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.

Babylon (Damien Chazelle)

Those seeking an insightful exploration of cinema history in Hollywood’s Golden Age or a nuanced, affecting character study on the lives within this early era will mostly like be disappointed by Damien Chazelle’s latest. Babylon is a brash, bombastic, unwieldy comic opera conveyed with enough bad taste and directorial panache that it—refreshingly—registers as a refutation of the well-mannered prestige drama to which these kinds of nostalgic odes often conform. And while there’s a touch of wistfulness in regards to the communal power of big-screen cinema, the film is more defined by an acidic unsentimentality, both when it comes to its characters and the precarious world they inhabit. Capturing the mad, violent clash of high and low art during a period of upheaval in a fledgling industry that has no consideration for basic morality (much less the safety of its workforce), Chazelle’s indulgent, rollicking vision of the birth of sound pictures eventually evolves into an audaciously bold omen of the medium’s uncertain future. – Jordan R. (full review)

Where to Stream: Prime Video

Il Buco (Michelangelo Frammartino)

With Il Buco, Michelangelo Frammartino returns to the Calabrian countryside 12 years after Le Quattro Volte. Oscillating between a shepherd slowly dying and a nearby cave-diving expedition, Frammartino and cinematographer Renata Berta capture the movement inside their static frames with elegance. A soccer ball is kicked back and forth over the cave entrance, upping the stakes of an errant kick, burning magazine pages float down into the darkness illuminating the cave depths for the explorers and the audience—Il Buco is an experiential ode to death as the final frontier. – Caleb H.

Where to Stream: MUBI (free for 30 days)

The Cow Who Sang a Song Into the Future (Francisca Alegria)

Chilean filmmaker Francisca Alegria’s The Cow Who Sang a Song Into the Future opens on pensive shots of the river and its inhabitants, most of whom are dead. As the dying and already passed fish sing a song of sadness, a woman, motorcycle helmet in tow, rises from the water. She walks aimlessly, hopping on a local bus and appearing outside a story, scaring her ex-husband into enough anxiety to land him in the hospital. The next 90 minutes of Alegria’s meditative drama exist largely in silence or one-sided conversation––people confronting their past like a monster that grows with each passing day. – Michael F. (full review)

Where to Stream: VOD

The Deepest Breath (Laura McGann)

From the very beginning of The Deepest Breath, you know exactly what kind of documentary you’re in for. In the back of a car, director Laura McGann aims her camera at free-diver Alessia Zecchini and asks her a loaded question: “How do you think about death?” As you’ll later find out, Zecchini is in the midst of a global competition to swim deeper in one breath than anyone has ever done before. But the question is valid––especially when McGann cuts to the serene, crystal-blue footage of Zecchini paddling into the depths of the ocean. The camera follows her descent and subsequent sprint to the surface, where her brain loses function right before breaching; her eyes roll back while safety instructors begin performing CPR. “I’m not afraid of death,” she answers. When she regains consciousness, ready to dive again, you believe her. – Jake K. (full review)

Where to Stream: Netflix

De Humani Corporis Fabrica (Verena Paravel and Lucien Castaing-Taylor)

A recent episode of Amazon’s The Boys showed a superhero shrink to the size of an uncooked grain of rice and walk into the shaft of his lover’s penis. The episode’s creators visualized this orifice as a dark cavern, all wet and leaky, but now we have the real thing––if still wet and leaky, now throbbing with awkward and unmistakable life. This astonishing image, one of many in De Humani Corporis Fabrica, is brought to us courtesy Verena Paravel and Lucien Castaing-Taylor, a filmmaking duet who, almost a decade on from their breakout masterpiece Leviathan, continue giving viewers new and vital ways of seeing the world. – Rory O. (full review)

Where to Stream: VOD

Detention (John Hsu)

As a subversive poem (according to the Chinese Nationalist Party that ruled Taiwan under martial law during the period known as the White Terror from 1947 until 1987) read by Miss Yin (Cecilia Choi) to the members of her and Mr. Chang’s (Meng-Po Fu) underground high school book club relates: a tree’s roots never ask to be repaid by the fruit that blooms as a result of their effort. It’s a succinctly beautiful metaphor for the education system and its liberal teachers doing all they can to ensure the next generation graduates with a full awareness of the problematic history surrounding them. Rather than facilitate the creation of future oppressors, those like Yin and Chang seek to cultivate free thinkers who will always refuse to blindly accept authoritarianism. That it comes from the cinematic adaptation of a Taiwanese videogame entitled Detention shouldn’t surprise anyone aware of how powerful art can prove regardless of the stigma its medium carries. Director John Hsu and his co-writers Shih-Keng Chien and Lyra Fu looked beyond the scares and atmosphere of this horror property to see the message at its center about the survivor’s guilt that’s all but assured in the aftermath of such a repressive nightmare that saw around 140,000 dissidents imprisoned with almost three percent of that number executed. – Jared M. (full review)

