Umbrellas of Cherbourg (by Jacques Demy) (1964): Famous colorful French musical romance starring Catherine Deneuve. The singing-every-line-of-dialogue-thing can be a little much, but the movie has undeniable charm. Demy’s Les Demoiselles de Rochefort (The Young Girls of Rochefort) (1967) is more outrageously entertaining but has less emotional depth.
The Young Girls of Rochefort (Les Demoiselles de Rochefort) (by Jacques Demy) (1967): Also starring Catherine Deneuve, this less-serious successor to The Umbrellas of Cherbourg is a super-entertaining, super-cheesy musical. Music by Michel Legrand. Gene Kelly plays the one American in the film. Simply a delight.
Cabaret (with Liza Minelli) (1972): I wasn’t a big fan of Ms. Liza before I saw this classic, but she’s charming and sexy, and bratty too, in this movie. Set in 1930s pre-war Berlin, the story and music are great, as is the thrilling performance from the cabaret’s ringleader.
Gadjo Dilo (by Tony Gatlif) (1998): From the maker of the gypsy music-saga Latcho Drom, in this film a young Frenchman searches Romania for a singer whose recorded voice was beloved by his recently deceased father. The music in the film is wonderful, and it’s fascinating to see a bit of the culture of the Roms. Note: Gadjo Dilo basically translates to “Crazy Gringo/ Honky/ Pakeha/ Outsider.”
Genghis Blues (1999): Another touching film, this one a documentary about an SF bluesman who goes to Tuva — near Mongolia — to compete in a throatsinging competition.
Velvet Goldmine (by Todd Haynes) (1998): This movie is all about 70s glam rock nostalgia, with invented stars looking and sounding like Bowie and Iggy Pop. The plot meanders a bit, but the film overall very enjoyable if you can get into the mood. Haynes also directed Safe and did a film telling the story of the Carpenters with Barbie dolls. Fortunately, this film also includes a segment with dolls.
Buena Vista Social Club (by Wim Wenders) (1999): A joyous and deeply moving documentary about the fabulous Cuban music ensemble. The filming in Cuba appears to have taken place when Wenders returned with Ry Cooder for the recording of Ibrahim Ferrer’s solo album.
Viva Las Vegas (1963): Technicolor Elvis in his movingmaking prime.