Gentle Cinema
April 2, 2021 11:23 PM   Subscribe

Doug Dillaman has put together a list of a list of Gentle Cinema, which he describes as "pleasant people doing pleasant things and there's not much drama and you just kind of feel lovely about the world".
posted by Harald74 (49 comments total) 149 users marked this as a favorite
'Only Yesterday' is basically stardew valley the movie, long before stardew valley existed. A++, highly recommend.
posted by kaibutsu at 11:32 PM on April 2 [1 favorite]

Oh man, this is the list for me! Thanks.

(Rilakkuma and Kaoru is a series of stop-motion shorts on Netflix that I think fits this bill as well)
posted by batter_my_heart at 11:51 PM on April 2 [2 favorites]

Two ciné buffs started a film society in our deeply rural neighbourhood about ten years ago. At the end of another challenging sub-titled film, they'd ask us how we found it. My stock response was "fine, interesting, but could we have more pink and fluffy?". A few years in, they showed Babette's Feast and had the brilliant idea to persuade local artisan foodies to supply munchies for the viewing, which started a Christmas tradition of foodie movies: Chocolat, The Lunch Box . . . Missing in inaction: My Dinner with André which is in this list. Thanks Harald74.
posted by BobTheScientist at 12:28 AM on April 3 [9 favorites]

Excellent list! I'd add the Big Year (theatrical version preferred), Local Hero, Lisbon Story, and maybe a Canterbury Tale.
posted by lefty lucky cat at 12:31 AM on April 3 [4 favorites]

Great list, but hard disagree on Brooklyn (such a powerful depiction of homesickness that I cried watching it, also Eilis is not "pleasant" though she is very very real)...

And Sense and Sensibility?? Is both full of unpleasant people and is profoundly dramatic. Eviction! Seduction! Secret engagements! Driving very fast in a curricle! Broken ankles (1), broken hearts (2), broken reputations (many). One character nearly dies of pneumonia, another nearly dies in a duel (offscreen).

Scenery's nice, though.
posted by basalganglia at 12:32 AM on April 3 [11 favorites]

Immediately jumped to check for Chef, aka The Man Who Had A Nice Time, and it's there!
posted by ominous_paws at 1:52 AM on April 3 [2 favorites]

Ponyo by Studio Ghibli could also fit the list, but maybe he felt that he'd already put enough Ghibli on there?

And I love the foodie movie tradition, BobTheScientist. I did something like that once a few years, with The Hobbit, and the kids still talk about it from time to time.
posted by Harald74 at 1:53 AM on April 3 [1 favorite]

Missing from the list (and the secondary, crowdsourced list, which strays off-target quite a bit) is Bill Forsyth, or at least Gregory's Girl, Local Hero and his beautiful adaptation of Housekeeping. As he's included After Life, I don't need to mention it, although it seems I have, but I'd also like to suggest Dean Spanley, as I usually do. It's probably more for the secondary, slightly off-beam, list, as it goes eccentric/eccentric/eccentric/emotionally devastating/happy ending. Hope that's not a spoiler. It's basically about inadvertent psychotherapy for a grumpy Edwardian gentleman, but through the medium of fortified wine and pet mediumship.

It's the list that I need at the moment, though, so thanks!

(Addendum - I see lefty lucky cat mentioned Local Hero. The Powell and Pressburger that I'd be tempted to add is I Know Where I'm Going.)
posted by Grangousier at 2:00 AM on April 3 [13 favorites]

Netflix should have a gentle category! Especially now.

Not a movie, but for gentle entertainment buffs, I would like to offer the BBC series Gardeners' World, which is the very definition of pleasant people doing pleasant things with not much drama and you just kind of feel lovely about the world.
posted by HotToddy at 2:23 AM on April 3 [9 favorites]

Would it surprise you if I told you the Japanese have a name for this? Iyashikei, aka "healing type" stories are a staple of anime,where you follow some pleasant people on their day to day business while nothing much seems to happen. They're meant to calm you and "heal" away the stresses of your own life.

