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.
Arab Blues (Manele Labidi)
The original French-language title of Arab Bles is Un divan à Tunis, and true to the echo of Chantal Akerman’s psychotherapeutic meet-cute A Couch in New York, Manele Labidi’s debut feature is the frothy tale of an analyst coming to terms with her own sense of dislocation, while tending to the many seriocomic needs of her flock. In this case, the psychoanalyst is Selma (Golshifteh Farahani), who leaves Paris and returns to her family’s apartment building in Tunisia, where a neighbor looks at her poster of Sigmund Freud and asks her: Who is he, your father? – Mark A. (full review)
Cousins (Ainsley Gardiner and Briar Grace Smith)
They only spent one summer together as children, but the connection they share from blood and heritage ultimately lasts a lifetime, whether they know it could or not. Makareta (Mihi Te Rauhi Daniels) promised young Mata (Te Raukura Gray) that she’d never give up looking for her—because even though they were together now, British laws had intervened to ensure that moment remained brief. It didn’t matter that Makareta, Missy (Keyahne Patrick Williams), and the rest of their Māori family wanted to keep her in their arms and raise her in the land where her mother now rested. Mata’s father had already given her to a woman in England only too willing to use her as a revenue stream upon graduating from a school for desolate children. – Jared M. (full review)
Where to Stream: Netflix
The Empty Man (David Prior)
Putting aside the business of distribution and exhibition, as well as The Empty Man’s unique time and place in cinematic history, for much of the film’s running time it’s a meticulously-crafted feature film debut, adapted from Cullen Bunn’s graphic novel by Prior, whose credits include several behind the scenes/making of documentaries of David Fincher films. Clearly he has learned well by watching a master at work, directing an “elevated genre” picture that explores a rather silly idea and edges it towards that intersection of camp and art house with a few genuine thrills before completely derailing. It’s a bad sign in a horror film when it has to continue to explain itself and the story’s connection to its very long and evocative prologue. – John F. (full review)
Where to Stream: HBO Max
Ingrid Caven: Music and Voice (Bertrand Bonello)
Never before released, Betrand Bonello’s 2012 concert film Ingrid Caven: Music and Voice is now streaming for two weeks on Grasshopper’s Projectr. Bonello seized on the idea of making a cinematic tribute to Ingrid Caven when he first heard her sing at the Cité de la Musique in Paris, but the portrait he eventually made finds her exploring a more expansive range of performance styles and moods. A former member of R.W. Fassbinder’s cinematic troupe—the two were married for a brief stretch in the 1970s—and the ostensible subject of a fictional biography by Jean-Jacques Schuhl, Caven spends Bonello’s movie singing a rich repertoire of songs, some of them traditional ballads, others non-verbal, and still others verging on abstract performance art. Ingrid Caven: Music and Voice is a showcase for a truly sui generis musician—a sort of cabaret singer for the 21st century—and a respectful tribute to one artist from another.
Where to Stream: Projectr
Mandibles (Quentin Dupieux)
Like the giant fly in Mandibles, director Quentin Dupieux has been buzzing and provoking us for roughly the past decade, trying to build a reputation as a new French surrealist auteur. Many were won over by last year’s Deerskin, buthis latest bizarre creation truly confirms his talent. His two best-known features, Rubber and the aforementioned Deerskin,can be summed up in a simple high-concept phrase: respectively, the “killer tire film” and the “killer jacket film.” In surrealist logic, the evolutionary chain clearly goes from tire to scream (Reality) to jacket and now to fly. Rather than something out of Cronenberg’s beloved remake, this fly is a charming, almost Spielbergian creature––far less dangerous than its human cast members. The film is notable for finding different sources of humor, puerile as they may be, than his usual theatrical violence. – David K. (full review)
Where to Stream: VOD
Playing with Sharks: The Valerie Taylor Story (Sally Aitken)
Sharks have been lurking in the depths of our cultural consciousness for decades now. From the fear that Jaws instilled in audiences in 1975 to the endless consumption of bogus Shark Week docufiction that Discovery Channel peddled, there has been a sense of terror around these unique creatures that few have tried to truly dissipate. To look at Valerie Taylor’s best known film works, including Jaws and Blue Water, White Death, one might believe the diver and photographer to be one such perpetrator of these myths. But Sally Aitken’s documentary Playing With Sharks offers an in-depth look at the way Taylor (and her husband Ron) dedicated her life to showcasing the beauty of the ocean’s most misunderstood creatures.
Where to Stream: Disney+
Sweat (Magnus von Horn)
Sweat is one of the best films about an influencer—while other works about social media dismiss their characters as vapid, Magnus von Horn’s latest has so much empathy for fitness influencer Sylwia (Magdalena Kolesnik). Von Horn places blame on the mechanisms of social media for Sylwia’s sadness. It’s a film that peels back the masks we wear online and questions whether we ever stop performing for our followers. – Orla S.
You Will Die at Twenty (Amjad Abu Alala)
Set in a remote Sudanese village where religion and prophecy are valuable currencies, You Will Die at Twenty beautifully examines misguided notions of faith. After giving birth to her first baby, Sakina (Islam Mubarak) visits the local Sheikh for a formal blessing. Instead of hearing promising words about the child’s bright future, she receives a dire omen: the boy will die on his 20th birthday. – Glenn H. (full review)
Where to Stream: The Criterion Channel
Zola (Janicza Bravo)
Twitter is Shakespeare for the 21st century and, as Zola proves, Janicza Bravo is the director best adept at bringing all the peculiarity, hilarity, and ugliness of social media mayhem to the big screen. If you were on Twitter in October 2015, you likely saw A’ziah “Zola” King’s massive thread recounting the bizarre journey she took from Detroit to Tampa accompanied by Jessica, a new acquaintance that wanted to utilize their pole dancing skills to make serious money in Florida strip clubs. What follows was a treacherous two-day adventure of turning tricks, one-upping pimps, witnessing a murder, attempted suicide, and no shortage of strange characters. Based on Zola’s 150 or so tweets and David Kushner’s Rolling Stone article (which revealed some of the story was embellished for the sake of entertaining storytelling), Bravo and co-writer Jeremy O. Harris (Slave Play) have now delivered a surprisingly faithful adaptation while bringing endless invention and energy to the proceedings. – Jordan R. (full review)
Where to Stream: VOD
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