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.
Ailey (Jamila Wignot)
Has any choreographer mattered more to American dance than Alvin Ailey? The documentary Ailey, directed by Jamila Wignot, makes a good case that there has not. Comprised of amazing archival footage, peer interviews, and choreographer Rennie Harris prepping a modern-day performance in honor of the artist, Wignot paints a full picture of a complicated man. Born in the middle of Texas during The Great Depression, old recordings of Ailey recount his picking cotton with his mother (his father was non-existent in his life), then later on seeing Katherine Dunham (and her male backup dancers) perform live. The shock of watching somebody that looked like him produce such wonderful art emboldened him to pursue the work himself. – Dan M. (full review)
Where to Stream: Hulu
Bergman Island (Mia Hansen-Løve)
Mia Hansen-Løve’s Bergman Island is quite transparently a form of self-portrait: it’s about a filmmaker, played by the great Vicky Krieps, in a relationship with another filmmaker, just as Hansen-Løve was with Olivier Assayas. But much more than that. It’s a film about the pains of making personal art, but also its release as a way to reexamine times gone by. Bergman isn’t so much an influence on the film as he is a looming shadow for Krieps’s character, who seeks another―perhaps quieter, more optimistic, less extractive―way of making movies than the Swedish legend. – Orla S.
Where to Stream: Hulu
Black Bear (Lawrence Michael Levine)
Bifurcated into two distinct stories, Lawrence Michael Levine’s Black Bear is not only a showcase of Aubrey Plaza’s expressive range, which was always teased in previous projects, but a treatise on independent filmmaking and the relationship between life and art. Plaza, alongside Christopher Abbott and Sarah Gadon, moves into different roles as the movie switches from relationship drama to behind-the-scenes look at filmmaking, and Levine asks his audience to draw connections themselves, never fully explaining how these disparate narratives link (or even what the literal Black Bear symbolizes). As we grapple with the possibilities of film sans theaters, Levine’s project proves a riddle, demanding debate and conversation. – Christian G.
Where to Stream: Hulu
I’m Your Man (Maria Schrader)
Falling in love with a robot isn’t good news, as Her and Blade Runner (both 2019 and 2049) tell us. In I’m Your Man, unspooling in competition at Berlin, a forty-something museum director (Maren Eggert) is justifiably nervous—she’s in a film named after a Leonard Cohen track, which is only asking for trouble—when asked to try out a new romantic partner. That’s because this is a “humanoid robot,” Tom, algorithmically aligned to her romantic preferences and played by dashing English actor Dan Stevens in a performance in which he impressively speaks fluent German. – Ed F. (full review)
Where to Stream: Hulu
Italian Studies (Adam Leon)
See an exclusive clip above.
Adam Leon’s third feature, Italian Studies, follows Vanessa Kirby as Alina Reynolds, a woman who at times doesn’t know her own name. Call it amnesia or memory loss or even a blackout, but Kirby’s leading performance is built on a calm confusion. Leon’s story gives little context or background to how this woman came to have these spells, instead accompanying her over the course of a 24-hour period in New York City. – Michael F. (full review)
Where to Stream: VOD
The Last Duel (Ridley Scott)
The Last Duel is an incisive, biting reminder of the grotesque ways in which every pillar of society works in service of the patriarchy. The film’s Rashômon-esque accounts of the rivalry and rape at its center serve not to dispute the victim’s accuracy, but highlight how men attempt to rationalize such horrors and command the narrative. Somehow, Scott juggles tones menacing and playful with a cast in peak form, including an awe-inspiring Jodie Comer and delightfully hammy Ben Affleck. All of which culminates in one of the more brutal action set pieces in recent memory—the capstone on a perfectly crafted, nuanced piece of entertainment. – Conor O.
