alexa BlackBook: Designs on Acting: ‘Hard Sun’ Star Agyness Deyn Talks Drama with Writer-Director Alex Ross Perry

Share Button

 

IF you found the bleak dystopia of The Handmaid’s Tale terrifying, you’d better buckle up for Hard Sun. The sensational Hulu/BBC drama concerns a pair of British detectives who discover that the apocalypse is coming in five years — and that the government wants them dead for finding out.

Aside from providing cryptic conspiratorial thrills, the show boasts a riveting performance from lead Agyness Deyn as the intense Elaine Renko. The emotionally wounded deputy inspector is trying to save the world, resolve family trauma, and process a growing suspicion that her partner (Jim Sturgess) is corrupt.

A former model raised in Manchester, England, Deyn, 35, has proved to be a formidable actress with an excellent taste in film and television projects. The New Yorker named her one of the best actresses of 2016 for Sunset Song, the story of a young woman persevering through a brutal rural existence in World War I-era Scotland. It’s a long way from shooting ads for Dior, Burberry, Uniqlo and Vivienne Westwood and hanging out with creative collective the Misshapes (she’s been based in NYC since the early ’00s). Next, Deyn will co-star alongside “Handmaid’s Tale” actress Elisabeth Moss in “Her Smell,” an indie film about feuding female punk rockers by writer-director Alex Ross Perry.

Perry has made a name for himself as a sensitive and curious teller of women’s stories, via a quick succession of acclaimed, fantastically cast micro-indies: 2014’s nervous-novelist tale “Listen Up Philip” (with Moss and Jason Schwartzman), 2015’s deep dive into female friendship, “Queen of Earth” (Moss again), and 2017’s “Golden Exits” (with Chloë Sevigny, Schwartzman and former Beastie Boy Adam Horovitz).

Deyn and Perry convened a meeting of their mutual admiration society on an April Saturday in New York.

 

Khaite sweater, $1,150 at Saks Fifth Avenue, 611 Fifth Ave.; Pants, $690 at BodeNewYork.com; Earrings, $496 at SimonMillerUSA.com

Alex Ross Perry: Do you remember how we met?

Agyness Deyn: We met at — what’s that place called on St. Marks? It was Cafe Orlin! Wow, this might have been, like, four years ago. We ended up sitting down for about two hours chatting — drinking loads of tea. I thought it was just so fun. I remember when you spilled the tea — about the project you were working on, about stuff we were both working on, about life. The two hours went by and we were like, “S – – t, we’ve been sitting here for a long time.”

ARP: I remember feeling exceptionally encouraged and excited by it. The meeting was for a big movie that I was trying to make that never got made. But because I ended up having a lot of meetings, now I’ve essentially been able to cast anything I’ve made since then with people I [originally] wanted to put in that movie. The following spring, I saw Terence Davies’ “Sunset Song” and was completely blown away by your performance. What path did that character set you on?

AD: I think about Terence [Davies] regularly, probably weekly. I finished that film and thought, “Oh, I suppose that I am an actor now.” I said that to Terence, and he said, “Well, of course, you are.” I remember thinking someone believed in me a million times more than I believed in myself as an actor and as a woman. He gave me a huge responsibility to carry a film he’s been trying to make for 15 years. Making that film, I went from being a girl to a woman. His projection of what a woman is helped me embody what I had in myself.

 

Shirt, $435 at BodeNewYork.com; Pants, $400 at SimonMillerUSA.com

ARP: How did that change the bar you’ve now set for yourself?

AD: I knew that I wanted to play strong women with a point of view who have something to say. “Sunset Song” and “Hard Sun” are so different, but it was kind of a continuation. Elaine [in “Hard Sun”] is this damaged but strong and enigmatic woman who seems kind of genderless and walks to the beat of her own drum. I have a very English way of being apologetic. I didn’t have that kind of “F you” attitude, and [the director] drilled that out of me very quickly. It was fast-paced, the story matter was intense. It almost killed me, but it was exhilarating to play her.

ARP: I don’t know how long the shoot for “Sunset Song” was, but with [“Hard Sun”], suddenly you’re a sprinter who has to run a marathon without training for it. 

AD: Definitely. It was such a shock. I remember saying to Jim [co-star Sturgess] after we’d done the first two episodes, “We’ve got to do this again, haven’t we?” And he was like, “Yeah.” Like a marathon, you’re not sure how you’re going to save your energy and your feelings because you don’t know how much you’ll need at the end.

ARP: Now, you can’t just say yes to some TV show that won’t be satisfying.

AD: Exactly. I have the same sensation about the movie [“Her Smell”] you and I are doing together.

 

“Making that film, I went from being a girl to a woman … It almost killed me, but it was exhilarating to play her. ”

 

ARP: We’re not asking you to come in and be this mysterious, elfin, British model-type woman. There’s music lessons involved, there’s a certain theatricality involved. We’re setting up a series of extreme challenges. 

AD: I can’t wait. It’s funny because I know I’m so excited and so terrified before a job when I start dreaming about it. I woke up this morning after having a nightmare about actually being in the band: “Oh my God, oh s–t. I don’t know the song.”

ARP: The sort of all-encompassing logistical panic of this movie is something I’ve never really experienced. 

 

Rosie Assoulin overalls, $1,695 at ModaOperandi.com; Sweater, $325 at SimonMillerUSA.com 

AD: Where did you get the idea of making this film?

ARP: I wondered, what could I be doing that no one else would be doing right now? A lot of people can make something inspired by an era 50 years removed. Maybe I do a music movie about a disreputable genre no one’s really romanticizing in the same way yet. But it’s so much more about [the] identity of all these women in this movie — motherhood and sisterhood within these bands, and addictions and addictions to people. 

AD: I always say ’79 was such a great year for music in England, with the Clash and all these brilliant bands. It was amazing to be a young person and introduced to them by different friends. It shapes you as a person. So, it’s a fun way to explore it all again and also hear everyone else’s stories.

ARP: I’ve jokingly said this is a role you’ve been preparing to inhabit for your entire life, via modeling or acting. Maybe “mysterious, ethereal rock goddess” was a career path that may [have] eluded you, but now you get to use your lifetime’s worth of knowledge to be in this character.

AD: I remember seeing images early on of the Slits and the Raincoats — these young women just doing what they wanted. It was just so exhilarating to think like, “Oh, I can be that.”

 

 

ABOUT THE SPACE

We photographed Agyness Deyn at a lower-Manhattan pied-à-terre tucked inside the 1879-built Robbins & Appleton Building, with interiors designed by Mark Zeff. Commissioned by a Miami-based couple, the Bond Street residence showcases the duo’s diverse collection of special artworks by renowned creators such as Andy Warhol. The designer was charged with maintaining the raw loft’s distinct character while also creating intimacy for the couple and their teen children. Using ribbed glass and blackened steel, Zeff partitioned the 4,500 sqaure-foot space into wonderfully dramatic tableaus, including a glass-box study and an airy kitchen designed for entertaining.

 

 

On the cover: Blazer, $1,695, and pants, $1,295, both at RosieAssoulin.com; “Elsa” earrings, $740 at AgmesNYC.com

Photos by Martien Mulder; Styling by Danielle Nachimani, Hair by Seiji using Oribe Hair Care for The Wall Group; Beauty by Gianpaolo Ceciliato using Chanel Plaette Essentielle for Tracey Mattingly Agency; Bond Street Photo by Eric Laignel

 

The Best Movies to Watch Without Leaving Bed: The Female Filmmakers You Need to Know

Share Button

Every Wednesday I find myself whispering that old Beckett adage into the morning air: I can’t go on / I’ll go on. As I settle into the week’s work, and no matter how thrilling the day’s prospects, it’s that beginning of the week existential stomach ache that always seemed to start gnawing away at my insides. But breathe, just breathe, the hours will pass themselves and soon it will all be easier and the weekend will come again—one that’s rife with fantastic films playing in theaters all around the city. But in the meantime, look forward to the evening, when a wealth of wonderful films will be at your fingertips.

