Each week we highlight the noteworthy titles that have recently hit streaming platforms in the United States. Check out this week’s selections below and past round-ups here.
Burning (Lee Chang-dong)
After Poetry, it makes sense that Lee Chang-dong would find himself interested in deconstructing another literary genre: the murder mystery. Adapting Haruki Murakami’s short story “Barn Burning” for the screen, the South Korean master has created something that feels akin to a real page turner, with each cut, the tensions, and the mystery rise as we become desperate to know whatever happened to Shin Hae-mi (Jeon Jong-seo), the young woman who went missing, leaving her childhood friend Lee Jong-su (Yoo Ah-in) searching for her. With pulpy characters, including a delicious Steven Yeun as a mysterious Gatsby-like figure, and a dark sense of humor, the film also serves as a study of class and the way in which the lives of the have-nots become cute anecdotes for the haves. Like in the greatest literature, the filmmaker allows for sumptuous moments in which the images wash over us in the same way we revisit our favorite passages in books we love. – Jose S.
Cha Cha Real Smooth (Cooper Raiff)
It’s not exactly cool to be the nice guy these days, but Cooper Raiff is making a good case for them again. In each of the 24-year-old’s first two movies, his sensible zoomer characters have the gift of being goofy, innocent, and naive. They wear their kind and confident hearts on their sleeves, even if they often breach the comfortable boundaries of social norms. Mostly they are empathetic, rid of the toxicity that makes vulnerable young men—and the movies they star in—sour and one-dimensional. That this young and perceptive writer-director is so emotionally honest only elevates the entirety of his humble, charming, crowd-pleasing work. – Jake K. (full review)
Where to Stream: Apple TV+
Chameleon Street (Wendell B. Harris Jr.)
“If you want to get a great production deal in Hollywood, all you have to do is be Black, male, and NOT Wendell Harris.” This sentiment was used as a running joke throughout Hollywood in the early 1990s, a representation of the attitude the industry held for filmmaker Wendell B. Harris Jr. after the release of his debut film, Chameleon Street. Unlike many who land in “director’s jail”, however, Chameleon Street wasn’t a big-budget flop or critical disaster. Winning the Grand Jury Prize at the 1990 Sundance Film Festival, it seemed like the sky was the limit for the film and Harris Jr.’s career. Instead, he struggled to find distribution, eventually getting a deal from Warner Bros. for a quarter-million dollars so that they could have the remake rights for a remake that never happened. Continue reading Mitchell Beaupre’s interview.
Where to Stream: The Criterion Channel
Clytaemnestra (Ougie Pak)
Greek tragedy echos through the modern-day Korean #MeToo movement in Ougie Pak’s Clytaemnestra. Made on the fly at an acting workshop in Greece, the film follows an actress as she struggles with the text of Agamemnon and against her domineering director, exploring power dynamics and the artistic process. Though very slight indeed, the film plays a bit like a more on-the-nose version of one of Hong Sang-soo’s sequentially shot explorations of sexist microaggressions and meta-cinematic reflexivity. – Mark A. (full review)
First Love (A.J. Edwards)
Following The Better Angels and Age Out, A.J. Edwards’ third feature, First Love, is both a tender tale of blossoming romance and a nuanced depiction of the pride and human frailties that can disrupt a decades-long bond. The writer-director, who got his start working with Terrence Malick on The Tree of Life, The New World, To the Wonder, Knight of Cups, and Song to Song, displays an immense amount of grace in this recession-era portrait of family and romance.
Where to Stream: VOD
Good Luck to You, Leo Grande (Sophie Hyde)
Some films just seem easy to make. This is a compliment—nothing back-handed about it. Good Luck to You, Leo Grande is one such example. As written by Katy Brand and directed by Sophie Hyde, every minute feels extremely natural. Emma Thompson and Daryl McCormack star as Nancy Stokes and Leo Grande, respectively. The latter is a stunningly (stunningly) handsome sex worker. The former is a retired, widowed teacher determined to discover a sex life that got buried under thirty years of polite, repressed marriage. – Dan M. (full review)
Where to Stream: Hulu
One of the great observers of life during wartime, director Humphrey Jennings captured WWII-era Britain through a series of propaganda films that brought wit and poeticism, finding humanity in the unprecedented struggles of the time. With six films now playing on OVID.tv, Listen to Britain, Fires Were Started, and A Diary for Timothy are all essential starting points.
Where to Stream: OVID.tv
Janine (Cheryl Dunye)
For Pride month, Le Cinéma Club present this early short by New Queer Wave icon Cheryl Dunye (The Watermelon Woman). Turning the camera on herself for the first time—a technique she would later become known for—Dunye reflects on her experience as a closeted Black lesbian having feelings for a conservative white girl at her Philadelphia high school. In a candid and touching confession, Dunye spins feelings of teenaged heartbreak into a gesture of power.
Where to Stream: Le Cinéma Club
Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom (Pawo Choyning Dorji)
Raised by his grandmother after his parents’ deaths, Ugyen (Sherab Dorji) is considered lucky by his friends. He became a teacher and is just one year away from finishing his mandatory government contract, yet the thing he’s discovered most during that time is the unfortunate truth that his heart isn’t in it. So while he’ll complete his tenure, his dream of immigrating to Australia to pursue a singing career is all that’s on his mind. And everyone knows it—including his boss. As punishment for his constant tardiness and obvious disinterest, she declares that his final posting will be at the so-called “most remote school in the world.” At almost twice the elevation of Bhutanese capital city Thimphu and an eight-day hike from the nearest town, Lunana awaits. – Jared M. (full review)
Where to Stream: Netflix
Lux Æterna (Gaspar Noé)
While he seems to have entered a new level of acclaim as of late, to put it lightly, I haven’t been impressed with a Gaspar Noé film in well over a decade. At the very least, his 50-minute film Lux Æterna goes down easier than his recent features. Starring Béatrice Dalle and Charlotte Gainsbourg in the story of a film shoot gone mad, Noé’s inane writing thankfully eventually gets drowned out in a wordless sea of vibrant avant-garde spectacle that contains more feeling than the entirety of Love, Climax, and Vortex.
