Let me invite you to the (home) cinema!
Here are some films I've seen numerous times and can still see over and over again.
Titles available on DVD have the covers next to the text. Cover photos are with kind permissions from the corresponding publishers; detail on the respective DVD is available via clicking onto the respective cover photo.
Available on DVD from The Criterion Collection
Family drama where a mother of three children, after her husband, a theatre director, dies, marries a bishop who's an incarnation of principle and intolerance. She tries to escape, but finds him erecting sort of a virtual prison around her and her children. In this situation she cries for help to her family. While the Ekhdal family may include fallen and crazy characters they all know what to do if any one of them is in urgent need of help.
Actually, the film comprises much more than that dry storyline: Love, mystery, trust and most of all tolerance. One of those quite rare films causing me really to think about myself. Besides, it is just a visual masterpiece. By directing legend Ingmar Bergman - perhaps the best of all his outstanding films.
A mute young women from Scotland is married to a man from New Zealand she's never seen before. After arrival with her illegitimate daughter she finds her husband Stewart completely unable to understand her, notably her deep relation to her piano as a substitute for her lost voice. Eventually, their neighbor Baines gets an idea what the piano means to her. This marks the beginning of a complex sexual relation between Ada, Baines and Stewart unavoidably resulting in a catastrophe.
The Piano became a bestseller and won three Oscars (Holly Hunter, Anna Paquin, and director Jane Campion). An essential component is the great score by Michael Nyman.
After Amy's mother dies in a car crash in New Zealand, her father takes her to Canada. There she finds some geese eggs and takes them home. After they hatch their "parents" were scared away because of building measures, thus Amy is their only mother. In fall they have to migrate and someone has to show them the way South. Amy's father suggests using an ultra light plane for guiding them, however, these geese do not follow him but Amy...
Director, Carroll Ballard, should be thanked for this poetic and touching film. Wonderful music by Mark Isham (unfortunately never released on CD!), beautiful aerial photos and a splendid performance by young Anna Paquin.
Available on DVD from Universal Home Entertainment
Life and death of famous Cellist Hilary du Pre. Actually, however, the film is much more, contrasting her concept of life in limelight with that of her sister Jackie in a tight family in the country. Based on a fine and very sensible book written by Hilary du Pre on the life of her sister. Wonderful soundtrack including sequences of Edward Elgar's cello concerto in e minor, which du Pre became famous with.
Directed by Anand Tucker. With Emily Watson as Hilary du Pre.
Two girls meet in LA, one being there for a casting and the other one just survived a strange car crash. In the course of time their lives become twisted more and more... One of the mystery films by famous director David Lynch. The film is full of symbols to decrypt and there are several ways to understand it.
Contrary to most David Lynch films, perhaps (a little) less violent but more visually appealing. With Naomi Watts in a great part.
Available on DVD from Cineplus
Jane Eyre, a young orphan, grows up at her loveless aunt. Later, she's sent to an orphan asylum with very strict rules. After living there for ten years she gets a position as a private teacher - the first time she is not mistreated but taken on an equal basis. Even more, the master of the house seems to develop some interest in her. However, there is a secret about him and the house...
Based on the classic novel by Charlotte Bronte. While critics had different opinions on this 1996 version, I plainly love it. One of the numerous masterpieces by director Franco Zeffirelli. With Anna Paquin, William Hurt and Charlotte Gainsbourg.
A homeless couple, a client in search for a working girl, and an unsuccessful business man, who picked up a coloured boy at the airport during one night while the Pope (virtually) visits Berlin. A film throwing light onto a few people living on the shady side of Berlin.
Directed by exceptional German director Andreas Dresen with a remarkable sense for human dignity of underprivileged. With Susanne Bormann in a demanding, but outstanding performance.
DEFA-Stiftung, with kind permission
18-year old Georg and 13-year old Barbara have been playing together as children. Play becomes love later, which leads to a catastrophe, as their parents are hostile (like Romeo's and Juliet's) leading to file a report to the court, as Barbara is still under age. One of the last DEFA productions, and one to remember. Not available on DVD, unfortunately.
Directed by Helmut Dziuba. With Julia Brendler aged 14 (!) at the time of shooting - none of her later parts comes close.
A woman has to find back into life, after her husband, a famous composer, and her daughter were killed in a car accident. While trying to reconstruct some work of her husband, she makes quite unexpected discoveries on his life.
By director legend Krzystof Kieslowski. With Juliette Binoche in an exceptional performance - perhaps the best ever, as far as I can judge. Augmented by a wonderful score by Zbigniew Preisner.
Åmål is a small insignificant Swedish town where nothing ever happens. Young Elin has a bit of a bad reputation when it comes to guys. Another girl in her school, Agnes, is in love with her but is too shy to do anything about it. - Was a great hit in Sweden, but passed nearly unnoticed in Germany.
Directed by Lukas Moodysson who became famous for that film. With Rebecka Liljeberg, who unfortunately, dropped out of film business later.
Two angels land over Berlin as a (yet) divided town. They take you by the hand and learn you carefully watching of detail. Finally, one of them becomes uneasy with his state and wants to change immortality for love to a human girl. The red line is a Poem "When the child was a child" by Peter Handke.
A wonderfully poetic and sensitive film by Wim Wenders. With Bruno Ganz, Otto Sander, and Solveig Dommartin. Later US re-make City of Angels was mediocre compared to the original.
La Gloire de mon père - Le Château de ma mère (1990)
Scenes from the childhood and youth of Marcel Pagnol (who became an important figure for French Cinema later) around 1900 in the French Provence. After his autobiographic novel trilogy, worth reading as well. A lively description of childhood in good old times, you literally see the glow of the highlands, you hear the cicadas, smell the lavender. You feel Marcel's feelings for his first love Isabel - and get an impression what values a truly good friend and a working family can be. Pure luck to see.
