The days are getting shorter, the wind is picking up, and all the avocados are hard and watery again; August has come to an end, and the short-lived Copenhagen summer is slowly slipping away while September knocks on the door. Yet, despite the disappointing pit fruit, the beginning of fall nevertheless signals very good news for at least one reason: it’s the start of film season. After a hazy summer of indulging in thick books and beach reads, it’s finally time to head back to the cinema and brace for the avalanche of distinguished dramas and esteemed indie’s jousting for golden statues, that are soon to hit the silver screens. Although you surely won’t be packing away your books just because of a slight change in weather, the summer season is particularly rough on movies (the onslaught of superhero blockbusters, the late sunsets, and the hot, stuffy atmosphere of badly air conditioned theatres) and now it’s only polite that we welcome them back with open arms.
To help you re-adjust to the new season and provide you with some summer closure in the first days of September, I have compiled a list of films that inspire both the bitter and the sweet in the end of summer feeling. So, after you’ve squeezed out the last bit of air left in your poolside inflatables and sucked the last sip of sangria from the bottom of your wine glass, nestle back into your couch, grab a fistful of popcorn, and enjoy the comforting embrace of ephemeral romance, bittersweet melancholy, adolescent efflorescence, and the comforting glow of post-summer nostalgia.
A Bigger Splash (2015)
A Bigger Splash is an ecstatic, erotic, electrifying re-make of Jaques Deray’s 1967 La Piscine that delivers on its title’s promise: messy and fearless, it splashes the screen in everything from chlorine pool water to alcohol. Director Luca Guadagnino (whose previous collaboration with Tilda Swinton in 2009 is the gorgeous and equally see-worthy I Am Love) sets the stage on the Italian island of Pantelleria, where retired rock star Marianne Lane slips away on what is intended to be a private vacation with her lover Paul. To Paul’s great reluctance, the couple’s privacy is soon interrupted when they offer to host Marianne’s bombastic ex-lover Harry and his 20-something daughter Penelope, after the latter two show up unexpectedly on the same island. Harry’s audacious personality and increasingly unsubtle maneuvers to re-seduce Marianne grow progressively threatening to Paul, whose hands are already full dealing with unsolicited sexual advances from Penelope.
For all his arrogance and obscenity, Harry is the most remarkable and affecting of all the characters; the scene in which he plays a Rolling Stones record and starts dancing, with impossible energy and unabashed passion, to ‘emotional rescue’, being one of the film’s most enchanting and memorable moments. The perfect balance between sunshine and noir, A Bigger Splash builds suspense with both subtlety and humor, and will leave you sipping a delicious cocktail of mixed feelings, straight up and with a twist…
The Sun in a Net (1963)
Best known for trailblazing the way for Czechoslovakian new wave cinema, The Sun in a Net is a story of young summer romance, beautifully packaged in the early 60s, low-key avant-garde aesthetic, complete with expressionistic shot compositions and “fashionable existentialism in the dialogues”. When Fajola is called by the state to work on a collective farm during the summer holidays, he must bid farewell to his lazy days lying on building rooftops, listening to pop music on the radio and sun tanning with his girlfriend, Bela. Once in the countryside, Fajola gets eyes for the flirtatious Jana, while Bela takes advantage of her house-bound mother – whose blindness and depression keep her trapped indoors – to sneak away on romantic escapades with the rebellious Pet’o.
The sweet smells of adolescent infatuation, juvenile delinquency and political rebellion perfume the film and weave seamlessly between domestic-scale drama and the overarching, insinuated political message concerning the then collapsing Soviet rule in the country. The Sun in a Net is both charmingly witty and surprisingly tender, and will leave your heart neither sinking nor swelling, but bobbing gently on day-dream waves of sweet fantasy and wistful melancholy.
