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Warm Up Over Winter Break with These Feel-Good Films

All the movies below are free to stream through SVA Library.

December 16, 2020 by Phoebe Stein and Shea'la Finch
Three movie posters side by side: Left is "Girlhood" (2014), Middle is "The Umbrellas of Cherbourg" (1964) and Right is "Emma" (2020)

As winter settles in and the semester comes to a close, SVA Library has curated a selection of feel-good films currently streaming for free on Kanopy and Swank, to add some warmth to your winter break. Unlikely allies, intergenerational bonds and lifelong camaraderie all feature here—along with strong doses of hijinks, song and good cheer.

Amélie (2001)

This beloved romantic comedy from Jean-Pierre Jeunet (Delicatessen, The City of Lost Children) follows Amélie Poulain, a café waitress in Montmartre who designs to positively change the lives of those around her through small but consequential gestures. The quirky cast of characters and vibrant cinematography provide cinematic escape to this whimsical version of Paris.

Emma (2020)

Autumn de Wilde’s 2020 adaptation of Jane Austen’s novel is a delightful period romantic comedy about Emma Woodhouse’s match-making antics in Regency-era society. The costumes are lush and the colors pop against scenes set in genteel English estates.

Faces Places (2017)

Agnès Varda and JR, two genre-transcending French artists with a passion for documenting their country and its people, team up to tour the countryside and create innovative portraiture in honor of the people they meet along the way. Enjoy watching the two artists challenge methods of representation while challenging each other (and taking a detour to Jean-Luc Godard’s house).

Girlhood (2014)

In Céline Sciamma’s coming-of-age French drama set in the projects of Paris, Marieme joins a gang of free-spirited girls, propelled by an abusive family situation and the “boy’s law” in the neighborhood. Realizing this lifestyle won’t lead to the freedom she truly desires, Marieme takes matters into her own hands.

Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016)

From director Taika Waititi (JoJo Rabbit, What We Do in the Shadows)?, Hunt for the Wilderpeople follows the exploits of an endearingly irreverent foster child and his cantankerous caretaker as they take to the New Zealand bush to avoid arrest for crimes they didn’t commit. Think: absurd wit, wild boar and great accents.

Monsieur Hulot’s Holiday (1953)

Take a vacation in the French seaside with the well-intentioned but mishap-prone Monsieur Hulot. Legendary Jacques Tati embodies the oblivious Hulot with a deadpan grace and a comedic timing that allows the absurdity of everyday life to unfold around him. The lasting influence of Tati abounds even today in shows like HBO’s Los Espookys and the films of Elia Suleiman.

Tampopo (1985)

Japan’s first “ramen western” takes place in a decrepit roadside ramen shop where two truck drivers, Gorō and Gun, take it upon themselves to help the widowed owner, Lai Lai, turn her shop into a paragon of the “art of noodle soup making.” With the help of an unlikely band of characters, Lai Lai achieves great success.

The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964)

A struggling umbrella boutique. Young lovers parted by war. A set designed in colors of candy-pastels as vibrant as Kodachrome film. In sum, the perfect equation for a musical. Created in the wake of the French New Wave, you may wonder how much is sincere—or a send-up—of the genre, but in either case, it’s bound to tug your heartstrings and captivate. 


Written by SVA’s digital services librarian Phoebe Stein and west-side librarian Shea’la Finch.

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