Where to Stream: HBO Max
Luzzu (Alex Camilleri)
Filmed and set in Malta, director Alex Camilleri’s debut Luzzu follows Jesmark, a fisherman and new father, in his attempt to find the money and resources to give his young family a good life. Set up by a simple premise and hyperrealist approach, the film pits dreams against pragmatism as Jesmark struggles to abandon his generational pull towards hitting the open sea in a tiny, hand-painted boat. As most audiences will find, we’re even less aware of Maltese life and this culture of fishing than we think. Camilleri, a Maltese-American, has spent the last decade working as an editor and assistant editor on a number of films, collaborating often with Iranian-American director Ramin Bahrani. Camilleri takes a naturalist path in his first film, edging on documentary fiction, his leading man (Jesmark Scicluna) with a hardened face and unwillingness to smile. – Michael F. (full review)
Miklós Jancsó Retrospective
One of the major restoration events of the last year is six remarkable films from Hungarian master Miklós Jancsó, who passed away in 2014. The 4K restorations by the Hungarian National Film Archives from the original 35mm camera negatives are now finally rolling out wider following screenings last year, including 1965’s The Round-Up at NYFF––where I had an introduction to Jancsó’s formally arresting masterwork. Thanks to Kino Lorber, the six Scorsese-approved films––which also include The Red and the White (1967), The Confrontation (1968), Winter Wind (1969), Red Psalm (1971), and Electra, My Love (1974)––are now available via Metrograph, both in theater and at home, before getting a wider bow this spring. – Jordan R.
Where to Stream: Metrograph at Home
Our Time Will Come (Ann Hui)
In an early scene in Hong Kong New Wave pioneer Ann Hui’s historical war drama Our Time Will Come, a Chinese rebel accidentally drops a live grenade in the middle of a large crowd of civilians. A brief moment of chaos ensues as everyone ducks for cover; bullets are exchanged, tables and chairs are thrown up and ducked behind — and then quiet. They wait and wait, nothing happens, and the rebels get up and leave. If it wasn’t obvious up until then, this confirms Hui’s stiflingly quiet approach to World War II, a setting and a genre of film that generally characterizes itself with loudness and overblown heroics. The film, like its characters — civilians-turned-spies who must carry themselves as if nothing were wrong — exudes delicateness. The two most common words in the film, “Xiao Xin” — which translates to “Be Careful!” — become a formality, repeated incessantly in hushed whispers. – Jason O. (full review)
Where to Stream: OVID.tv
The Tragedy of Macbeth (Joel Coen)
Joel Coen’s take on the Scottish play unfolds almost entirely on sets—sharply angled, streaked with shadows and shards of light. It’s an approach that marries theater’s immediacy with cinema’s narrative drive. More Dreyer than Bergman, more Welles than Olivier, this is the sharpest Shakespeare adaptation in years, a hurtling descent into madness with astonishing performances by Denzel Washington, Frances McDormand, and Kathryn Hunter. Richly layered black-and-white cinematography by Bruno Delbonnel meshes wonderfully with Stefan Dechant’s spiky production design. – Daniel E.
Where to Stream: Apple TV+
The Whaler Boy (Philipp Yuryev)
To skin a quote from The Social Network, it’s probably better to be accused of necrophilia these days than to be accused of whaling. Less so in the world of The Whaler Boy—a new Russian film tantalizingly set in that vast nation’s furthest reaches—wherein a young lad contends with the hormones and boredoms of rural life while casting longing looks to the West (which sits, in this case, just 50 miles East). The subject of his longings is an American Camgirl with the handle HollySweet999. Oh, to be young and feel love’s keen sting. – Rory O. (full review)
Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy (Ryūsuke Hamaguchi)
Ryūsuke Hamaguchi’s first masterpiece of the year, Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy, is an endlessly playful and inventive triptych. Exploring the thorniness of love, sparks of connection, and mistaken identities across three stunning vignettes, Hamaguchi’s skill at writing dialogue that is as entertaining as it is moving has never been sharper. On any given day my preferred of the three shorts changes, but there’s certainly no funnier or surprising sequence in cinema this year than revenge gone awry between Nao (Mori Katsuki) and Professor Segawa (Shibukawa Kiyohiko). – Jordan R.
Where to Stream: VOD
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