With a seemingly endless amount of streaming options—not only the titles at our disposal, but services themselves–each week we highlight the noteworthy titles that have recently hit platforms. Check out this week’s selections below and past round-ups here.
Awaken (Tom Lowe)
Capturing the awe-inspiring wonders of our world has been an endeavor since the dawn of image-making, and with ever-evolving advancements in technology there’s an unparalleled pristineness in one’s ability to record such beauty. In his feature debut Awaken, director Tom Lowe takes this pursuit to heart, traversing the planet with the eye of a treasure hunter, collecting only the most stunning shots imaginable to convey the splendor of where we all collectively call home. The film’s main calling card––being executive produced by Terrence Malick and Godfrey Reggio––inevitably also sets a perhaps unfairly high bar as the film falls short of achieving the masterful rhythm and level of insightful connection between humanity, nature, and technology found in its clear inspirations. However, as a sensory experience, there’s still plenty of wonder worth beholding across its rather brief 75-minute runtime. – Jordan R. (full review)
Where to Stream: VOD
La Commune (Paris, 1871) (Peter Watkins)
Don’t let the daunting, nearly six-hour runtime of Peter Watkins’ 2000 historical re-enactment film La Commune dissuade you from giving it a watch––now available for the first time ever on a streaming platform thanks to OVID.tv. With its approachable, anachronistic conceit of a television crew reporting from on the ground, Watkins leaves no stone unturned when it comes to recreating the brief, but historic coup of a revolutionary socialist government in Paris. Accompanied by on-screen text that guides us through the many moving parts of the events, the director also puts a vital focus on the women that banded together to fight the oppressive working conditions of the time. Remarkably, for being one of the longest films ever made, its production only took 13 days after many months of preparation––and much of the film’s power lies in this mode of off-the-cuff, free-form reactions that are still grounded in historical accuracy. If you’re looking for just a taste of the experience, a still-substantial 3.5-hour cut made for theaters is also streaming. – Jordan R.
Where to Stream: OVID.tv
Giants Being Lonely (Grear Patterson)
The final days of suburban American high school provide the backdrop to Giants Being Lonely, a box-fresh cut of expressionistic filmmaking from debut writer-director Grear Patterson, a visual artist whose work to date has focused on a kind of post-modern Americana–a stylistic background that translates efficiently to the screen. Produced by Olmo Schnabel (son of Julian, and paying the bills) and shot beautifully by Patterson himself, Giants tells of a love triangle between three of the school’s students: the gifted pitcher of the baseball team, his coach’s less talented son, and a relatively affluent girl in their class. – Rory O. (full review)
Where to Stream: VOD
Malmkrog (Cristi Puiu)
In Malmkrog, a group of Russian aristocrats gather in a grand rural estate to wax philosophical during a long and luxurious dinner party. The film offers seemingly the closest thing to a direct screen staging of Russian philosopher Vladimir Solovyov’s War and Christianity: The Three Conversations. At 200 minutes, it runs just a few breaths short of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey but seldom ever leaves the confines of the decadent surrounding–indeed, the majority takes place in just three rooms. – Rory O. (full review)
Mayor (David Osit)
The reign of bigotry and terror from Donald Trump and his administration can often take the form of a myopic view for those in the United States, witnessing on a daily basis how the soon-to-be-ousted leader is further corroding the sharp political divide in his own country. However, the reverberations of his decisions, of course, have a global impact, and David Osit’s riveting new documentary Mayor shows how the President’s heedless actions have exacerbated long-held strife in Ramallah, the Palestinian city in the central West Bank located mere miles from Jerusalem. The ”city in transition” is led by Musa Hadid, a humble Christian mayor who deeply empathizes with his community as they are controlled by the Israelis and surrounded by their encroaching settlements. The threat against their livelihood reaches more peril when Trump officially declares Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in 2017, leaving Palestinians attempting to survive without a place to truly call home. – Jordan R. (full review)
Where to Stream: The Criterion Channel
Prismatic Ground Film Festival
Founded and directed by Inney Prakash, a new film festival focusing on experimental documentaries is now underway through April 18. Accessible for free worldwide, Prismatic Ground features over 80 films, including Bill and Turner Ross’ unreleased documentary capturing the production of Wendy, a 16mm short by Small Axe cinematographer Shabier Kirchner, plus work by Christopher Makoto Yogi, Ben Rivers, Lynne Sachs, Anita Thacher, and much, much more.
