This post was originally written for Taste of Cinema – http://www.tasteofcinema.com/2019/10-great-movies-you-should-watch-while-on-vacation/?fbclid=IwAR23ocYWGj8zz4U5aImRxYfhRaSxvr6CS3Oro3tpD15U45hvff7JV2fehOA
Who doesn’t love movies? Who doesn’t love holidaying? Most of all, who doesn’t love both?! Here is a list of ten films, technically twelve films, that you should watch the next time you’re on holiday, or if you want to pretend that you’re on one at the minute.
Whether they’re set in gorgeous, sun drenched locations, like the stunning Call Me By Your Name, or they simply have the feel of escapism to them, like Russian Ark, here are ten great movies that you should watch on vacation.
1. Call Me By Your Name (Luca Guadagnino 2017)
Luca Guadagnino’s gorgeous coming-of-age romance can be described in so many ways, but for the sake of simplicity, we’ll stick to calling it a modern masterpiece for the romance genre. It holds within many of the most beautiful, most memorable images to ever be put to screen, thanks to Guadagnino’s very careful, extremely passionate direction, and when you place these breathtaking images alongside the most beautiful and heartbreaking romance story to come out of cinema for years, it is almost impossible not to be swept off of your feet by this tantalisingly gorgeous romantic drama.
Featuring within numerous stunning pieces of music, from the wonderfully extravagant Love My Way by the Psychedelic Furs to some incredibly touching pieces by Andre Laplante to the three achingly beautiful Sufjan Stevens tracks made specially for the film, it’s also impossible not to be swept up in the wonderful sound of the film, even if at some points all you can hear is the gentle breeze, trickling water or quiet breathing. The performances across the board are also just so believable and so true to life, particularly from Chalamet, who gives one of the most heartbreaking performances in recent memory.
To put it simply, Call Me By Your Name is a sobering yet simultaneously incredibly relaxing and visually stunning portrayal of a hidden romance, featuring many of the most beautiful moments and scenes to hit the screen in decades. It’s a perfect holiday movie, it’s enchanting, it’s poignant, it’s beautiful and it is piercingly emotional, with a brilliant bittersweet sting.
2. The Before Trilogy (Richard Linklater, 1995-2013)
One of these films just had to be on this list, so why not just cut out the difficulty of having to choose a favourite and include them all? From the beautiful introduction to Celine and Jesse in Before Sunrise, which chronicles their meeting and their one night shared in Vienna to their far more grounded, but still beautifully romantic time together in Before Midnight, this great American trilogy is one of the most beloved trilogies ever made. With Linklater behind the camera for each one, and nine years between each film adds a stunning reality to it.
And the entire trilogy is so simplistic, too. It’s just so relaxing, seeing these characters we come to know and love as they explore these beautiful places as well as their own relationship, with each film bringing new light to the situation.
Linklater shows and doesn’t tell, despite the fact that the entire trilogy is filled with almost constant dialogue, and the best part of all is that it’s a trilogy with no weak link. If anything, the films have only grown better with time, and seeing the three together is a beautiful experience worth cherishing.
3. Blissfully Yours (Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2002)
Apichatpong Weerasethakul is one of the best, most immersive filmmakers working currently, with his films creating such fascinating worlds and gradually sucking you in through the use of long takes, diegetic sound and slower pacing than most contemporary films. Blissfully Yours captures this style particularly well, taking its time to develop the characters and their situations before it turns into a whole other film halfway through, marked by the opening credits which appear forty five minutes into the film.
It’s just a stunning film, so immersive and so relaxing, even frequently comic in its honest nature. This isn’t one for all film fans, but for those who enjoy slower films, this is a must. It’s one of the most redeeming films to come from foreign cinema so far this century.
4. A Day In The Country (Jean Renoir, 1936)
Jean Renoir’s 1936 film, A Day In The Country, was never finished. It sits at just 40 minutes in length, and yet somehow it remains one of the greatest films ever made. Renoir is a master, undeniably, however A Day In The Country is one of his finest, if not the very finest, of his works, with so much charm to the romantic melodrama held within. It’s as if everything contained in the film’s brief runtime is intended to charm, with even the performances and the locations being just lovely.
The cinematography is some of the most beautiful black and white cinematography ever, and even if the film was never finished, every second is just so incredibly enjoyable that it is impossible not to fall in love with the film.
It’s a perfect holiday watch, even being surprisingly brief so as not to get in the way of all of the various adventures you should be getting up to whilst exploring the wonderful places in the world. If ever you need a rest on holiday, this is the film to see. It’s the cinematic equivalent of sitting in the sun, sharing great food as the breeze runs through your hair.
5. A Bigger Splash (Luca Guadagnino, 2015)
Sorry to feature the same director twice in the same list, but choosing between Call Me By Your Name and A Bigger Splash was almost impossible. A Bigger Splash, Luca Guadagnino’s second feature film, has one of the finest casts placed together in any film this decade.
Ralph Fiennes even gives one of his greatest performances, Swinton transforms into her quiet (borderline mute) singer (She probably has an even more impressive transformation in Suspiria, however, maybe that’s not the nicest film to see on holiday…) and Dakota Johnson is just so excellent as a strange, seductive, secretive young woman who seems to have almost come from nowhere.