With so many great movies streaming online, what better way to spend a cold March night than curled up beneath the sheets with some of the best rare and incredible cinema from the comfort of home? But with myriad options streaming, I understand the decision of what to screen in your private bedroom viewing can prove a challenge. So to make your troubles easier, this week we’ve highlighted some of our favorite films from our favorite female filmmakers, all available to watch now—from incredible new talent to some of the most internationally acclaimed directors. Peruse our list, curl up under the covers, and enjoy.

__________________________________________________________________________________________

IT FELT LIKE LOVE, Eliza Hittman

Set amongst languid summer days filled with hazy teenage ennui, Eliza Hittman’s debut feature It Felt Like Love focuses on Lila, a lonely and curious 14-year-old living in Brooklyn with her father. Hittman’s film exists in the small but poignant moments of life, allowing us to inhabit the harrowing pains of growing up and the struggle for identity—crafting a refreshingly raw and potent portrait of youth.

Available to Watch on Netflix

__________________________________________________________________________________________

EVERYONE ELSE, Maren Ada

Ade’s emotionally cutting 2009 film about a young couple whose core is shaken when spending time with another couple begins to reveal the true nature of their dynamic.

Available to Watch on Hulu +

__________________________________________________________________________________________

GOODBYE FIRST LOVE, Mia Hansen-Løve

Mia Hansen-Love’s harrowing, beautiful, and realistic portrayal of life-altering heartbreak and how that pain becomes an ache that stays inside you forever and prevents you from escaping that insular hurt and isolates you from connecting with others—but shows you how maybe that immense love can transpose itself into creativity and something can be born from that as we allow ourselves to be taken by life’s current, even if we can’t ever fully let go.

Available to Watch on Netflix

__________________________________________________________________________________________

BASTARDS, Claire Denis

Starring Vincent Lindon as Marco, the Parisian noir thriller plays out in the aftermath of his brother-in-law’s suicide when he seeks to rescue is estranged sister and young niece (played by Lola Créton).What follows is a sinister decent into the bleeding heart of darkness that’s tight enough to leave you gasping for air but never fully exposes itself, leaving corners cloaked in shadows with an enigmatic wink.

Available to Watch on iTunes

__________________________________________________________________________________________

NEWS FROM HOME, Chantal Akerman

“Letters from Chantal Akerman’s mother are read over a series of elegantly composed shots of 1976 New York, where our (unseen) filmmaker and protagonist has relocated. Akerman’s unforgettable time capsule of the city is also a gorgeous meditation on urban alienation and personal and familial disconnection.”

Available to Watch on Hulu +

__________________________________________________________________________________________

LA CIENEGA, Lucrecia Martel

“With a radical and disturbing take on narrative, beautiful cinematography, and a highly sophisticated use of on- and offscreen sound, Martel turns her tale of a dissolute bourgeois extended family, whiling away the hours of one sweaty, sticky summer, into a cinematic marvel. This visceral take on class, nature, sexuality, and the ways that political turmoil and social stagnation can manifest in human relationships is a drama of extraordinary tactility, and one of the great contemporary film debuts.”

Available to Watch on Hulu +

__________________________________________________________________________________________

DAISIES, Vera Chytilová

“Maybe the New Wave’s most anarchic entry, Věra Chytilová’s absurdist farce follows the misadventures of two brash young women. Believing the world to be “spoiled,” they embark on a series of pranks in which nothing—food, clothes, men, war—is taken seriously. Daisies is an aesthetically and politically adventurous film that’s widely considered one of the great works of feminist cinema.”

Available to Watch on Hulu +

__________________________________________________________________________________________

LES RENDEZ-VOUS D’ANNA, Chantal Akerman

“In one of Akerman’s most penetrating character studies, Anna, an accomplished filmmaker (played by Aurore Clément), makes her way through a series of European cities to promote her latest movie. Via a succession of eerie, exquisitely shot, brief encounters—with men and women, family and strangers—we come to see her emotional and physical detachment from the world.”

Available to Watch on Hulu +

__________________________________________________________________________________________

STORIES WE TELL, Sarah Polley

As a personal essay about the hidden past of her family, the feature beautifully weaves together an incredibly well-constructed experiment in storytelling. In the film, there’s a line that reads: “When you’re in the middle of a story, it isn’t a story at all but only a confusion, a dark roaring, a blindness. It’s only afterwards that it becomes anything like a story when you’re telling it to yourself or anyone else.” And that sentiment plays out as the through-line for the feature, as Polley’s family and those close to it reveal familial secrets, shared truths, and show us the ways in which we create the own narrative of our lives.

Stories We Tell also confronts the challenges of love—be it romantic or maternal—while exposing the myriad ways our own memory can deceive us. There’s a delicacy and heartwarming touch in Polley’s style of filmmaking that shines through in all of her work but is never more present here. It’s absolutely enthralling and fascinating to watch but heartbreaking in its honesty—always leaving you hungry to discover more. The film works as a eulogy as much as it does a perfect vehicle for self-discovery, yet feels universal in its open-ended questions and speaks directly to your soul in way that’s both rare and tender.

Available to Watch on Netflix 

__________________________________________________________________________________________

A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT, ANA LILY AMIRPOUR

As “cinema’s first Iranian vampire western,” Girl brings us into a black-and-white world of undead desire, all set in a ghost town know as Bad City, where a lonely vampire skateboards through its dimly lit streets and the sordid souls that inhabit it. Rife with prostitutes, pimps, and junkies lurking around every corner, we follow the “The Girl” as she occupies her bloodsucking isolated waking hours in darkness. Amalgamating everything from the Iranian New Wave and David Lynch-brand surrealism to graphic novels and playful nods to Sergio Leone, Amirpour has crafted a film that, while being deeply indebted to its influences, emerges as something wholly its own. With music that ranges from chilly techno to Morricone motifs, A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night lures you into its strange and seductive world, putting a haunting new spin on the “pop fairytale.”

Available to Watch on iTunes 

 

The Best Films to Watch Without Leaving Bed This Week: Stunning Sci-Fi Classics

World on a Wire, Sci-Fi, Film
Share Button

Every Monday I find myself whispering that old Beckett adage into the morning air: I can’t go on / I’ll go on. As I settle into the week’s work, and no matter how thrilling the day’s prospects, it’s that beginning of the week existential stomach ache that always seemed to start gnawing away at my insides. But breathe, just breathe, the hours will pass themselves and soon it will all be easier and the weekend will come again—one that’s rife with fantastic films playing in theaters all around the city. But in the meantime, look forward to the evening, when a wealth of wonderful films will be at your fingertips.

With so many great movies streaming online, what better way to spend a cold March night than curled up beneath the sheets with some of the best rare and incredible cinema from the comfort of home? But with myriad options streaming, I understand the decision of what to screen in your private bedroom viewing can prove a challenge. So to make your troubles easier, this week we’ve highlighted some of our favorite science fiction movies to watch without leaving bed. From confounding classics like Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s World on a Wire to modern wonders such as Shane Carruth’s Upstream Color, get cozy and enjoy.