Where to Stream: VOD
Mad God (Phil Tippett)
In Mad God, a character called “The Last Man” (played by the great Repo Man director Alex Cox) runs a laboratory sending miniature explorers into the bowels of a layered Dantean hell that might be a reflection of his own psyche––or more likely still: that of the filmmaker. The man in question is Phil Tippett, a legendary Hollywood special effects guru, two-time Oscar winner, and Ray Harryhausen disciple whose eye-watering résumé reads like a highlight reel of 21st-century pop culture ephemera: designing the Cantina masks, AT-ATs, and Jabba the Hutt for George Lucas; being credited as “Dinosaur Supervisor” on Jurassic Park; and animating everything from the holochess set on the Millennium Falcon to the ED-209 in Robocop and the swarming hoards of bugs in Starship Troopers. What a life. – Rory O. (full review)
Where to Stream: Shudder
Saturday Fiction (Lou Ye)
A filmmaker perhaps too prolific for his own good, Lou Ye takes his latest spin ‘round the festival circuit with Saturday Fiction, a movie stuffed to bursting with sumptuous movie-movie atmosphere, the swoony charge of ideas about art, love, and espionage, and good-enough storytelling solutions. – Mark A. (full review)
Where to Stream: VOD
Spiderhead (Joseph Kosinski)
Based on a New Yorker short story, Spiderhead has the low-stakes but high-concept feeling of something probably closer to an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation than sci-fi blockbuster. Coming from Joseph Kosinski, a director who can be praised for making pivots of some kind with every new film, it allows his architectural sensibilities the opportunity to run wild on a large set, but is if anything a dialogue-heavy story that’s told strategically through screens, buttons, vials, and volume bars. It’s far from the genuinely awe-inducing spectacle of Top Gun: Maverick or garish cartoon world of Tron: Legacy—almost closer to an exercise in semiotics. – Ethan V. (full review)
Where to Stream: Netflix
Support the Girls (Andrew Bujalski)
It seems everyone is working two or three jobs these days to make up for the widening gap in wealth inequality for millennials. All the wealth in the entire world is tumbling from the sky into the large pockets of the same five or six men who control the biggest companies in the world. In the end it won’t rightly save anybody. We all live and die and these days we all work crappy jobs. The American dream is long-dead and been replaced with American exhaustion, and Andrew Bujalski’s film is on the pulse of that very idea. That he manages to create something that is so full of life and celebration amid the decaying reality of an entire society of low-income class employees is something of a miracle. When all that’s left at the end of the day is a shrinking check and more bills all you can do is scream. It won’t make things better, but it can’t hurt. – Willow M.
Where to Stream: Tubi
To the Ends of the Earth (Kiyoshi Kurosawa)
Six years after his 2013 Seventh Code, Kurosawa leaves his familiar Tokyo grounds to embark on his second feature outside Japan, again with singer-cum-actress Atsuko Maeda as lead, only this time the setting isn’t Vladivostok, Russia, but the sprawling prairies of Uzbekistan, and the film doesn’t unfurl as a thriller, but a resolutely low-key, unassuming charmer, an intimate portrait of someone thrown into a foreign land and struggling to find her bearings back. – Leonardo G. (full review)
Where to Stream: Tubi
The Wolf of Wall Street (Martin Scorsese)
Leonardo DiCaprio gives his best performance as one of cinema’s great irredeemable assholes, a Quaalude-popping destroyer who, in some ways, feels like the ultimate American businessman. When Wolf finally comes to a close, at nearly the three-hour-marker, this feeling crystallizes. We watch a post-prison Belfort work his magic to a new group of wannabes, and as Scorsese’s camera lingers on their wide-eyed expressions, realize why this film, the director’s later-period classic, is so important: because it captures the allure of money and power in a manner that feels fresh, vital, and now. Everyone involved—Scorsese, DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Thelma Schoonmaker—are at the top of their game. And the result is a film that will feel as relevant in 20 years as Goodfellas does today. What filmgoer could have hoped for more? – Chris S.
Where to Stream: Amazon Prime
The Worst Person in the World (Joachim Trier)
Opening on a golden shot of Oslo, with Cannes Best Actress winner Renate Reinsve filling the center of the screen as late-20s Julie, Joachim Trier’s The Worst Person in the World thrives on the messiness of young adulthood. Trier finds understanding within moments of overwhelming feeling, impulsion brought on by the idea of stasis—a criminal idea to those, like Julie, who don’t have it all figured out. The Norwegian director celebrates that chaos. Her love burns bright and burns out, sequences of time stopping and hallucinogenic trips—along with naturalistic chapters watching the passing moments within someone’s life, like a weekend getaway, work party, or parent’s inaction. A world-class Reinsve holds it all together with some help from an outstanding Anders Danielsen Lie, bringing lightness and solemnity to every breath, balancing this romantic comedy with a genuine, reflective performance amidst Trier’s most accessible work. – Michael F.
Where to Stream: Hulu
Also New to Streaming
MUBI (free for 30 days)