude Monet’s famous garden in Giverny, which is also pretty cool.
4. The Great Beauty (La Grande Bellezza, 2013)
The title speaks for itself: the cinematography in this film is the epitome of “the great beauty”. The plot follows an ageing writer, Jep, who has spent most of his adult life seducing his way through the lavish nightlife of Rome, but on his 65th birthday, he gets a wake-up call — he starts to look beyond the party lifestyle in search of a landscape full of exquisite beauty. For a 3 hour long feature film, The Great Beauty isn’t as jam-packed with action as, let’s say, a Harry Potter movie. But I recommend impatient viewers to hold tight, because this film is like a painting — you can either stare at it and enjoy it for the visuals or, when you get bored, you can look for its deeper meaning and get something just as beautiful out of it.
5. Soul (2020)
Now if you haven’t been living under a rock for the last few months, you will have heard about Disney and Pixar’s latest animated motion-picture, Soul. If it’s motivation you’re lacking, this film will most definitely inspire you to get up from your sofa and live life to the fullest (when lockdown is over, of course). The animation’s protagonist, Joe Gardner, is a school band teacher whose life hasn’t exactly gone to plan — his true passion lies in becoming a jazz performer. But when he accidentally ends up in another universe to help somebody else find their passion, it doesn’t take long before he discovers what it means to have “soul”.
Pixar has come a long way since the first Toy Story; this animation has plenty of visual razzle-dazzle and in light of the current suffering of the arts industry, Soul reminds us of the importance of music and its role in the art scene.
6. The Metamorphosis of Birds (A Metamorfose dos Pássaros, 2020)
One thing this line-up is missing (ironically) is a classic art-house movie. The Metamorphosis of Birds is a Portuguese feature-length, hybrid documentary film that doesn’t waste a single moment of screen time on a dull image. It follows the story of Catarina Vasconcelos’ family, the film’s creator, from her grandparents’ life to her own. Rife with striking imagery, The Metamorphosis of Birds is a moving illustration of life’s delicacy and, overall, a triumphant work of art with a twist that will give you chills. In a nutshell, you should give this a watch if you’re looking for pure textual and visual poetry.
Image Source: University of the Arts London