WORLD ON A WIRE, Rainer Werner Fassbinder

Available to watch on Hulu +

SOLARIS, Andrei Tarkovsky

Available to watch on Hulu +

LA JETEE, Chris Marker

Available to watch on Hulu +

VIDEODROME, David Cronenberg

Available to watch on Amazon / iTunes

THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH, Nicolas Roeg

Available to watch on Amazon / iTunes

UPSTREAM COLOR, Shane Carruth

Available to watch on Netflix / iTunes

BEYOND THE BLACK RAINBOW, Panos Cosmatos

Available to watch on Netflix / iTunes

BRAZIL, Terry Gilliam

Available to watch on Amazon

ERASERHEAD, David Lynch

Available to watch on Hulu +

METROPOLIS, Fritz Lang

Available to watch on Netflix / iTunes

THE ELEMENT OF CRIME, Lars von Trier

Available to watch on Hulu +

BLACK MOON, Louis Malle

Available to watch on Hulu +

ALPHAVILLE, Jean-Luc Godard

Available to watch on iTunes / Amazon

The Best Films to Watch Without Ever Leaving Your Bed This Week

Share Button

Every Monday morning, I find myself whispering the old Beckett adage “I can’t go on, I’ll go on,” to myself as I settle down into work. No matter how thrilling the day’s prospects may be, it’s that midweek slump that always seems to rear its ugly head in the worst way. But never fear, the hours are sure to breeze on by and soon it will be the weekend—one that happens to be rife with fantastic films both premiering and screening around the city, thanks to new premieres and various wonderful retrospectives.

But in the meantime, what better way to spend an evening than curled up under the sheets enjoying the best of cinema—new modern masterpieces to enduring classics—from the comfort of your bed? And with myriad options to choose from on Netflix, Hulu, and iTunes, the nightly decision of what to show in your private bedroom screening can prove a challenge. So to make your time easier, I’ve rounded up your favorite films available to stream—peruse our list, get cozy, and enjoy.

 

Goodbye First Love (Netflix)

Goodbye First Love” is fascinating. I’ve withheld a lot of information from you. I wonder exactly what Hansen-Løve means by it. It seems to me that a great deal more anger and contempt would be appropriate toward Sullivan — if not from Camille, then from the film. At the same time, Camille herself is a suitable case for study. Love is one thing. Even first love. But her love is so extreme and durable, it qualifies as a psychiatric condition. If Sullivan were afraid of her intensity, we might understand the trip to Peru. But the suspicion remains that he never fully comprehends its depth. We think of first love as sweet and valuable, a blessed if hazardous condition. This film, deeper than it seems, dares to suggest that beyond a certain point, it can represent a tragedy.” 

Less Than Zero (Netflix)

George Carlin was once asked how cocaine made you feel, and he answered: “It makes you feel like having some more cocaine.” That inescapable fact is at the bottom of “Less than Zero,” a movie that knows cocaine inside out and paints a portrait of drug addiction that is all the more harrowing because it takes place in the Beverly Hills fast lane, in a world of wealth, sex, glamor and helpless self-destruction.”

 

 

Double Suicide (Hulu)

However, Shinoda has succeeded in revealing an entirely new level of meaning through his mise en scène. The film begins with the kurago (the men dressed entirely in black who traditionally handle the puppets) assembling the bunraku puppets in preparation for the performance ofDouble Suicide while someone gives final instructions over the phone. The film moves into the ostensibly real world of drama, live actors taking over for the puppets, though still manipulated by the kurago. Shinoda has said that the kurago realize one of Chikamatsu’s basic principles: the need to realize the “thin line between truth and falsehood.” “They . . . represent the eye of the camera, . . . the desire of the audience to force their way deeper into the story, the minds of the characters, and possibly even . . . the mind of Chikamatsu himself.”    At times they manipulate the characters, drawing them nearer their inevitable fate, shown briefly at the beginning of the film, when Jihei crosses a bridge, under which the camera reveals his body lying next to that of Koharu. This emphasis on the artificiality of the drama serves the purpose of distancing the audience in a Brechtian fashion. The audience cannot identify with the individual characters, and is therefore forced to observe, much the same way as the kurago. This second use of the kurago brings about the film’s deeply disturbing effect. As the tragedy mounts, Shinoda constantly makes us aware of the kurago’s anguish—his continual close-ups of the masked faces reveal their awareness of their own helplessness. Their enforced silence mirrors that of the audience, and signifies a mounting despair.”

 

Paris is Burning (Netflix)

Beatings, violence and rejection are daily realities for men who want to pass as women, and so there is a certain courage exhibited by their choice. There is also a social commentary. Some of the reviews of “Paris is Burning” have called the movie depressing – because the dancers are pretending to be the kinds of people who would not accept them in real life (“After all,” one person says, “how many gay black males are there in the business executive ranks?”). I was not depressed. What I saw was a successful attempt by the outsiders to dramatize how success and status in the world often depend on props you can buy, or steal, almost anywhere – assuming you have the style to know how to use them.”

 

 

Tabloid (Netflix)

Even in his first film, “Gates of Heaven” (1978), Morris was looking but not judging. Every audience I’ve seen that film with has been divided about whether he loves its subjects or is mocking them. Impossible to say. And Joyce McKinney? She is so likable and sounds so plausible, and yet what was the deal with the red wig and the mime troupe? She sounds wounded in explaining her early nude photos are Photoshopped. But they sure do look like her — and how did they get printed in real magazines before the invention of Photoshop, and why would anyone back then have wanted to substitute her face on somebody else’s body?   What is amazing is that Morris gets McKinney to talk at all. And not only her, but others who were involved, all staring directly into the Interrotron and all sounding uncannily as if they’re speaking the truth. I’ve seen “Tabloid” twice. It is a spellbinding enigma, and one of the damnedest films Morris has ever made.”

 

The Model Couple (Hulu)

Though Klein keeps things psychoslapstick in this self-contained world of spaceship gadgetry and monitored orgasms, his depiction of a government usurping personal privacy and freedoms—as well as of a constant-surveillance reality-TV scenario—is soberingly prescient. As with Klein’s prior fictional outings, the film remains remarkably fresh; Klein’s social satire carries a timeless sting. He has continued to make films in the years since, but Klein has left behind the frenzied world of the imaginary, focusing instead on the fantastically real in unconventional documentaries on the May ’68 revolution, Little Richard, and Handel’s Messiah—just some aspects of a whirlwind multimedia career. Klein’s fiction films nevertheless stand apart, heightening reality in order to harness its frightening, absurd truths.”

Days of Heaven (Netflix)

Malick is a true poet of the ephemeral: the epiphanies that structure his films, beginning withDays of Heaven, are ones that flare up suddenly and die away just as quickly, with the uttering of a single line (like “She loved the farmer”), the flight of a bird or the launching of a plane, the flickering of a candle or the passing of a wind over the grass. Nothing is ever insisted upon or lingered on in his films; that is why they reveal subtly different arrangements of event, mood, and meaning each time we see them. Because everything is in motion, everything is whisked away quickly, and the elements of any one cellular moment are very soon redistributed and metamorphosed into other moments. Just look at and listen to the last minutes of Days of Heaven, with their split-second swing between end-of-the-line melancholic emptiness and wide-open possibility, for a sublime illustration of this ephemerality, which is miraculously caught and formalized in the language of cinema.”

 

 

Certified Copy (Netflix)

The first effect of this startling coup de cinéma is to take us out of the fiction by reminding us that it is a fiction. Once this happens, we are less able to relate to the two characters as people we might encounter in life than as artifices created by an artist whose motives can only be called opaque. I once described Kiarostami’s work as “a cinema of questions,” and the central twist inCertified Copy leaves us with many to ask. Which half of the film is “true”? Are these characters playacting in one or the other? Or could it be that the halves are competing falsehoods, or equally true in parallel universes? And how does this connect to all the talk about copies and originals, art and marriage?   In discussing the influence of poetry on his work, Kiarostami has often spoken of leaving gaps or elisions in his stories in order to invite or oblige the viewer to consciously participate in the creation of meaning. Certified Copy certainly qualifies as a variation on this technique; ultimately, we must determine what “happens” (or doesn’t) in the film, which means that our intentions regarding the characters (do we want them to be strangers or spouses, flirtatious or alienated?) are at least as important as Kiarostami’s. As for what he intends, both cinematically and personally, some of that may be discerned by pondering the two films that Certified Copyarguably has the most significant relationship to: Roberto Rossellini’s Voyage to Italy (1953) and Kiarostami’s own The Report (1977).”