Some examples: Flyng Witch, in which a witch apprentice moves in with her country side relatives to do her internship. The Aria series, about an apprentice gondelier in a reconstructed Venice on Mars. Girls' Last Tour: the end of the world happened long ago and now there are just these two girls with their kettenkrad touring its ruins looking for food. In a similar vein: Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou has a humanoid robot managing her master's coffeeshop and going on errants in a Japan only inhabitated by pensioners and mostly flooded by climate change. Natsume's Book of Friends: Natsume can see yokai/monsters and that has made him an outsider all his life. When he moves in with his elderly relatives in the countryside he discovers a book that belonged to his grandmother, who wrote down the names of the monsters she encountered and defeated. Natsume sets out to free these monsters and in the process learns to make friends. Kino's Journey : Kino and their sentient motor bike travel the world, visiting a new country/city state every couple of days, each of which has its own particularities.

Less fantastical, series like Non Non Biyori, set in the Japanese deep, deep country side and following the daily lives of a group of elementary and middle schoolers; their school only has one teacher and five students, their 'village' doesn't even have a convinience store. Amaama to Inazuma is highly recommened: widower learns to cook for his five year old daughter with the help of a high school student teaches whose mother is a professional chef. In Udon no Kuni no Kiniro Kemari on the other hand a web designer adopts a raccoon boy and reopens his family's ramen shop as a result.

As you might've guessed from the examples, a lot of these works have a melancholical tone to them. Bad things might have happened, either to the world or you in personal, but it's all in the past and your everyday life isn't so bad now. It's been argued that this genre came about as a reaction to the big crisises of the nineties in Japan: the nerve gas attack on the Tokyo Underground and the Kobe earthquake.
posted by MartinWisse at 3:08 AM on April 3 [64 favorites]

I just watched Local Hero for the first time earlier this week and thought it was perfect for this list! Even considered making a FanFare post about it.

Playtime, Monsieur Hulot's Holiday, and the rest of Tati's films are quintessential gentle cinema.

Despite Harvey Pekar's abrasiveness and ill humor there's something about American Splendor that always elicits warm feelings when I see it, though I doubt I'm in the majority there.
posted by theory at 3:09 AM on April 3 [7 favorites]

Linda Linda LindaIs low stakes but not for the characters, who are dealing with slightly exaggerated high school stuff. It’s a lovely sweet movie, though. Maybe Lost in Translation and In the Mood for Love?
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:10 AM on April 3 [2 favorites]

I find all Eric Rohmer movies fit this bill.
posted by vacapinta at 3:16 AM on April 3 [4 favorites]

Recent post and thematically adjacent list here on the Blue: Kind Movies.
posted by AlonzoMosleyFBI at 4:44 AM on April 3 [4 favorites]

Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter... and Spring seems an odd choice for a "not much drama" film list. The whole movie is about dealing with dramatic events in a Buddhist manner.

Paterson though... that's the antithesis to Speed. It's like Jarmusch locked up Chekov's gun and threw away the key. When there's finally a dramatic event, it's over in a minute and life goes on. I do enjoy it.
posted by WhackyparseThis at 5:37 AM on April 3 [2 favorites]

Martinwisse, I didn't know this type of anime had a name, now I'm tempted to search using that on 9anime. You should watch Laid Back Camp about a high school girls camping club and the only drama is that a couple of the girls also like solo camping. Also thanks for adding a couple I've missed.
posted by evilDoug at 6:06 AM on April 3

I was coming to mention Iyashikei anime, but MartinWisse beat me to it. TV Tropes has a decent list. This genre is probably 99.999% of all my TV viewing.

From that list, the ARIA series is probably my all-time favorite in this genre. Calm, relaxing, gentle. The OST (soundtrack) for each season is on constant repeat at my house.

Non Non Biyori just finished its third season, and I would also add Yuru Camp (Laid-back Camp) to the list. Volume 1 of the Laid-Back Camp manga is the image on the TV Tropes page, in fact. The second season of the anime just wrapped up.
posted by ralan at 6:06 AM on April 3 [3 favorites]

I really should rewatch Local Hero, I haven't seen it since sometime in the mid-90s when I had my mother rent it because it was the only film I knew of that featured Wedge Antilles himself, Denis Lawson.
posted by Strutter Cane - United Planets Stilt Patrol at 6:15 AM on April 3 [2 favorites]

The Taste of Tea includes death, gangsters, children being haunted by threatening ghosts, giant robots, harassment, and abuse, and somehow I still agree with its inclusion in this list.