American Honey (2016)
The road has long featured as an important symbol in the American narrative tradition; from beat literature in 1950s San Francisco to the Californian hippies in Easy Rider (1969) it is consistently used as a trope for exploring American identity. As such, the road movie is the perfect genre for exploring American-ness itself, as is poignantly demonstrated by Andrea Arnold’s most recent feature, American Honey. Like Arnold’s previous work, her latest film is a fascinating exploration of the function of class in the 21st century: how we are born into and subsequently defined by our economic status and education, how we don’t even see the discriminatory relationship between money and taste-culture, and that everything we consume from food, clothes, and music pertains to status in this modern-day, capitalist caste-system.
American Honey tastes like it’s title, paced with the same languid viscosity as the sweet sap from which it takes its name, and drenched in a soft, glowing golden hue. And what better symbol for the American Dream than honey, liquid gold? (The jet black, industrial oil mining arms loom threateningly alongside the highway throughout.) “Where’s that accent from?” Krystal interrogates Star upon her request to join the former’s exclusive group of misfits to sell magazines door-to-door across suburban America. “Texas.” Star replies. “So, you’re a southern girl” Krystal smirks. “A real American honey like me. You know that song?” (Cue Lady Antebellum). American Honey also tastes like gas station food, bonfire smoke, cheap tequila, self-tanner and a long, passionate make-out session with Shia Le Beouf, avec eyebrow piercing. A mesmerizing blend of social realism, romantic cinematography and the best soundtrack of 2016, American Honey will sweeten the sting of your last days of summer.
Vicky Christina Barcelona (2008)
Woody Allen’s Vicky Christina Barcelona is hotter than any Danish summer could even hope to be (beaded with glassy pearls of post-coital sweat, instead of damp with perspiration from the struggle of cycling headwinds). The film tells the story of Vicky and Christina, two friends whose divergent approaches to love serve as the film’s introductory premise: While Vicky is engaged to a steady-&-secure, lunch-at-the-golf-club kind of guy, Christina is a hopeless romantic who – according to the dead-pan overhead narration – has “reluctantly accepted suffering as an inevitable component of deep passion”. They go to Barcelona together for the summer, only to be seduced by the aggressively sexy Spanish artist Juan Antonio (Javier Bardem), whose convincing proposition (“Why not? Life is short. Life is dull. Life is full of pain. And this is a chance for something special”) to come with him to Oviedo and “eat well, drink good wine and make love”, they can’t resist to accept.
The real heart of Vicky Christina Barcelona is, however, the female protagonist not mentioned in the title: Juan Antonio’s ex-wife, Maria Elena, played brilliantly by the hilarious and enrapturing Penelope Cruz. Let the fumes of splattered oil paint, cigarette smoke and Spanish red wine lull you into a hypnotic post-summer daze.
Spring Breakers (2012)
For those of you who haven’t yet seen Spring Breakers – I get it. With our smartphones and TV-screens already filled to the brim with pop-teen-good-girl-gone-bad-Miley-Cyrus narratives (let’s not even talk about the newest release by one Taylor Swift), I don’t blame you for seeing promotional images of former Disney stars Vanessa Hudgens and Selena Gomez posing with guns in bikinis, and deciding to sit this one out. But. I’m here to tell you that this absolute mess of a film is a widely misunderstood, supremely funny, and cutting edge piece of high-brow trash cinema (Spring Break 4eva!!!)
This film is exciting precisely because the party scenes, naked bodies and displays of wealth and/ or power, are not designed to be enjoyed, but are rather supremely cringe-inducing, bewildering and uncomfortable. The film simultaneously indulges in and questions the excess culture of violence, sex and material wealth that it inhibits, thus making for a viscerally entertaining, but also aesthetically experimental and fiercely original perspective on its characters and its world. Not to mention, that I will happily admit responsibility for at least half of the 1,402,010 Youtube views of the scene in which Alien (played by James Franco, playing Riff Raff) performs Britney Spears ‘Every time’ on a big, white, poolside piano to the appreciation of 4 girls in neon pink ski masks (which now remind me of the anti-Trump ‘pussy-hats’ used in the American women’s march, 4 years later). Live Fast / Die Young and end the summer going out with a bang, the Spring Breakers way.