 

My Dinner with Andre (Hulu)

My Dinner with André was shot over two weeks, on a set designed to resemble the Cafe des Artistes, a favorite New York restaurant since 1917 for an upscale bohemia. The coverage that Malle devised is extremely simple: mostly medium close-ups, reverse angles, and some pans between the two characters. Occasional cutaways to other diners, the waiter, and a strategically placed mirror on the wall next to the table add a bit of visual variety, but what matters is the conversation, which begins as a monologue and then takes a sudden turn into a sputtering, not entirely coherent, but heartfelt intellectual argument. André’s seductiveness as a storyteller has to do with the unstable mix of emotions bubbling beneath his smooth, urbane delivery. He’s not only eager to share his adventures with Wally (and, by extension, with us), he is desperate for an understanding ear. His desire to reach out to someone who could possibly make sense of what he has put himself through and reassure him that he’s not as mad as a hatter wins our sympathies. The more Wally resists him, the more we’re drawn to André’s side.”

 

Les enfants terribles (Hulu)

Cocteau’s was a sensational book, not merely “daring” but one that tapped the antagonism between French institutions—school, family, police, military—and the generation not quite adult but already more clearheaded about what they wanted, and especially what they didn’t want, than their parents had ever been. In book and film, we’re presented with the superannuated, spiritually mildewed figures of the school prefect, the family doctor, the family lawyer, the spectral French professional class, unchanged since the time of Balzac, that does things a certain way because things have always been done that way. Les enfants terribles deals with these figures in a manner suggesting that what all such people actually do is keep the wheels of social boredom in stabilizing slow motion and the joy of living in a state of rot.”

 

2 or 3 Things I Know About Her (Hulu)

The story was scandalous in a way that might have appealed to Warhol. Godard saw it as an opportunity to explore a subject always on his mind—prostitution, and not only the actuality of it but as a metaphor encompassing all exchanges involving labor, money, and power in capitalism. He had already made the affectingly restrained Vivre sa vie (1962), in which a young aspiring actress (Anna Karina) is seduced into selling her body because she can’t figure out how else to survive. (Of course, she does not survive for long.) And one would be hard-pressed to think of the Godard film that does not at some point make metaphoric use of prostitution. (Movies as varied as Chantal Akerman’s 1975 Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles and Steven Soderbergh’s 2009 The Girlfriend Experience have for better and worse been influenced by this idée fixe.)”

Lovers on the Bridge (Netflix)

Leos Carax’s “The Lovers on the Bridge” arrives trailing clouds of faded glory. It was already one of the most infamous productions in French history when it premiered at Cannes in 1992, where some were stunned by its greatness and more were simply stunned. Its American release was delayed, according to Carax, because its distributor vindictively jacked up the film’s asking price. Now it has arrived at last, a film both glorious and goofy, inspiring affection and exasperation in nearly equal measure.”

 

The Short Films of David Lynch (Hulu)

You hear the term Lynchian and you know what you’re in for—a “deconstruction of this weird irony of the banal” filled with “expressions of certain anxious, obsessive, fetishistic, oedipally arrested, borderlinish parts of the director’s psyche.” But even in his earliest films, most created while he was a student at AFI, Lynch’s films felt a part of the world we associate with him now. Heavily influenced by the work of Francis Bacon, he focused on paintings and art forms outside of film until realizing that if he could put these ideas and creations in motion, just how much more powerful they could be.”

 

Tokyo Drifter (Hulu)

One of the ironies about Suzuki is that he and other Japanese B directors have been neglected in the West for years, in part because of the critical favor lavished on specific Japanese auteurs, including Ozu and Mizoguchi. One of Japan’s leading critics, Tadao Sato, however, makes a strong case for Suzuki as an auteur in his own right. Dubbing him a gesakusha, “a humorist whose roots date back to the popular comical literature of the Edo period,” Sato locates radical logic in the director’s wild style. Like others of his wartime generation, Suzuki took refuge from Japan’s militarism in a doctrine of mutability. “For Seijun Suzuki, who had lived amid annihilation, it was necessary to view oneself objectively, even to the point where mutability appeared pathetic and humorous at the same time.” Adds Sato, “It was even necessary to discover a certain masochistic pleasure in the abnormal experience that shook one’s core,” which is why his best films resemble a “masochistic cartoon.” High praise indeed.”

 

The Double Life of Veronique (Hulu)

So in The Double Life of Véronique, perhaps, we are not dealing with the “mystery” of the communication between two Véroniques but with one and the same Véronique who travels back and forth in time. In these terms, the key scene in the film is the near encounter of the two Véroniques in the large square in Kraków, where a Solidarity demonstration is taking place. This episode is rendered in a vertiginous circular shot reminiscent of the famous 360-degree shot from Hitchcock’s Vertigo. Afterward, when the French Véronique is introduced, we can understand Polish Weronika’s perplexity as arising from an obscure awareness that she was about to have an impossible encounter with her double (later, we see a photo of her taken at that moment by Véronique). The camera’s circular movement, then, can be read as signaling the danger of the “end of the world,” like the standard scene from science-fiction films about alternative realities, in which the passage from one to another universe takes the shape of a terrifying primordial vortex threatening to swallow all consistent reality. The camera’s movement thus signals that we are on the verge of the vortex in which different realities mix, that this vortex is already exerting its influence: if we take one step further—that is to say, if the two Véroniques were actually to confront and recognize each other—reality would disintegrate, because such an encounter, of a person with her double, with herself in another time-space dimension, is precluded by the very fundamental structure of the universe.”

 

 

Night on Earth (Hulu)

The male characters in Jarmusch’s films tend to be laconic, withdrawn, sorrowful mumblers (Bill Murray in Broken Flowers, Tom Waits in Down by Law, Forest Whitaker in Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai), with an occasional live-wire motormouth charging in to dominate the action. No live wire is more alive, no motormouth is in higher gear than Giancarlo Esposito in the second part of Night on Earth. His performance is so energetic, so tightly sprung, one feels that his entire body might explode at any second. After a languid montage of introductory shots, detailing a number of inanimate objects around the city (a glowing pay phone, a graffiti-covered truck), there he is, standing in the middle of Times Square on a freezing winter night, an oddly dressed black man wearing a grotesque fur hat with dangling earflaps, desperately trying to flag down a cab. It’s a widely known fact of New York life that black men, even black men dressed in suits and ties, have great difficulty getting taxis to stop for them. Esposito shouts at each passing cab, frantically waves his arms, implores each one to stop, but his efforts appear to be doomed. Then, a miracle. A cab pulls up, but when Esposito announces that he wants to go to Brooklyn, the driver steps on the gas and speeds off. This is another widely known fact of New York life, and as a longtime resident of Brooklyn, I can vouch for its accuracy. Taxi drivers are reluctant to take passengers from Manhattan to Brooklyn. Growing more and more agitated, Esposito pulls a wad of money from his pocket and holds it up in the air, proving that his intentions are honest: he can pay; all he wants is to go home. After another cab ignores him, he calls out in frustration: “What, am I invisible, man?” Note the subtlety of the line. The word racism has not been mentioned, but how not to think of Ralph Ellison’s novel Invisible Man, the classic exploration of what it means to be a black man in America? Whether Jarmusch is making a conscious or unconscious reference to the book is unimportant. The words are delivered in a natural, even humorous, way—and yet they sting.”