Where to Stream: OVID.tv

Happer’s Comet (Tyler Taormina)

After the stellar, surreal drama Ham on Rye, Tyler Taormina returned to the festival circuit last year with Happer’s Comet, which is finally arriving on streaming. Rory O’Connor said in his review, “It’s structured as a series of beautifully shot vignettes starring Taormina’s family members and neighbors, shot around their homes and places of work. What’s remarkable about Happer’s Comet is what sense of unison Taormina achieves, the resulting cumulative mood that is created. Each setting, and almost each person, appear disparate and isolated (in only a couple sequences are we shown more than one figure onscreen) but they feel intrinsically connected, like a network of mycelium. (As the end credits confirm, with some affection, it was made “in lockdown with a crew of two and a cast of my hometown community.”)”

Where to Stream: MUBI (free for 30 days)

A House Made of Splinters (Simon Lereng Wilmont)

A handful of moments in Simon Lereng Wilmont’s documentary A House Made of Splinters made me feel I’d accepted an invitation best declined. One such instance involves a young Ukrainian girl, Eva, whose phone call with her alcoholic mother is recorded from both ends. We hear Eva’s mother, who had previously been missing for multiple days on another bender, plead with her daughter to flee the shelter that took her in while her mother’s custody case was prepared in court. Once processed, Eva’s mother may lose custody, and Eva would then be sent to live in an orphanage. The phone call is devastating—we witness this child forced into a premature position of maturity as her mother breaks into a million pieces. Eva, however, does not collapse into tears. She maintains composure while her mother has a tantrum that, were the roles properly reversed, Eva would be having over some childhood frivolity. Instead Eva only quietly hangs up the phone on her not-quite-parent, both their futures ever in limbo. – Brianna Z. (full review)

Where to Stream: PBS

The Integrity of Joseph Chambers (Robert Machoian)

If the apocalypse comes, we’re all screwed. Fancying himself a survivor with a desire to provide for his family should “things go south,” Joe (Clayne Crawford) gets up before the crack of dawn, leaving wife Tess (Jordana Brewster), swapping his BMW for neighbor Doug’s (Carl Kenedy) truck, and heading into a private wooded area. His adventures (and boredom) have their charms. He imagines he’s a baseball pitcher stepping up to the plate, he struggles to reach an overlook with all his gear on, and fantasizes about bagging a buck to take home, stick in the freezer, and feed his family in the event we’re blasted back to the Stone Age. – John F. (full review)

Where to Stream: Prime Video

Miami Vice (Michael Mann)

I dare you to find a movie that is more self-assuredly cool than Miami Vice. I dare you to find a film that is more in love with itself than Miami Vice. I dare you to find two characters more cool-infused than Jamie Foxx and Colin Farrell as Ricardo Tubbs and Sonny Crocket (respectively) in Miami Vice. This movie burns with the fire that only the truly un-self-conscious can embrace, and every scene drips with style and grace. The violence is sudden and real while still managing to be thrilling and electrifying. Every beat is calibrated for maximum sleekness, and thanks to the investment of the actors and the determination of writer-director Michael Mann, that cool is achieved. The soundtrack thumps, the sun shines, and the bullets fly. This is the pinnacle of action in the new millennium. – Brian R.

Where to Stream: Netflix

New Auteurs

Thanks to a new series on Metrograph’s streaming platform, catch up with some of the most exciting new directors working today, with selections including Jodie Mack’s The Grand Bizarre, João Dumans and Affonso Uchoa’s Araby, Oliver Laxe’s Mimosas, and, ahead of the premiere of The Human Surge 3 at Locarno Film Festival, Eduardo Williams’ The Human Surge.

Where to Stream: Metrograph at Home

Tori and Lokita (Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne)

Tori and Lokita, the latest from the eerily consistent Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, pulls you in opposite directions when assessing it. It is as consummately made and passionately intended as anything they’ve done, but the filmmakers, as is apparent in less-successful films, can really undermine themselves with choices in plotting. I’ll never forget viewing my first, The Son, as a student in undergrad, both marveling and being almost perturbed at what a simple, elemental conflict—a man forgiving the murderer of his child—drove the entire film and generated all its tension. As in Lorna’s Silence and The Unknown Girl, this story can’t move without plot streaming out of every corner, contrivances piling upon contrivances, the way the tape could peel out of an old analog cassette or VHS. – David K. (full review)

Where to Stream: The Criterion Channel

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