Tampopo, though? Tampopo? Tampopo has a throwaway gag where an overburdened housewife rises from her deathbed to prepare one last meal when her husband demands dinner. Tampopo has a dude reciting a recipe to his lover as he bleeds out. Tampopo is fucking dark, people.
posted by phooky at 6:36 AM on April 3 [9 favorites]

Big Eden is another—a very sweet romance n a idyllic small town:
posted by Orlop at 6:56 AM on April 3 [1 favorite]

Just gonna pipe in to say Wayne Wang's Smoke would be an excellent addition to this list.
posted by wabbittwax at 7:25 AM on April 3 [1 favorite]

Ghost World, Crumb and Louie Bluie...
posted by y2karl at 7:51 AM on April 3

Oh, I really love some of these... Kedi and Paterson are just great. The Young Girls of Rochefort would be pure exuberant joy even if it didn't have Gene Kelly singing and dancing in French. There's already some Agnes Varda, but I'd add The Gleaners and I. And yes yes yes to Local Hero (the entire movie is surreptitiously on YouTube, search for "LH 1983"). Bill Forsyth's follow-up Comfort and Joy is similarly delightful (and also on YouTube).

I agree that Tampopo, although a fantastic movie, feels a little out of place in this list. Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter... and Spring shouldn't be here because multiple rape allegations against the director shouldn't make anyone "kind of feel lovely about the world."

August at Akiko's is a wonderful, subtly enchanting movie that would fit perfectly here. Seriously, find it and watch it. It's on Criterion Channel.
posted by oulipian at 8:36 AM on April 3 [4 favorites]

Clicked through looking for Good Morning, was not disappointed.

This list is exactly what I need right now.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 8:41 AM on April 3

My husband prefers movies with lots of explosions. After watching too many things blow up, I exasperatedly said something like "why can't we just watch a nice movie with nice people doing nice things??? Why must it be all it's bad! You're dead! It's bad! You're dead!"??? This has become a catchphrase in our house.

And now I have more movies to suggest when I get sick of all the stuff-blowing-up. Thanks 😊
posted by Gray Duck at 9:07 AM on April 3 [3 favorites]

Oh, this is a whole list of movies made just for me. I'm so happy.

I noped out of The Gleaners and I some years ago, but I am older and more mature and I hope more tender now, so I'll give it another go -- thank you for the reminder, oulipian.

Strangers in Good Company/The Company of Strangers
is an exquisite, soft, and gentle film that is mostly elders remembering their youth. It was made by the National Film Board of Canada, and is so soothing. I watched it as part of a class I took...jeez, about twenty years ago now. It looks like it's on something called Fandor, which you can currently only subscribe to through Prime, at least in the US? Anyway, if you can track down a way to watch it, it's wonderful.
posted by kalimac at 9:47 AM on April 3 [4 favorites]

As mentioned in the Kind Movies thread linked above

Lars and Real Girl
Under The Tuscan Sun
The Biggest Little Farm
posted by WalkerWestridge at 10:01 AM on April 3 [3 favorites]

Enchanted April and The Secret of Roan Inish are on this list, therefore it is a good list.
posted by merriment at 11:37 AM on April 3 [2 favorites]

Paris Can Wait has lovely cinematography but it’s a dull film made by the spouse of a successful director, which is the only reason it was made.
posted by Ideefixe at 11:40 AM on April 3

This is the list I needed but didn't know how to ask for! It's so comforting to know I am not alone in craving 'healing movies' and that it's a whole thing in Japanese culture! From the list, Stranger Than Paradise and The Station Agent are two of my favorite movies, although the people in both are deeply flawed.

I second the above recommendation of Canterbury Tales (one of my favorite high school English teachers played the American GI!). The only title I can think of to add is the BBC series The Detectorists which has gotten me through many stressful times.
posted by maggiemaggie at 11:40 AM on April 3 [1 favorite]

Too bad this one isn't subtitled, but 《那山、那人、那狗》/Postmen In The Mountains should totally be in the list too.
posted by of strange foe at 12:22 PM on April 3 [1 favorite]

Kiki’s Delivery Service is just the absolute sweetest film and my 10-year-old, super hyper Ninja-obsessed son requests to watch it often. I think it soothes him (me too!).