 

The Spirit of the Beehive (Hulu)

The Spirit of the Beehive was controversial from the start. Although it won the main prize at San Sebastián on its release, the jury’s enthusiasm was not shared by all the public. Some of the audience, restless at the film’s slow pace, even booed. Yet The Spirit of the Beehive is a classic example of one strand of Spanish filmmaking at that time. Like many repressive regimes, Francoism attempted to use cinema to change its negative image abroad and to create the impression that freedom of expression was permitted. By producing some internationally successful “quality” films, the regime also hoped to raise the status of Spanish cinema generally, which was at that time dominated by crude, mainstream comedies. By the early seventies, these policies had led to the production and export of many experimental and even discreetly oppositional films, although, of course, no overtly leftist movies could be made. The gaping holes in the plot of The Spirit of the Beehive and the mysterious motivations of its characters are typical of this “Francoist aesthetic,” a term used to describe artistically ambitious movies of the time that made use of fantasy and allegory. These characteristics, which remain so magical to modern audiences, were used in the period as a form of indirect critique.”

The Best Films to Watch Without Ever Leaving Your Bed This Week

Share Button

Every Monday morning, I find myself whispering the old Beckett adage “I can’t go on, I’ll go on,” to myself as I settle down into work. No matter how thrilling the day’s prospects may be, it’s that midweek slump that always seems to rear its ugly head in the worst way. But never fear, the hours are sure to breeze on by and soon it will be the weekend—one that happens to be rife with fantastic films both premiering and screening around the city, thanks to NYFF and various other retrospectives.  

But in the meantime, what better way to spend an evening than curled up under the sheets enjoying the best of cinema—new modern masterpieces to wonderful classics—from the comfort of your bed? And with myriad options to choose from on Netflix, Hulu, and iTunes, the nightly decision of what to show in your private bedroom screening can prove a challenge. So to make your time easier, I’ve rounded up some of the best films available to stream, so peruse our list, get cozy, and enjoy.  

Gray’s Anatomy (Hulu)

That Gray is never completely enveloped by the events he recalls, but always remains an outside observer, even when he appears to be choking on the special-effect smoke in the sweat lodge, doesn’t make his story any less compelling or terrifying. Indeed, it is the distance between Gray’s first-person narrating voice and the events he describes that makes all his work at once anxiety-provoking and hilarious, a state Soderbergh perfectly captures. And Soderbergh reinforces this distance in Gray’s Anatomy with his mise-en-scène, Cliff Martinez’s droll score, and Susan Littenberg’s deft editing, which complements Gray’s brilliant comic timing. Soderbergh also introduces an element entirely of his own devising. Having eliminated the audience inside the theater, he adds a half dozen or so outside observers, who in most cases are literally outside—standing in driveways and yards that appear barren and just a bit ominous. They have all experienced eye injuries, and they view Gray’s adventures in alternative medicine with a certain skepticism. They are stand-ins for us, calling attention to our own observation of Spalding Gray in his telling of his own observational crisis. We may believe that we have been spared their—and Gray’s—dual role of being the observed even as they are observing. But if you watch this disc to the end of the credits, you will find that Soderbergh has saved his best twist for last. See you at the eye doctor.

READ MORE

 

Computer Chess (iTunes)

These nerds aren’t to be distracted by sex or self-knowledge. In a late-night pot-smoking session before the convention begins, they’re more absorbed by the larger problems of artificial intelligence—whether the computers are in any sense thinking, or only calculating faster than a human can. We’re still on pause at that point. In its technical specs, "Computer Chess" is flawless. All of the clunky old equipment makes us wonder how the computer pioneers ever got anything accomplished. They must have been very patient. But we know right off the bat this is a put-on. The giveaway: There’s footage of the cameraman and his camera. The simple fact of this film is unlikely enough. The probability of a film about it, one that also films the swinging and self-helping , even more so. As an achievement, "Computer Chess" is laudable. As a film, it’s missable.

Stories We Tell (iTunes)

Sarah Polley’s documentary is a startling mixture of private memoir, public inquiry, and conjuring trick. On camera, she quizzes a long list of relatives and friends, beginning with her father, Michael, and her siblings. The subject is Polley’s late mother, Diane, an effervescent soul, as we see from old home movies; as the story unfolds, however, the footage seems to be so profuse, and so oddly convenient, that we start to question our own assumptions about her—which is exactly what Polley had in mind. (She is an actor, as both of her parents were; clearly, an acute strain of make-believe runs in the blood.) The main secret that is dug up by Polley’s investigations regarding her own origins is somehow more invigorating than traumatic, although there are hints of collateral anxiety among her brothers and sisters; the very ordinariness of the saga, however, becomes its strength, and, if viewers leave the screening feeling destabilized, determined to chip away at the apparently fixed narratives that sustain their own families, then the movie’s job is done.

READ MORE

Melancholia (Netflix)

Antichrist felt so intimate, with a tiny crew who went to extremes. And with this character everything was more subtle and more difficult for me to understand, and to know where I was going because it was less extreme. And the crew felt different, the whole thing was nearly the opposite which was nice. I was nervous before I started this film because I enjoyed myself so much on the first, that I was worried it wouldn’t be as good. I enjoyed Antichrist very much in a troubled way. That’s why we do this job, not to go in easy places…this was very different. I think he was not well when we shot Antichrist and came up saying he didn’t know if he’d be able to finish the film. And so we suffered looking at him and not being able to cope with everything. For this, he was good and was saying how happy he felt. So that was nice to see him recover.

READ MORE

 

Lost in Translation (Netflix)

For Coppola, pink isn’t a color so much as a feminine stop-loss between being young and being happy. In The Virgin Suicides, pink was the air of impenetrability that covered the Lisbon girls like an irremovable veil. InMarie Antoinette, pink arrived as tiered cakes and frivolous attitude, humanizing a young queen entrusted with an angry nation, and in Somewhere, which was effectively a man’s tale, Coppola personified the color into a character, allowing it to grow and take its ultimate form in the shape of a Fanning sister. Johnny Marco’s daughter personified the best of himself that he had allowed to wither, sacrificed to a world intent on using him up. For these women, pink is a problem to be solved or make public, a private ideal they struggle to preserve and share. Indeed, the broader the context in which one considers Charlotte’s underwear, the less those Arax panties feel like a costume department’s quasi-arbitrary decision or a scrap from the bottom of Scarlett Johansson’s luggage. In fact, the story goes that Coppola was so insistent upon Charlotte wearing this particular undergarment that, to convince her shy actress to wear them, the director modeled them herself.

READ MORE

Blue Velvet (iTunes)

I’d always had a desire to sneak into a girl’s apartment and watch her through the night. I had the idea that while I was doing this I’d see something which I’d later realize was the clue to a mystery. I think people are fascinated by that, by being able to see into a world they couldn’t visit. That’s the fantastic thing about cinema, everybody can be a voyeur. Voyeurism is a bit like watching television – go one step further and you want to start looking in on things that are really happening…."Blue Velvet is a very American movie. The look of it was inspired by my childhood in Spokane, Washington. Lumberton is a real name; there are many Lumbertons in America. I picked it because we would get police insignias and stuff, because it was an actual town. But then it took off in my mind.

READ MORE 

After Life (YouTube)

Like every filmmaker whose primary interest lies in illustrating the unseen, Kore-eda’s visual style owes much to the Transcendentalists, Yasujiro Ozu among them. Paul Schrader (in Transcendental Style in Film) wrote that in the Japanese director’s films ‘the action gives meaning to the still life.’ When the deceased are contemplating their lives at the beginning of After Life, Kore-eda’s sets are as sparse as sets can be; only an occasional window gives any hint of an alternate reality. After they’ve chosen their memory, the sets are designed and the deceased give form to eternity. The set, and by extension the world itself, is infused with the meaning we bring to it. It is our collective memories that animate the universe, that infuse the world with meaning, that hint at the divine. Without them, we’re lost–in limbo.

