As Takoma Park’s beloved-but-broke Video Americain kicked off its final weeks by selling off its more than 30,000 DVDs to mournful buyers, film scholars and store owners Barry and Annie Solan chatted with The Washington Post about their top five favorite movies.
The couple said recommending films to customers was one of their favorite parts of owning the independent video store.
From classic Hollywood black -and-white movies to coming-of-age dramas, to romantic comedies, here are their picks:
Annie Solan's top five movies:
1. “Days of Heaven,” the 1978 romantic drama. “He’s a very visual director,” said Annie of Terence Malick. “He also uses music and ambient sound really well. It’s a visual poem.”
2. “Casablanca,” the 1942 Humphrey Bogart classic, which Annie said is “a seminal film that we just love. And we named the store after a neon sign in the movie that says Rick’s Cafe Americain.”
3. Anything by director Werner Herzog, “It’s his unique vision and visual style. He’s created visuals that have burned into my brain, like the last scene in the ‘Aguirre, the Wrath of God,’ which shows how greed and obsession create madness.”
4. “The Gleaners and I,” a 2000 French documentary. “Agnès Varda is a director I really love,” said Annie. “She was almost 80 when she made this. And she’s one of the few female New Wave directors who really changed French filmmaking. It’s a perfect essay and it really moved me.”
5. “The Playboys,” a 1992 Irish movie staring Aidan Quinn and Robin Wright. “It’s so unkown, but I just love this film,” Annie said. “I’m a sucker for Aidan Quinn and its so beautiful and romantic, it’s not fluff, but yet it has some really nice fluff going on. I inevitably watch it a few times a year.”
Barry Solan's top five movies:
1. “Some Like it Hot,” the 1959 Billy Wilder comedy staring Marylin Monroe. “It’s a perfectly constructed film. I don’t know if there’s one line in it that doesn’t work. It was way ahead of its time — it’s actually been screened at LGBT film festivals,” Barry said.
2. “The Producers,” Mel Brooks’ 1968 version. “It’s about the unstopablity of love,” Barry said. “It portrayed older ladies as having lust and that was really unusal at the time. It was considered too dark at the time, but it was later considered a masterpiece.”
3. “Local Hero,” the 1983 Bill Forsyth comedy. “It’s a film that transports you to a world where people have foibles and quirks, yet no one is a bad person and they are all so idiosyncratic,” Barry said. “It transports you into a tranquil state, a magical feeling much like when you drive into Takoma Park and some of the harsher realities of life are not there.”
4. “Melvin and Howard,” the 1980 Jonathan Demme comedy. “A perfect portrait of the American dream, amongst those who are never going to reach it.”
5. “Babe,” “[the 1995 Chris Noonan film] has great spirit. But it’s also one of those wonderful films that no matter what point of life you are at there’s something very meaningful for you,” Barry said. “It’s about a pig, yes, but its really about mortality and finding one’s place in the universe because Babe was not willing to accept his role as food.”