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.
All These Sons (Bing Liu, Joshua Altman)
With his first documentary Minding the Gap, Bing Liu turned the lens on himself and his friends to examine the domestic violence around them. One of the more human documentaries of the last decade, Liu’s film looked at Rockford, Illinois, and the racial and social elements that affect young men and women in this decent-sized city. With his newest effort, All These Sons, Liu and collaborator Joshua Altman focus on Chicago’s South and West Sides, following young Black men at IMAN and MAAFA, two community organizations aiming to keep these men away from the gun violence that surrounds them. Once again the resulting film bursts with empathy, built-in trauma, and forgiveness. – John F. (full review)
Where to Stream: VOD
The Artifice Girl (Franklin Ritch)
Amidst all the high-concept computer-programming speak and moral / ethical implications surrounding the creation of artificial life, the smartest line of dialogue in Franklin Ritch’s The Artifice Girl is when Gareth (Ritch) admits “I honestly don’t know how I did it.” Not only does it absolve the filmmaker of having to make something up to justify the complex progression of his sci-fi premise; it also speaks to the reality that technological innovation often occurs accidentally. We can’t therefore know what we don’t know or predict every positive or negative that may result from an invention built to approach its own autonomy. Some things are simply out of our control, and that which seem like solutions today might not tomorrow—if we’re enlightened enough to acknowledge the difference. – Jared M. (full review)
Where to Stream: VOD
Notes on an American Film Director at Work: Martin Scorsese (Jonas Mekas)
A gem in the vast cosmology of Jonas Mekas’ career, Notes on an American Film Director at Work: Martin Scorsese follows its subject during various days and nights shooting The Departed, often sitting in silence as Scorsese watches a monitor or consults with production hands from afar. Interspersed are two old friends, seemingly from different worlds, bonding over minutiae: Scorsese telling Mekas he was refreshed during Goodfellas‘ production by watching Brakhage shorts; Mekas comparing The Departed‘s plot to Andre DeToth’s Play Dirty; Scorsese complaining that his cable provider gave one of DeToth’s movies too low a star rating the other night. This one-hour doc will give a better grasp of Scorsese’s artistic motive than almost any critical study. – Nick N.
Where to Stream: Le Cinéma Club
Peter Pan & Wendy (David Lowery)
There is something fitting about the fact that a charming adventure story about a boy that never grows up who leads a cadre of children wishing to remain similarly youthful and carefree forever gets remade in one form or another every decade or so. It speaks to the fact that the desire to avoid adulthood and remain unmoored and childlike forever remains as strong as ever, if not stronger. At the same time, it reveals our seeming inability to understand fully why the story is so resonant. Every time the story is told, you can feel the creator struggling with the material, wrestling with its meaning, imparting in the story their own beliefs and fears. – Brian R. (full review)
Where to Stream: Disney+
Return to Seoul (Davy Chou)
The kinetic energy of Davy Chou’s Return to Seoul rests on the face, and the dancing, of first-time actor Park Ji-min. She vibrates on the screen, her presence reverberating across everyone she meets. She has a tricky task, portraying a displaced soul, a young woman with a lack of place. The emotional chaos splashes on the screen in Chou’s film, heartbreaking in its sudden intimacy. The camera swirls around Freddie (Ji-min) until stillness inevitably comes, a consistent movement as she explores her home country. Ji-min is a revelation as Freddie, soul bared in front of any and all peers that are willing to watch. She’s unpredictable, much like Chou’s film, a switch than can flip at any moment, blistering in her embracing of the pleasures of life. The film hurls itself at the viewer, asking non-judgment and a pinch of trust, knowing that Chou is providing an experience unlike any other this year. – Michael F.
Where to Stream: VOD
Rewind & Play (Alain Gomis)
Félicité director Alain Gomis returned to the festival circuit last year with Rewind & Play, which recontextualizes Thelonious Monk’s appearance on a 1969 French television program into an experience that can only be described as a parade of horrors. His genius musical talent is on display, but in expanding far beyond the standard music documentary, Gomis focuses in on the white host’s inane, condescending line of questioning in a series of outtakes. As the bright lights burn down on a sweating Monk, the interview devolves into an uncomfortable, revealing look at the prejudiced belittling of a legend. – Jordan R.
Where to Stream: Above for free on YouTube via World Channel
Servants (Ivan Ostrokhovsky)
The success of Paweł Pawlikowski’s Ida and Cold War has revealed, among arthouse audiences, a heretofore unimagined ravenous hunger for Eastern Bloc period dramas of Catholic conviction and political compulsion, shot in academy ratio and shimmery digital grayscale. Thus Servants, a hushed drama about underground activism, secret police, fear and trembling at a seminary in the former Czechoslovakia. – Mark A. (full review)
Scream VI (Tyler Gillett, Matt Bettinelli-Olpin)
With almost twenty-seven years under its belt and now a sixth installment to its name, the Scream movies have shifted focus yet again. The series once about its leads’ attempts to extricate themselves from whatever pop-culture refraction others, killer or not, forced upon them is no more. The funhouse of previous entries is no longer the obstacle but the rule. Films are facile – “episodic,” even, as Mindy (Jasmin Savoy Brown) declares – but the change isn’t inherently good or bad. It’s simply different in the context of Scream. It’s finally a 21st-century franchise. – Matt C. (full review)
There There (Andrew Bujalski)
Watch an exclusive clip above.
With There There, Andrew Bujalski finds new freedom under the constraints of working during the peak of the COVID pandemic. Shot on phones, it consists of a series of dialogues between characters. It begins with a post-coital scene between a man (Lennie James) and a woman (Lili Taylor) following a one-night stand. All characters are unnamed. In most scenes, one character moves on to an interaction with another person. After a short interlude with musician Jon Natchez drumming on two electric guitars with mallets, Taylor’s character meets with her AA sponsor. Bujalski’s approach to framing and editing is rougher than even his early mumblecore films. In fact, it suggests the artificiality of continuity by stitching together scenes whose actors never appeared on the same set. Due to safety precautions, each character was shot individually, then the film was edited to create the illusion of them talking to each other. – Steve E. (read full interview)
Where to Stream: Hulu
Winter Boy (Christophe Honoré)
Grief is by no means a universally relatable subject; we may all encounter it, but the manner in which we process it very rarely translates directly to somebody else’s personal experiences. This is something filmmaker Christophe Honoré has an innate awareness of, with his latest film Winter Boy attempting to address his own formative experience of grief without simply resorting to a semi-autobiographical work. So he doesn’t leave these still-raw emotions confined within a period setting, rendering that adolescent pain a distant memory. He’s attempting to address them via a contemporary coming-of-age tale––one that may share resemblances to his own youth but refuses to simply revisit it. – Alistair R. (full review)
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