READ MORE

 

Fish Tank (Netflix)

Fish Tank’s authenticity may owe much to Arnold’s own experiences, but it undoubtedly stems almost as much from her finding Katie Jarvis, an untrained seventeen-year-old discovered having an argument with her boyfriend on a station platform, and coaching her through a demanding central role. Just as Loach’s Kes depended totally on the tough vulnerability of the young David Bradley as Billy, so Jarvis brings to Mia a complete believability. Whether she is asserting her status among peers, tentatively trying out makeup in her mother’s bedroom, or impulsively wreaking revenge for Connor’s betrayal—in a scene both frightening and exhilarating that takes us to the coastal edge of the Thames Estuary—Jarvis is entirely convincing. And never more so than when she decides she must leave the family nest and seize her chance at happiness. Here, Arnold’s unerring ear for the soundtrack of her characters’ lives (which has already given us Connor’s cherished “California Dreamin’,” creating an immediate bond between him and Mia) produces a triumphant, wordless scene, as Mia and Joanne launch into an impromptu dance routine, set to Nas’s pounding “Life’s a Bitch.”

READ MORE

 

Stray Dog (Hulu)

Its openness to this multiplicity is a key aspect in which (despite surface similarities) Stray Dog differs from American film noir. Violence as catharsis; the possibility that physical action can solve, by metaphor, a political, social, or moral problem; the ability of individuals to perform acts that have symbolic validity for their societies—these are the basic conditions of American action cinema, including that hybrid or offshoot or mutation labeled film noir. In Stray Dog, action solves no wider problems—only the immediate ones of recovering the gun and catching the criminal—and yields no release. It’s tangential to the larger sphere of society, as Kurosawa stresses in the climactic sequence by shifting our attention from the cop and the culprit to a young woman practicing piano nearby; and even within its own sphere (of narrative cause and effect), it is unsatisfying and inconclusive, as Kurosawa makes us feel by lingering on the murderer’s tortured scream and, in the final shot, on Murakami’s silent gaze out the hospital window. Kurosawa’s great originality with rhythm and structure is most evident in this final section: the rain finally comes, bringing a logical end to the film, but the film continues, tracking the object of Murakami’s obsession across a series of now-liberated landscapes to which his quest is irrelevant. It’s in its suggestion, through a multiplicity of rhythms, textures, and moods, of the range of human possibilities and of multiple worlds that ignore each other, that Stray Dog is most fervent and haunting.

READ MORE

 

Bad Timing (Hulu)

Like the Klimt painting “The Kiss” shown in the first sequence of the film, the story is told with a fragmented narrative—a collage of moments that make up their disjointed relationship. But what’s interesting about Milena and Alex is that even in the deepest moments of affection or love you can taste that hate is only a touch away. Their desire for one another is primal, a type of obsession that stems from the games lovers play and the incessant torture they inflict on one another—whether it’s a purposeful pain or simply a subconscious desire to hurt that which you love before it can hurt you.  In an article for the Criterion Collection, Richard Combs once desired their relationship as resembling “one of those impossible ball-in-a-maze puzzles—there are, in fact, two matching sets of these in the film—where he is drawn to her wildness and chaos and impelled to tame it, perhaps because he fears a matching chaos in himself. When he despairs that she’ll never change, she retorts, ‘If you weren’t who you are, I wouldn’t have to.’” Their love is a rare breed that is an absolute fury and a fire. It’s as if the two have transcended past affection and become a sort of conjoined wound that just won’t heal, constantly tearing and bleeding with lust and hatred. They wish death upon themselves and one other. “Leave and you kill me. Leave and I’m dead,” screams Milena in a manic fit of rage towards Alex. 

READ MORE

 

Bachelorette (Netflix)

I think as an artist, whether it’s what you do or what I do, when you start looking back you’re fucked. It slows you down. And it’s a little hard to sit through the play now. I’ll probably feel the same way about the movie some day where I can see the things I did wrong and think of all of the things I have learned. But the play was born out of such pain and fear about what was going to happen to me, what was going to happen to all of us. It’s sort of why I called it Bachelorette. There were a couple of people that encouraged me to change the title because the wedding genre, and then of course when Bridesmaids opened we were four weeks away from shooting. But the reason I called it that was because I was like, “We’re fucked. This is the only word we have for these people.” Like, they don’t even have a name. Think of a movie title like Swingers. That’s such a great title, and those guys are trying to be cool but they’e not, and then there’s the swing dancing and it all makes sense. But I couldn’t for the life of me think of one good moniker for these women and who they are that wasn’t punitive. You know what I mean, like Sluts or Bitches, and who would see a movie called that? All we’ve got is this feminized version of this male idea, that’s, by the way, a great thing if you’re a man. If you’re not married and you’re a straight guy, the world is your fuckin’ oyster, but if you’re single and you’re a woman and you’ve got something going for you, it’s just so sad you’re not married yet. It doesn’t make any sense to me. But what do I know? I’m sad and alone.

READ MORE

 

Like Crazy (Netflix)

For them, the relationship becomes like trying to come back to a moment that existed, that’s in the past, and that doesn’t exist anymore. It’s that first three or four months that you cling to, or want to relive over and over again, like a drug. That’s the saddest thing of all, because while you’re in it, you can’t tell yourself that it’s not real, or that it doesn’t exist anymore. I feel like it’s two things, to be concise: One, it’s Jacob and Anna trying to get back to that moment, and two, it’s Jacob and Anna trying to move on from each other and not being able to. It’s somewhere in between those two, and it’s the grey area that’s devastating. That’s something that I really wanted to convey.

READ MORE

 

Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice (iTunes)

"Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice" isn’t really about wife swapping at all, but about the epidemic of moral earnestness that’s sweeping our society right now. For some curious reason, we suddenly seem compelled to tell the truth in our personal relationships Some critics have called the ending (when the two couples do not trade partners after all) a cop-out. Not at all. It’s consistent with the situation and the development of the characters, and an orgy at the end would have buried the movie’s small, but poignant, message. It’s a message, incidentally, that I think was missed by the feminist who sent me a postcard saying: "Down with wife-swapping, up with husband-swapping." They’re two sides, wouldn’t you say, of the same coin?

READ MORE

Veronika Voss (Hulu)

Veronika Voss is something else again, a druglike immersion experience disguised as a Citizen Kane-like investigative inquiry, tonally very close to Fassbinder’s earlier In a Year of 13 Moons (In einem Jahr mit 13 Monden, 1978). The narrative of Robert’s investigation never gains much momentum, as the sense of skin-crawling anxiety stretches out to infinity in scene after scene. Every image hurts in this hypertactile, overstuffed world, shot in bric-a-brac stuffed interiors in the most piercing black and white, closer to an X-ray than to high Hollywood. Fassbinder was a genius with rhythm, and in each of these films he builds to set pieces of tremendous power and gravity.

READ MORE

 

C.O.G. (iTunes)

Starring Jonathan Groff, C.O.G. tells the story of an arrogant but meandering post-collegiate man named David, who has now decided to go by the name Samuel—not Sam. By bus, he travels to Oregon, leaving his well-traveled, Ivy League education and troubled home life behind to go work on an apple farm. With his sense of entitlement still intact, he finds himself in the trenches a world completely removed from his own, out of his element, and confused about exactly what he’s doing there. His lifestyle and arrogant ways are quickly picked apart and whittled down by the various local characters he encounters and strange mentors he picks up along the way, forcing him to put his pride aside and learn assimilate in order to find his place.  

As an acronym for “Child of God” "C.O.G." was originally published in 1997’s Naked. But rather than creature a caricature of Sedaris, Alvarez put his own passionate voice into the work, to tell a story that not only deals with the rough road to self-discovery and self-acceptance, but how we deal with the way others perceive us in the world. Dealing with sexual identity and the myriad ways religion can be used in our lives, Alvarez’s film gives you that bizarrely comforting feeling that comes from diving into the world of David Sedaris—not only entertaining us, but forcing us to look the complex way we view our own internal battles—no matter how unremarkable they may seem. And with a cast featuring Dean Stockwell, Corey Stoll, and Denis O’Hare, C.O.G truly comes alive through its characters, whose idiosyncrasies clash with that of Sam and begin to tear down his affected exterior.

