Although FilmStruck has existed since 2006, I only discovered it last fall when I happened upon an online mention and decided to explore the website. A streaming service like Netflix, FilmStruck is owned by Turner Classic Movies and features classic and more obscure art house and independent films from Hollywood and across the globe. A significant portion of its movies are part of the acclaimed Criterion Collection, which struck an exclusive deal with TCM and FilmStruck this past year to take over Criterion's US streaming from Hulu. As a result, FilmStruck'scornucopia includes feature, short and documentary films by major 20th century international filmmakers ranging from Michelangelo Antonioni, Catherine Breillat, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, and Costa-Gavras to Nagisa Oshima, Yasujiro Ozu, Peter Weir and Wim Wenders. Unlike Netflix, though, there is no DVD option, and no original series, as far as I can tell. (MUBI is another cinephile service, like FilmStruck, that I've downloaded the Apple TV app for, but haven't experimented with it yet. Green Cine, which I belonged to years ago, was a DVD subscription service, and did not have a streaming component.)
|One of the curated mini-festivals,|
films based in the City of Love, Paris
|Genres (and available films|
in each category)
|A few films on my watchlist queue|
In the second category, I watched David Cronenberg's still disturbing Scanners (1981), which holds up in terms of its visionary and horror qualities decades later. I know Cronenberg has shifted away from horror and science fiction, which in his case usually had a conspiratorial component, but I hope that he returns, even if just for one more time, to the genre in which he made his name. In terms of sheer awfulness, though, his 1979 film The Brood, which I hadn't seen before, wins the award. There is a scene that truly embodies the term "horrifying," and it was bad enough when the film first appeared that it was edited out in the US. Thankfully FilmStruck is screening the complete version, but again, as graphic as many Hollywood films now are, nothing comes close to Cronenberg's presentation of motherly love as literal monstrousness at the moment of trans-human post-parturition.
One of the films I'd never heard of but decided to watch that also fits the "horror" category, with a twist, is Czech director Jaromil Jires's 1970 film Valerie's Week of Wonders. Hybrid in genre, surreal in form and style, the movie explores a teenage girl's sexual awakening, if lived in a Hieronymous Bosch painting. Let's just say that films of this sort, whether under the horror or fantasy genres, or some other, simply don't get made any more. Another was Nils Gaup's Pathfinder (1987), a historical thriller and Academy Award nominee about a peaceful group of indigenous Samí residents of what is now Finnland, circa 1000 AD, whose tranquil existence undergoes a shock when an all-male troop of Chudes, ancestors to Russians, arrives, with brutal consequences. A teenage hero steps in, and its his canniness, rather than physical prowess, that proves decisive. A third was Avie Luthra's 2012 film Lucky, about a young rural Black South African boy who loses his mother to AIDS, moves to the city to live with an uncle who despises him and has run through his school money, craves and will do anything for an education, and bonds with an older, racist South Asian woman. This film was painful to sit through at times, but in the end moved me to tears.
Other discoveries: films I'd never heard of or had been intending to watch by Youssef Chahine, Victor Erice, John Frankenheimer, Aki Kaurismäki, Martin Ritt, Ken Russell, Carlos Saura, Jacques Tati; and by directors I'd never heard of, including Luis García Berlanga, Juan Carlos Cremata, Ahmed El Maanouni, Metin Erksan, Pierre Etaix, Jean-Pierre Gorin, Mikio Naruse, Edgar Morin, Kundan Shah,, and many others. Next up, I think, Pedro Costa's widely acclaimed docu-fictional trilogy about Fontainhas, in Lisbon, Portugal: Ossos (1987), In Vanda's Room (2000), and Colossal Youth (2006), and as many of the Chantal Akerman movies as I can get through before classes start next week.