And I agree, Taste of Tea is rated R for good reasons and it is still such a gentle and sweet film. One of my favorites.
posted by Doleful Creature at 2:18 PM on April 3 [2 favorites]

Surprised that Local Hero isn't on this list. It's such a "nothing really happens" movie I was actually a little confused at the end.
posted by zardoz at 2:18 PM on April 3 [2 favorites]

As someone who has asked for this very thing not just once but twice on AskMe, I am beyond delighted to see this list.

I figured I would have seen pretty much all of them, but I clicked through anyway. To my very happy surprise, I have NOT seem most of them, so this gives me a LOT of wonderful movies to look forward to!

I am even more pleased at the additional lists posted by commenters - thank you, BobTheScientist, Grangousier, AlonzoMosleyFBI, and ralan for those links. And MartinWisse, thank you for the info about iyashikei, which is a term I shall be learning and using extensively in search engines.

This is a lovely list, and a lovely set of discussions, and I am most grateful. Thank you for sharing this with us, Harald74!
posted by kristi at 2:18 PM on April 3 [1 favorite]

The Straight Story, David Lynch's only G-rated movie, would be on my version of this list. It's a wonderfully gentle gem.
posted by mediareport at 2:29 PM on April 3 [1 favorite]

Tampopo is fucking dark, people.

I'm not sure that rules a film out. I immediately thought of Christmas in August, one of the first Korean films I ever watched, which is... romantic, but also really sad (and a little fucked up). It's very quiet and gentle and melancholy, and I think it fits the bill, because it left me satisfied at the end without demanding anything particularly great of me except my attention.
posted by GenjiandProust at 2:56 PM on April 3 [1 favorite]

Kalimac, I saw Strangers In Good Company decades ago. I think I taped it on my VCR. It would probably be even more poignant now that I'm one of The Olds myself.

And I've always thought that Babette's Feast was one of the most moving pictures I've ever seen. Gentle and poignant. I love that move.
posted by Archer25 at 5:03 PM on April 3 [3 favorites]

The Straight Story, David Lynch's only G-rated movie, would be on my version of this list

It is on the list!
posted by oulipian at 5:12 PM on April 3

I missed that appropriately understated poster! Just finished rewatching it moments ago and it's as good as I remembered, a slowly unfolding, episodic road trip story with some beautiful emotional moments throughout. The final scene is just perfect, as is the powerful scene with two veterans. Just a gorgeous, human little film, one of my faves from Lynch. (Edited to add that Richard Farnsworth's performance fully deserved its Academy Award nomination.)
posted by mediareport at 7:02 PM on April 3

Our library has a shelf dedicated to "gentle fiction."
posted by mecran01 at 8:13 PM on April 3 [1 favorite]

While it's mostly streaming rather than cinema, we've been mining this Askme for kind TV, and it's been wonderful. And there's a new season of pottery throwdown out!
posted by SunSnork at 8:26 PM on April 3

If one were to think about "gentle cinema" as a genre, it's a fascinating one. In its fictional form it tends to center around the maintenance of order, whether social or cosmic, and focuses more on the so-called "feminine" virtues, cooperation as opposed to competition, passive as opposed to aggressive strength, shared existence as opposed to individualism, and harmony as opposed to dissonance.

While the general tendency may be in the upholding of some part of the status quo, that doesn't mean the movies can't still be critical of the social order, which is what some of the "darker" gentle movies tend to emphasize, acquiescence without necessarily celebrating the way things are. This can be done lightly, as with Tati, or in a more suggestively challenging manner as with Ozu. Tati satirizes the status quo, the ridiculousness of some of our customs and designs, while Ozu dramatizes the effects those customs may have without explicit challenge. A movie like Housekeeping shows the maintenance of order by the acceptance of living outside the bounds of convention, the order maintained by withdrawal from the group.

Another common theme is the reintegration of an outsider into the fold, someone who once may have been anathema to the social order finds a path to regaining acceptance within it, Takeshi Kitano's former Yakuza member turned "big brother" to a child in Kikujiro is an example of that, but it takes a more usual form in movies like About a Boy, where a cynical or irresponsible type learns to grow through interaction with a child or crush, like the so-called magical pixie dream girl type films (though I'm not entirely keen on the broad brush used in that designation.)

