One of the things I love most about cinema is how susceptible it is to mood. I’m sure you know what I’m talking about: you want to watch something entirely different when you are happy and when you are sad, when you are tired and when you are bouncing off the walls. Not just your personal mood either but the atmosphere around you: one film on a rainy day, one on a sunny. It being near the holidays and the world (at least the upper hemisphere) getting colder, I thought I’d make some recommendations from MUBI‘s library of wintery films for the holidays. Many have the melancholy and sadness of the winter months; many too have the humanity and warmth needed to get us through that time as well. Some remedies and reflections.
The Gold Rush (Charlie Chaplin, USA)
Chaplin may be cold—in a pitiful log cabin hunting for gold in the snow—but this silent comedy classic will absolutely warm your heart, guaranteed, and probably get your blood circulating too—from laughter. One of comedic cinema’s greatest and most beloved treasures.
Available in: United Kingdom, Ireland
Le ballon rouge (Albert Lamorisse, France)
A family classic of cinema if there ever was one. And we always need to watch movies with our families, so why not revisit one of the most beloved?
Available in: Belgium, France, Luxembourg, Norway
A Christmas Tale (Arnaud Desplechin, France)
This is probably on the only film here that actually takes place during Christmas—and Desplechin’s topsy-turvy family melodrama brings out all the things one can love and hate about holidays. Bringing people together, calling up the past, family reunions and fights, traumas and loves. It’s a big, epic, kinetic mess of a film—as energetic and full of emotion as befits it’s cast of stars and amazing French actors, all brought together under one roof for the holidays.
Available in: Australia, New Zealand, Italy, United Kingdom, Ireland
Nostalghia (Andrei Tarkovsky, Italy/USSR)
For those familiar with this masterpiece by Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky you might be surprised at this choice. It’s a melancholy one, I admit. But you know what? Not everyone is able to make it home for Christmas, or get time off during the holidays, or spend time with loved ones. And so I thought I’d choose this ode to exiles—after Stalker, Tarkovsky never again made a film in the Soviet Union, and this was his first film made, ostensibly, in creative exile, in Italy, and as you can tell from the title, it is suffuse with longing for family and home. An exquisite, beautiful film.
Available: Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Australia, New Zealand
Brief Encounter (David Lean, UK)
I love this wistful romance built from the darkness and quiet. It seems a perfect winter film. Our friends at The Criterion Collection describe it well: “From Noël Coward’s play Still Life, legendary filmmaker David Lean deftly explores the thrill, pain, and tenderness of an illicit romance in the dour, gray Britain of 1945. From a chance meeting on a train platform, a middle-aged married doctor (Trevor Howard) and a suburban housewife (Celia Johnson) enter into a quietly passionate, ultimately doomed love affair, set to a swirling Rachmaninoff score.”
Available in: Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden
Spring, Summer, Winter, Fall…and Spring (Kim Ki-duk, South Korea)
Because all seasons must pass, the cold must turn to the warm, and life moves on—the film that put South Korean auteur Kim Ki-duk on the map after several violent genre films was this tranquil meditation on the passing of time. Lovely.
Available in: Belgium, Luxembourg