READ MORE

 

The Kings of Summer (iTunes)

In a cinematic culture that’s become oversaturated with inauthentic emotion and the use of technology over human connection, we often forget what the joy of movies is all about. You look back on what made you first fall in love with film, on the pictures that truly excited you, and it wasn’t about cheap thrills or blockbuster blasts. It was the simple idea of good storytelling—films that felt rich and alive and took you on an adventure and made you feel as though you experienced something great. It’s the memory of those cinematic moments that stay whole in our minds and inspire what we will go on to create. And in recent years, as a new wave of filmmakers emerges, we’ve begun to see a harkening back to that kind of storytelling through the new voices of independent cinema—revitalizing a generation and telling stories teeming with life and excitement,  being made to please their artistic sensibility rather than a grand ideal of what a successful film in Hollywood should be. And with Jordan Vogt-Roberts’ directorial debut The Kings of Summer, he recalls a certain kind of coming-of-age story that feels both anachronistic yet with a fresh take on the genre. Telling the story of Joe (played by Nick Robinson), the film is about "what the hell it means to be a man in the video game era," about teenage boys struggling to understand their own ascent into manhood and independence while clashing with parental authority, and the newfound hells of love.

READ MORE 

Mr. Nobody (iTunes)

The film is less “Sliding Doors” than a series of revolving doors, and auds will be too busy figuring out what’s going on much of the time to contemplate the underlying themes, such as chance, choice and the potential of every person to influence the course of his or her own life. But despite the film’s clever construction and its often whimsical asides, there’s a benign humanism underneath it all that ensures that the pic is finally about emotions, not artifice. The closest the film comes to having a gravitational center are in the scenes set in 2092. What makes them soar is not the imaginative staging of the future — in clinical white and impressive CGI, courtesy of its $53 million budget — but Leto’s performance. Though he is competent as the adult Nemos, his acting talent really comes into full view in his scenes as the last dying man on Earth (advances in technology have kept everyone else from aging). Despite too much old-age makeup, Leto nevertheless infuses the character with some real raw emotional power.

READ MORE

 

The Last Detail (iTunes)

The Last Detail is less sentimental and spiked with a disconcertingly bleak sense of humor; it’s ultimately about two worker bees who elect to cover their own asses rather than stick their neck out for a potential systematic casualty. The film has an engagingly profane, scruffy looseness, a hallmark of Ashby and Towne’s careers, that undermines the conventions of the narrative. Every major scene goes on longer than one expects, and often to considerable effect. Moments that find the three men sitting in a cheap hotel room talking pussy and drinking themselves into oblivion are initially funny, but they go on long enough to reveal, without fuss, the loneliness and quiet despair that often fuels such encounters. And an interlude between Meadows and a whore (Carol Kane) is unforgettable—one of American cinema’s great tender scenes of sexual disillusionment. Like a number of Ashby and Towne’s respective films, The Last Detail ages well because it appears to retrospectively explain why so many baby boomers disappointed themselves. The pragmatic answer would appear to be that rebellion, in the face of almost absolute failure, is simply exhausting, and the anger can’t sustain itself if it isn’t fueled by the immediate threat of demise. The government will always eventually win so, fuck it, let’s drop the kid off at the jail and grab a beer.  

READ MORE

Cries & Whispers (Hulu)

Cries and Whispers remains one of the most superb manifestations of the art of cinematographer Sven Nykvist, who justly won an Academy Award for his work on the film. From the hallucinatory images of the coming of dawn in the parkland surrounding the manor, to the intensity of the close-ups inside the house, he creates a three-dimensional magic that aestheticizes the emotional anguish of the family. Bergman and his team made the film over a 42-day period during the late summer and early autumn of 1971, shooting on location in Taxinge-Näsby, outside Mariefred in the Mälär district west of Stockholm. Although the budget was modest at just under $400,000, Bergman had to ask his actors and Sven Nykvist to invest in the picture. The film’s brilliant quality assured its success at festival after festival, and while it did not perform well at the box-office, it quickly became an art-house staple and remains today an extraordinary vision of “the interior of the soul”.

READ MORE

 

Paris, Texas (Hulu)

The next day he returns, but this time he picks up the phone, turns his back to her, and begins to tell a story. He details their relationship, from beginning to end: ”I knew these people…They were in love with each other…He was kind of raggedy and wild. She was very beautiful, you know?” He expresses the adventure and excitement they found in being together and how they ached to be in each other’s presence to the point where he’d quit working just to be with her. But as his story progresses you see how that same tremendous passion unraveled them both, how quickly love can turn to resentment, even violence. The primal act of falling in love shakes the core of our foundation and forces most of us to submit to our emotions in a way we find frightening. What fractured Travis and Jane’s love came from the larger existential questions that linger between most men and women—an insular battle with self-destruction that caused a rift too large to patch. One of life’s most painful truths, although we refuse so often to admit it to ourselves, is that love is not enough. It may be the most profound and astonishing thing two human beings can share in this crumbling world, but it cannot fill all the gaps that rest between our bones or mend those wounds that will never heal. No matter how hard we try.”

READ MORE

 

My Life as a Dog (Hulu)

Still, My Life as a Dog is a stubbornly affectionate and often lyrical film. Hallström backdrops Ingemar’s narrational asides about the misery of others with a vision of a star-filled night sky as a child might see it lying on his or her back, imagining the plight of that Russian dog. The film’s visual sense is organically realist: whole scenes are swallowed in one shot, seen from a slight distance, so that the characters and the environment can be experienced without manipulation. Simple, patient images, like of Ingemar huddled on a bench in a wide hospital hall after visiting his mother’s sickroom, have an impact no amount of hyperactive editing and emphatic mega-close-ups, in the American style, could approximate. When the child disembarks from the train that has carried him back to his uncle’s town after finally being orphaned, we can barely see him for all of the steam and snow, until his lovable, irreverent uncle runs to meet him, picks him up, and stands embracing him selflessly in the cold. It’s a film about people shaped by people, by the rhythms of their behavior and feelings, and in this, My Life as a Dog belongs to a tradition beginning with Jean Renoir, a sensibility that has been explored precious little since and may very well be expiring. What could be more fundamental as a cinematic substance than the truly observed properties of our fellow humans?

READ MORE

Blue Caprice (iTunes)

But from the initial moments on screen, it was evident that Blue Caprice was far more than a literal depiction of the Beltway Sniper attacks and the father and son duo—John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo—that committed them. Rather than highlighting the act of brutality itself, Moor’s film plays out as a symbolic meditation on the psychology of violence, attempting to understand and uncover its tangled roots. Starring Isaiah Washington and Tequan Richmond, Blue Caprice is a film of ambiguities. Named for the 1990 Chevrolet Caprice in which Muhammad and Malvo traveled in, the film was written with R.F.I. Porto who, alongside Moors, dug heavily into the court cases and examinations that followed the attacks, yet, crafted a film that exists in the intimate moments where one can only surmise what truly occurred between these people. Moor gives us a chilling portrait focused on the interior of his characters, allowing for a deeper awareness into their lives and their existence as people before they were murderers. Through Moor’s use of muffed sound and setting the camera at a distance, you experience an incredibly unnerving sensation while taking in the film—one that lingers far longer than had you only been exposed to a recollection of historical news coverage. It’s the notion of the capacity for violence and how the ability of carry out terror can be inherited or impressed upon us so easily that sends a chill down our spine and makes the atmosphere of Blue Caprice film so heavy.

