Title: 35 Shots of Rum (2008)
Director: Claire Denis
Language: French (and some German)
35 Shots of Rum keeps the dialogue sparse and lets the camera linger on people's expressions and gestures, the light and shadow surrounding them. A widower, Lionel (Alex Descas), and his college-aged daughter, Josephine (Mati Diop) share a close, affectionate relationship, but they're each facing profound changes in their life. Lionel is approaching the age of retirement and watches a former colleague struggle with finding meaning in his life now that he no longer works. Josephine, meanwhile, is in love with a neighbor. Lionel and Josephine are devoted to each other and comfortable sharing a home, but they know they won't keep living as they are indefinitely, and it's difficult to cope with.
There's a lot of visual beauty in this movie. Some of it geometric - trains traveling in the dark with their windows as squares of light, while the windows in buildings are lit rectangles. The play of light is wonderful too, like with the rails that glow in the afternoon or early evening. The combinations of color are also lovely - creams and coffee colors, grays and navy blues, with pops of red. (It reminded me of Edward Hopper paintings.)
And I like the movie's quiet emotions. The tenderness conveyed with few words between father and daughter. The regrets and disquiet, the closeness and loneliness.
Title: Enchanted April (1991)
Director: Mike Newell
Language: English (and some Italian)
This movie, set after the First World War, has a fairy tale quality, with enchanting actresses filmed in and around a magnificent Italian castle where the gardens are in full bloom. Four Englishwomen - Lottie Wilkins (Josie Lawrence), Rose Arbuthnot (Miranda Richardson), Mrs. Fisher (Joan Plowright), and Caroline Dester (Polly Walker) - pool resources to rent the castle for a month.
Lottie is the one who brings them together and pours love into everyone and everything she comes across. (It was also lovely to watch Josie Lawrence play her, as I know Lawrence only from the UK version of the improv show, Whose Line Is It Anyway?, where she's a talented performer.) In London, Lottie's spirit has been cramped, but once she's in Italy her soul expands.
It's an optimistic movie, showing the healing and transformative powers of love (and of time spent in sunny, gorgeous Italian gardens). There are a couple of husbands about, Mellersh Wilkins (Alfred Molina) and Frederick Arbuthnot (Jim Broadbent), who have second chances bestowed on them. When they all head back to London, will they hold on to what they've discovered about themselves during their idyllic retreat?
Title: The Secret World of Arrietty (2010)
Director: Hiromasa Yonebayashi
Language: I watched a version with dubbed English
This beautiful movie, made in the Studio Ghibli animation studio in Japan, is based on Mary Norton's novel, The Borrowers - featuring a family of tiny people living inside a human home.
Arrietty, the daughter of these small borrowers, winds up befriending a human boy who is ill and staying in his mother's old home. The plot is simple and touching, and even though some of the dialogue is cheesy, it's largely a sweet movie.
And the visuals are magnificent. There's stunning outdoor scenery, like the golden light that filters through the trees, and delicate rain, rustling leaves, and flowers that feel papery and soft even through a screen.
Then there are the exquisite interiors, notably Arrietty's room (a bower with leaves and flowers) and a dollhouse where every detail is lovingly captured. The movie also does well in switching the scale from what an inches-tall person would see versus a human, how the world looks to each.