As if the stellar cast wasn’t enough, the script is excellent too. Whether it be the scene in which Fiennes’ character discusses his memory of working on Emotional Rescue with The Rolling Stones, in which he discusses how hitting a bin was the ingredient to give the song the life it was lacking, before erupting into dance as the camera elegantly follows, almost caressing against him, or the insane swimming pool scene which simply can’t be spoiled for anyone who hasn’t yet seen the film, this film is an amazing feat, helped along by terrific performances, a witty script, beautiful cinematography and Guadagnino’s great direction. It may lack in style a little, but who needs style when you’ve got damn impressive craft on show?
6. La Cienaga (Lucrecia Martel, 2001)
Lucrecia Martel’s film, La Cienaga, is one that is most certainly not for everyone. The pacing is slow, not much happens and some of what does actually happen is never resolved, including the most tragic moment of the story, but anyone familiar with Martel’s style will feel right at home seeing this.
La Cienaga is just beautiful. It is as visually arresting as all hell, with such a bizarre tone that bounces between this dark humour to being seriously distressing at times, and yet underneath there is this comic element that never really goes away. A lot of it comes from the performances, which are either strangely quiet and subdued or incredibly loud and aggressive, but either way, the film is just enthralling.
With the stellar sound design, which really places emphasis on the characters and their surroundings, cinematography and editing so fluent that they’re simply to die for, with a feeling that, as an audience member, you’re really there, seeing these events first hand in a way that few films can really give. It’s a fascinating piece of work, and one well worth seeking out.
7. La La Land (Damien Chazelle, 2016)
Damien Chazelle’s 2016 musical is admittedly quite divisive among film buffs, some absolutely adoring it, falling under the film’s spell and being charmed by it, and others failing to connect with it.
The main reason for this disconnecting comes from people feeling that La La Land was a mixture of The Umbrellas Of Cherbourg (Jacques Demy, 1964) and classical Hollywood musicals, however, for those who weren’t familiar with Demy’s musical masterwork, or for those who didn’t find it irritating for La La Land to be using Demy’s film as a blueprint for his own, the film was enjoyable (so long as they weren’t irritated by Gosling’s saving jazz, either…).
La La Land is a film that really captures the spirit and joy of movies, it’s exciting, quickly paced, loud and colourful, and considering that musicals, especially good ones, have been quite hard to come by for many years now, it’s just so enjoyable to see a great one appearing, and from mainstream Hollywood no less! It is just wonderful escapism at its peak, with the catchy music, the wonderful dance numbers and the carefully structured, emotional plot. A must see for any musical fan, whether you fall in love with it or despise it. The film is just bursting with passion and joy, it couldn’t be much more suitable to see on holiday.
8. Somewhere (Sofia Coppola, 2010)
Sofia Coppola is an excellent filmmaker. She hasn’t been making films for too long, however she has proven herself over the past fifteen to twenty years as one of the most consistently great American voices in contemporary cinema. Her work is simply thrilling, and Somewhere is the best of them all.
Whilst it is quite dark in subject matter, focusing on a man who has essentially given up on his life, cutting off all emotion and relying on drugs and alcohol to feel any semblance of life, the film is just beautiful. The locations are stunning, the cinematography is laid back and yet simultaneously shockingly intimate, just as the story is, and the performances are just wonderfully honest.
It’s a stunning film, both formally and emotionally, and seeing how this character comes to try to fix his life is one of the most interesting, emotional stories to come out of modern American cinema. It is Sofia Coppola’s crowning piece, in a filmography full of terrific works.
9. A Room With A View (James Ivory, 1985)
Merchant/Ivory were bound to come up somewhere on this list, and why not go with one of their most visually stunning films, the 1985 released costume drama classic, A Room With A View.
Very few films look this good. The costumes are absolutely stunning, the cinematography is just so incredibly beautiful and the set design is astounding. It’s a film so easy to just relax and enjoy, thanks to the quick, witty dialogue and the wonderful performances all around.
The film is charming, sweet and frequently mesmerising. I honestly can’t really see anyone who isn’t a fan of ensemble costume dramas not finding something to enjoy in this one. It’s brief, immersive joy, and memorable joy too. Give it a watch, and if this one isn’t a film you end up loving, there are plenty of other Merchant/Ivory works that are worth seeking out and giving a watch. You’re bound to find at least one that you enjoy.
10. Russian Ark (Aleksandr Sokurov, 2002)
This one may be the last film I’d recommend, but that’s why it’s last on the list. Russian Ark, directed by the excellent Aleksandr Sokurov, is one of the most immersive films ever made. Why? One simple technical idea completely seals the deal. The entire film is done in a single take.
And no, I don’t mean like in Inarritu’s Birdman (2014) or Hitchcock’s Rope (1948), I mean literally a single shot. No hidden edits. The film, which clocks in at over ninety minutes (99 minutes to be exact) is simply breathtaking, with this exquisite shot that constantly flows just perfectly. It is almost impossible to put this stunning feat in to words, as it is just so ridiculously impressive.
As the film’s tagline says “2000 cast members, 3 orchestras, 33 rooms, 300 years, all in one take”, and just trying to process this information is daunting, but the film has this insane, beautiful flow to it that feels like the finest stroke of a brush on canvas, and it is just absolutely stunning. The planning for this film must have been simply towering, and the product to show for it is one of the most astounding films ever made. It is seriously stunning, and somehow it isn’t even Sokurov’s finest hour.