In the same vein, there are a variety of gentle love stories where the would-be couple are kept apart due to some light follies of age and attitude that they learn to overcome, or that is just overcome by the development of their relationship within the context of the larger social order. The Doris Day film On Moonlight Bay is an excellent example of this, where the young couple challenges the social order at all turns, denying the validity of marriage, championing communism, refusing to accept gender roles, but over time find themselves drawn in to the American values of a stable society and come to take their place among the adults who they once criticized. (The charm is in seeing the earlier values as the truer ones and the loss of those values as the real story of the American way, but that's just my take.)

A similar sense pervades a number of movies set in the "recent" past, throughout movie history, where the appeal of nostalgia is used as a way to both summon a more pleasant imagined/real past and to lightly satirize that belief by showing the foibles of that age's values while also suggesting their continuance. Something like Life with Father as well as On Moonlight Bay does this, Young Girls of Rochefort or Umbrellas of Cherbourg sort of suggests it by using the form of the musical to suggest a set of values the story then undercuts to some degree. That's not uncommon for musicals, the pleasant exterior of song and dance alternatingly concealing and revealing something darker beneath the surface.

Children observing the adult world is a sometimes feature of this "genre" but even more is the films about old age, where its the "cosmic order that the characters have to come to terms with and, eventually, learn to accept as the way of the universe. There are a number of examples of that on the list, along with a few religious or quasi-religious examples, of a similar cosmic acceptance. These kinds of films reoccur regularly throughout the history of movies, think of a movie like Cocoon, for example, and they are often charming but of course limited like so many of the other kinds of films within the "genre" as suggesting acceptance is ideal when fighting against the dying of the light or the more reasonably attacked social injustices has its place too. But I'm not gonna argue against the genre for that since there is need for films that have a different tone than the usual heroic individual battling baddies type. Compassion is necessary, even if sometimes misapplied by not seeing the fullness of its needed scope.

There's a lot of movies I'd like to mention something about that might fit this concept, but as the linked list contains some I'm not too keen on, it's still obviously a matter of some personal preference involved, which is fine, but, still I'll leave off from nattering on further about other stuff for now.
posted by gusottertrout at 3:12 AM on April 4 [5 favorites]

I would add Pranzo di ferragosto and Lazzaro felice to this list, though I guess they’re full of people at odds with each other. But they made me feel warm and full of love throughout. And full of tears, too. Wonderful tears.

Actually, maybe they don’t belong on this list. But since so many on it don’t either, this is a start.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 4:57 AM on April 4 [1 favorite]

Oops, missed one important variation, the strangers come to town, characters take a vacation or journey, or find new surroundings theme, where order is momentarily spun off-kilter, as a way for the characters to grow or learn something new about themselves they might take away from their temporary adventures. Enchanted April is one example from the list, but you could add things like the Hayley Mills, Burl Ives Disney movie Summer Magic, Three Men in a Boat, The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill but Came Down a Mountain, Roman Holiday, How Stella Got Her Groove Back, or State Fair.
posted by gusottertrout at 5:31 AM on April 4 [1 favorite]

I strongly disagree about Kino's Journey being gentle. It is profoundly sad and sometimes violent. The quiet animation and music belie a show that is often about the terrible things people do to themselves and each other.
posted by schroedinger at 5:39 AM on April 4 [1 favorite]

Departures is an extraordinary, quiet Japanese film about a musician who takes a job in the funeral trade which I cannot recommend enough.
posted by kinnakeet at 7:00 AM on April 4 [4 favorites]

I am delighted with this thread. I've watched Rilakkuma and Kaoru 3 times through and was a tad embarrassed about it, but it was so soothing. And Lars and the Real Girl is a family favorite! I admit to sniffling with the "flowers on the porch" scene.
posted by Sweet Dee Kat at 8:35 AM on April 4 [1 favorite]

I’d like to suggest Être et avoir as a charming addition.
posted by Joeruckus at 1:25 AM on April 6

Love to see Detectorists on here, which was a series written specifically to evoke the "gentle" genre of English comedy. I'd add Napoleon Dynamite to the list, as well. Sense and Sensibility is the wrong Austen; you want P+P (the series) or Persuasion (the 1995 film with Ciaran Hinds). And I am apparently the only person I know of who was upset by Babette's Feast, which was to me a movie about women forced to waste their gifts on the smallest arenas available to them. Mileage may vary as the saying goes.
posted by jokeefe at 12:55 PM on April 6

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