One of the very rare DVDs rated 5/5 stars by users at Amazon.de, and I'd certainly rate it 5, too. Directed by Yves Robert with a remarkable cinematography by Robert Alazraki and a wonderful catch song score by Vladimir Cosma.
Available on DVD from Warner Home Video
Michaela is a young girl raised in a strictly religious family in Southern Germany. She is epileptic but her father and finally her mother, too, agree her to study in Tuebingen. She starts as a normal student, makes friend with a fellow and gets a boy-friend, too. However, she gets more and more under the impression of being obsessed. While her fellow suggests going to a psychiatrist, she follows the suggestion of her boy-friend who brings her home. There she contacts a local priest who suggests an exorcism - with a fatal end.
Hard to believe, but this is (very) loosely after a true case - Annelise Michel - just a few years ago. Sandra Hüller is excellent as Michaela. Directed by Hans-Christian Schmid, won several prices - fully deserved.
Available on DVD from Warner Home Video
Do you recall your grandma's talk on "good old times"? I do, usually it was the time before WWI under our beloved emperor Wilhelm II. Michael Hanecke, director of The White Ribbon, shows the truth - or should I say his truth - on the time. The film starts with a crime: A wire over the way brought the horse of the doctor to fall, which is only the first one of a series of mysterious events to follow in a small Northern German village. The cases were never really solved, however, it's evident local children were always not far. Children, who were raised under puritanical, if not to say inhumane regimes under the priest, the teacher - and her parents.
The story alone is captivating; however the film excels in (contrasting) beautiful b/w pictures and a wonderful cinematography, too. Won the Golden Palm in Cannes und numerous more prices - a true masterpiece.
DVD/BluRay available from from Universal Home Entertainment
A wedding in a luxurious mansion seems to be under a bad star with nearly anything going wrong. Guests start debate, Justine (Kirsten Dunst - fascinating), the bride, becomes more and more depressive and her husband finally leaves her. Cut. In part two Justine lives with her sister Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg) and her family. A planet called Melancholia is said to hit Earth shortly. While Claire and her husband get more and more depressive, it's just Justine who starts to handle the situation, in a sense. However, the end comes unavoidable and holds a picture, I for one will never forget.
Sounds like a crazy story? It is. Nonetheless, the way it is told and the pictures make it overwhelming. Reportedly, director Lars von Tries as well as main actress Kirsten Dunst had gone through personal crises before - which you'll believe after havong seen Melancholia.
This was a film I was waiting for for ages. My first contact with the story was an excerpt on Gavroche in my school storybook. From Bille August's 1998 feature over the 2004 Berlin stage production I had growing hope the Musical would appear on screen one day. I was thrilled to see, Tom Hooper did plainly all right to produce one of the best films I have ever seen. The cast is outstanding, and life singing of the actors added a lot to the captivation. While the pure soundtrack on CD/MP3 may shine a bit less than a studio production, it is perfect in conjunction with the pictures with even nearly speechless phrases adding to the emotion. While the film starts and ends with big longs shots, it benefits much from the numerous close-ups. An additional bonus is the touching end. As in many theaters, I experienced the audience sitting unable to leave during the credits.
Les Miserables got 3 Oscars including one, fully deserved, for Anne Hathaway as Fantine. If the Academy had asked me (unfortunately they didn't), I'd sure added a few more including for director Tom Hooper. At least I spent 10/10 in the IMDb, which I very rarely do.
Distribution and DVD by Senator Film.
This is all but a dry biopic. Rather, it's a refreshing and poetic portrait of three young people, named Charlotte and Caroline von Lengefeldt, and Friedrich Schiller, who just can't decide which one of the two he loves more. As a result, he tries to share his feelings - which they accept and reciprocate both. Amazingly and reportedly, this seems to have worked for quite some time - until Caroline got pregnant when Charlotte and Friedrich were already married for some time.
Dominik Grafs film is a feast for the eyes, and it's fascinating and captivating despite its length. I was excited, to see Henriette Confurius (who I well recalled as Dole from "Mein erstes Wunder") as Charlotte and Hannah Hertzsprung (Vier Minuten). Both are perfectly casted with a sure feeling for their differences and similarities (at least from what is bequeathed). Schiller (Florian Stetter) is just a loving young man - while a few short sequences like the inaugural lecture portraying him as a genius just at a glance. There's a small line between hero worship and discreditation, which Graf perfectly holds.
Distribution by DCM
There are more than enough same-sex films produced nowadays, but this one directed by Todd Haynes sticks out of the mass. Therese works as a shop-girl in a big department store in New York in the 1950s, it's a few days before Christmas. Suddenly one of her customers, Carol, an elegant lady, catches her eyes. Somehow that lady seems to find "something" about her as well and this is it. Carol forgets her gloves at the counter, they meet again, and they both find, life could have more in store, perhaps, than just being bound to an unloved husband, or boy-friend.
This is not so much a film on same-sex, and certainly not on fighting for sexual emancipation. It's just about love, braking out, freedom, trying something new, giving room for suppressed desire, and more.
The story is adapted from a book by Patricia Highsmith worth reading as well. Cate Blanchett is wonderfully elegant yet passionate as Carol, but Rooney Mara as Therese with her shy, suppressed desire simply blew me away. Add the wonderful soundtrack by Carter Burwell, the carefully portrayed historical setting, the wonderfully nostalgic Cinematography. Like a German film site says: "That something like this still does exist..."
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