Where to Stream: Official Site
Pulse (Kiyoshi Kurosawa)
Cinema can and should encapsulate multitudes, of course, so forgive whatever reductionism might ring when I suggest watching Kiyoshi Kurosawa is to experience filmmaking in totality: the use, intent, and effect of mise-en-scène; the privilege of seeing decisions made in rhythmic, shot-to-shot terms; the push-pull between delineating and concealing narrative information; and how each, separately or together or more often somewhere in-between, shape a film. Pulse is perhaps his best-known film, the one through which a career of 40-plus features is most often compacted. A work so sui generis in atmosphere, texture, and evocation—okay, I’ll admit, a film so scary—leaves little wonder why. If certain of Pulse‘s Internet-driven thrills have aged, it’s not poorly; most days I think we can only witness this vision of connectivity-driven madness come true. — Nick N.
Where to Stream: Amazon Prime
Quo vadis, Aida? (Jasmila Zbanic)
Some stories don’t leave room for a hero even if they provide ample opportunity for one to enter. And when it comes to the 1995 Bosnian genocide that occurred in the town of Srebrenica at the hands of the Serbian army, there’s hardly room for hope let alone saviors. With over eight thousand men murdered while the UN and the world looked on, what is truly left but mourning and memorial? What is there to say besides the truth of its horrors so that those who were blind and/or ignorant to these people’s plight can begin to understand? That’s ultimately writer/director Jasmila Zbanic’s goal with Quo vadis, Aida? as someone who knows all too well having survived a siege on Sarajevo. Mankind cannot afford to forget. – Jared M. (full review)
Where to Stream: Hulu
Slalom (Charlène Favier)
A chilling, controlled pressure cooker of a film, Charlène Favier’s Slalom brings attentive nuance to a story of psychological and sexual abuse. Set amongst the slopes of the French alps, the Cannes-selected drama centers on Lyz Lopez (Noée Abita), a 15-year-old skiing prodigy whose life is more or less controlled by her callous instructor Fred (Jérémie Renier). With his predatory advances shrouded and twisted in the mutual desire for competitive success and filtered through the young girl’s initial intrigue, Favier expertly delves into the psychological prison that soon becomes her daily existence. Far from a one-note #MeToo message movie, Slalom brings a poignant sense of restraint with fleshed-out characters for a thoroughly unnerving experience. – Jordan R. (full review)
Where to Stream: Virtual Cinemas
Smooth Talk (Joyce Chopra)
One of the great, perhaps overlooked movies of the ’80s, Joyce Chopra’s Smooth Talk is poised to be rediscovered with a new 4K restoration. Starring Laura Dern––in one of her earliest, most impressive roles––Smooth Talk is based on a Joyce Carol Oates short story about a young girl who comes into the orbit of a mysterious, dangerous older man (Treat Williams). As Dern’s Connie becomes more and more entangled with this strange man, Smooth Talk becomes an unforgettable commentary on sexual politics and a young woman’s coming of age. – Stephen H.
Where to Stream: The Criterion Channel
Suburban Birds (Qiu Sheng)
Something is causing the ground to shift underneath a new Chinese suburb in writer-director Qiu Sheng’s intriguing, adept debut feature. High-rise towers are listing to the side, and residents are being evacuated. As Suburban Birds begins, a team of engineers is on-site to investigate the cause—ideally quickly, without disrupting the planned subway tunneling, so that this little part of China’s development boom can proceed. Make way for tomorrow! It’s left to Qiu to survey the restless earth around the foundations of the future, via a subtle structural gambit that marks his voice as one worth listening to. – Mark A. (full review)
A Summer’s Tale (Éric Rohmer)
Summer’s here, sun’s out, beaches alight, and love—or something striving for same—hangs in the air. The liveliest (read: horniest) in Eric Rohmer’s Tales of the Four Seasons, A Summer’s Tale perfectly paints its ostensible hero Gaspard (Melvil Poupaud) into a moral, intellectual, and sexual corner. Three women with varying interests and desires, one man unsure what he wants; if any writer worth their weight could make something of that, all the more credit to Rohmer for never sitting still. Its plays with time are more clever than any single incident lets on (note the days Gaspard’s alone and those he’s not), its structure more fluid than Rohmer usually gets (when Summer switches gears to a new love interest right around its halfway point I could literally see Hong Sang-soo being born in the corner), and these synthesize so effectively that, come film’s end, Gaspard’s journey goes from enviable jaunt to near-tragic lesson in life’s disappointments. All the while the sun never stops shining. — Nick N.
Where to Stream: Virtual Cinemas
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