Winter Break: Film Recap

Winter break is coming to an end. During these weeks away from college, I had the chance to sit down and enjoy a lot of movies that had been sitting on my watchlist for months. Today, I want to take a moment to share 5 of my favorite ones with you. 

5. Columbus (Kogonada): Set in Columbus, Indiana (a city considered to be the mecca of modern architecture), this contemplative movie is a visual masterpiece: every single shot could be hanged on a museum wall. Columbus explores various complex topics including the finding of meaning in the banal, complicated family dynamics, powerlessness to define our future, and our sense of duty towards those we love. While the acting from John Cho is slightly rigid at times, it is certainly compensated by Haley Lu's impeccable performance. Despite its slow pace, the emotions evoked by the sounds, the visuals, and the writing make Columbus a beautiful sensory experience that everyone should enjoy at least once. 

4. Kamome Diner (Naoko Ogigami): This slice of life film focuses on the story of three Japanese women (Sachie, Midori, and Masako) whose paths cross at Sachie's Kamome Diner in Helsinki, Finland. The movie covers two main themes: the various ways in which our personality can shape our pursuit of satisfaction and fulfillment, and the universality of everyday life struggles. Although there is no traditional plot, Kamome Diner remains entertaining thanks to its flawless acting, peaceful visuals, and a slight touch of magical realism. In all, this is a naturalistic and relaxing film that serves as a gentle reminder that the human experience is what unites us all.

3. Dreams (Akira Kurosawa): As the title suggests, Dreams is an oneiric journey that depicts some of Kurosawa's actual dreams. The movie is broken down into several short stories (dreams), which reflect the evolution of Kurosawa's interests, worries, and passions throughout his life. What makes this movie so special is that it tries to both evoke feelings in the audience and to awake their consciousness. It does so by criticizing war and the idiotic, destructive nature of humanity, while also engaging in topics such as responsible coexistence with nature and the leading of fulfilling lives. Without a doubt, this movie manages to exceed all expectations that viewers could have from a film about dreams, making it one of Kurosawa's most beautiful and thought-provoking works. 

2. Little Forest–Summer/Autumn (Junichi Mori): Little Forest focuses on the life of Ichiko, who moved back to her small town in rural Japan. The story is divided into two films, with the first part (Summer/Autumn) being the superior one. The writing and acting is without flaw, making the movie incredibly immersive–nothing feels artificial, you're just following the protagonist on her daily life. I first thought this would feel like a cooking show, but I was surprised to see very complex topics (including the reliability of words vs lived experiences, the frustration caused by short-sighted criticisms, the mechanisms of fraternal community-building, etc.) being subtly introduced: it masters the art of showing instead of telling. Within the realm of cozy films, nothing comes close to Little Forest. 

1. Bardo (A.G. Iñárritu): Bardo's story is autobiographical to a certain extent, and revolves around Silverio Gama–a Mexican journalist who wins an American journalism award and goes back to Mexico to celebrate it. What makes Bardo so special is its ability to use surrealist visuals to push the exploration of a wide range of topics to a whole new level. Some of the most interesting conversations in Bardo revolve around the ethics of portraying others' pains for our own recognition, the contradictory nature of mestizos and their hate agaisnt Spain, and the struggle to feel like an authentic national in your own country when shielded from the realities others' face on a daily basis. This movie will make you think a lot about identity, and the certainty with which you hold your ideals and beliefs, all while also providing some of the most beautiful and creative cinematography ever. Without a doubt, Bardo was the best film I watched during this break, and it has easily become one of my favorites of all time.