READ MORE

Traveling From Cassavetes to Carruth: This Week on Hulu

Share Button

With the wealth of rare and unique films populating Hulu’s film section, tradition holds that each week we make you privy to the best of what the Criterion Collection is highlighting on the site. But this week, I thought I’d share with you the best movies available for free on Hulu outside of the coveted collection. From The Who’s teenage wasteland of Quadrophenia to Shane Carruth’s confounding debut Primer, there’s a stunning film here for every movie mood whether it’s brilliant narratives or or illuminating documenarties you’re looking for. So as we inch closer to Friday, peruse our roundup to see just what you’ll be cuddling up to this weekend. Enjoy.

   

Hoop Dreams

Quadrophenia

 

The Beales of Grey Gardens

 

Hollis Frampton (nostalgia)

 

Shadows

Lust, Caution

{pagbebreak}

Harlan County, USA

 

Tomboy

The Evil Dead

 

Manhattan Murder Mystery

   

Primer

 

Betty Blue

A Fresh Start for Summer: This Week on Hulu

Share Button

Now that the festivities of Memorial Day are behind us, we can now look forward to the infinite pleasures of summer. And aside from the sunlight and weekends spent rolling in the sand, there’s always the delight of summer films. So in honor of the season, The Criterion Collection is offering up something new in their weekly unveiling of free films on Hulu. With their 101 Days of Summer, they will now be highlighting a new title every day which will remain free for forty-eight hours. And to start off the season in style, they’ve made seven wonderful features—from existential Bergman classics to rare Altman dramas—available for your post-holiday cinematic endeavors. Take a look at what they’re offering this week and enjoy.

 

 

 

Speedy

This silent comedy, in which Lloyd plays a go-getter whose many jobs include cabdriver and soda jerk, is the only Oscar-nominated film in the slapstick icon’s oeuvre. It features some incredible on-location New York shooting (including a scene set at Coney Island and a car chase through the Washington Square Park arch) and a cameo by none other than Babe Ruth.
 
 

The Naked Kiss

The setup is pure pulp: A former prostitute (a crackerjack Constance Towers) relocates to a buttoned-down suburb, determined to fit in with mainstream society. But in the strange, hallucinatory territory of writer-director-producer Samuel Fuller, perverse secrets simmer beneath the wholesome surface. 
 
 

Secret Honor

 Based on the original play by Donald Freed and Arnold M. Stone, and starring Philip Baker Hall in a tour de force solo performance, Robert Altman’s Secret Honor is a searing interrogation of the Nixon mystique and an audacious depiction of unchecked paranoia.
 
 

Two English Girls

The film resounds with themes and elements that interested and obsessed Truffaut throughout his career, but many of these themes flow directly from Roché: the incalculable complexity of love between men and women, the detached protagonist and the mismatched romantic partners, locked in love and crippled by its consequences. But Two English Girls sets itself apart by its sheer grace and palpable beauty, and if the film is a monument to Truffaut’s most prized and personal pleasures, our greatest pleasure is simply in observing the conjurer at work.
 
 

 

 

Seduced and Abandoned

Merciless and mirthful, Seduced and Abandoned skewers Sicilian social customs and pompous patriarchies with a sly, devilish grin.
 
 

A Hen in the Wind

 
 

The Seventh Seal

The Seventh Seal maintains throughout a peculiarly modernistic insistence on doubt. It embraces doubt the way most of the others embrace piety, futility, or melodrama. Only The Seventh Seal achieves uncanny timelessness by convincingly re-creating the time in which it is set. 

Treasures of Cannes Past: This Week on Hulu

Share Button

This Wednesday, Baz Luhrmann’s cinematic re-visioning of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby will Charleston its way into Cannes, kicking off the most anticipated film festival of the year. And with premieres by everyone from Nicolas Winding Refn and James Franco to Claire Denis and the Coen brothers, there’s more than enough to ignite plenty of excitement. But for those of us that will, sadly, not be in attendance, we can still celebrate with our own at home festival, looking back on some of the most beloved Cannes winners from the past.

And this week on Hulu, the Criterion Collection has made some of their greatest works of film available for your viewing pleasure. From Wim Wenders’ absolutely perfect existential romantic yearning masterpiece Paris, Texas to MIchaelangelo Antonioni’s iconic and breathtakingly beautiful L’Avventura and many a goody in between, see what took home top prizes at festivals of yore. So in case you just cannot decide where to start, here are some brief previews of the cinematic magic in store. Enjoy.

Wim Wenders’ Paris, Texas (Palme d’Or, 1984)

"Wenders and Shepard produce a powerful statement on codes of masculinity and the myth of the American family, as well as an exquisite visual exploration of a vast, crumbling world of canyons and neon."

 

Luis Bunuel’s Viridiana (Palme d’Or, 1961)

"Banned in Spain and denounced by the Vatican, Luis Buñuel’s irreverent vision of life as a beggar’s banquet is regarded by many as his masterpiece."

 

Lars von Trier’s Europa (Jury Prize, 1991)

"With its gorgeous black-and-white and color imagery and meticulously recreated (if then nightmarishly deconstructed) costumes and sets, Europa is one of the great Danish filmmaker’s weirdest and most wonderful works, a runaway-train ride to an oddly futuristic past."

 

Masaki Kobayashi’s Harakiri (Jury Prize, 1963)

"A fierce evocation of individual agency in the face of a corrupt and hypocritical system."

 

Abbas Kiarostami’s Taste of Cherry (Palme d’Or, 1997)

"An emotionally complex meditation on life and death. Middle-aged Mr. Badii drives through the hilly outskirts of Tehran—searching for someone to rescue or bury him."

 

Hiroshi Teshigahara’s Woman in the Dunes (Jury Prize, 1964)

"One of cinema’s most bristling, unnerving, and palpably erotic battles of the sexes, as well as a nightmarish depiction of everyday Sisyphean struggle, for which Teshigahara received an Academy Award nomination for best director.

 

Michelangelo Antonioni’s L’avventura (Jury Prize, 1960)

"Antonioni’s penetrating study of the idle upper class offers stinging observations on spiritual isolation and the many meanings of love."

 

 

Kon Ichikawa’s Odd Obsession (Jury Prize, 1960)

"Less known today and currently unavailable on DVD or Blu-ray, is Kon Ichikawa’s Odd Obsession. The latter is an absorbing tale of adultery, jealousy, and a quest for eternal youth, starring Tatsuya Nakadai, Ganjiro Nakamura, and Machiko Kyo."

Your Night With Trintignant: This Week on Hulu

Share Button

Jean-Louis Trintignant once said, "I’ve spent so many decades only making movies. There’s so much that I still want to do. Like, live. It’s only up to me." And after beginning his career in the mid-1950s, the iconic French actor has led some of cinema’s most remarkable films of the last half-century, from Bertoluci’s The Conformist to Kieslowski’s Three Color’s: Red to this year’s brutally heartbreaking story of love’s endurance, Michael Haneke’s Amour.

With a 14 year gap between Red and Amour, we were more thrilled than ever to see another subtly killer performance from Trintignant, who still has the ability to captivate an audience with distinct style that goes from cerebral and stoic and wildly neurotic seamlessly. And this week, the Criterion Collection has made all of their Trintignant-centric films available free to watch. So whether you’re not familiar with the work of the internationally-acclaimed actor of stage and screen or simply understand that there’s never enough Trintignant, peruse our list of films available to watch and carve out some time to enjoy these sensational classics.

Three Colors: Red, Krystof Kiewslowski (1994)

Z, Costas Gavras (1969)

My Night at Maud’s, Eric Rohmer (1969)

…And God Created Woman, Roger Vadem (1956)

Confidentally Yours, Francois Trauffaut (1983)

La nuit de varennes, Ettore Scola (1982)