17 Jul 2019

The Best (ex-festival) Films New to Streaming

From Widescreen, 2:49 pm on 17 July 2019

If you can’t get to the International Film Festival – or it can‘t get to you – Dan Slevin suggests some ways you can have a festival at home.

Roy Andersson's deadpan Golden Lion winner A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence (NZIFF, 2015)

Roy Andersson's deadpan Golden Lion winner A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence (NZIFF, 2015) Photo: NZIFF

This year’s New Zealand International Film Festival opens in Auckland tomorrow but not everyone is able to take that ride straight away. You might have young kids at home and no babysitter. Possibly you are between jobs or have just started a new one. And if you live outside of Auckland you might have a small, medium or long time to wait for the festival to arrive – Christchurch doesn’t start screening until 8 August.

So, here are some suggestions for films you can watch at home that will still give you that festival buzz. In fact, most of these suggestions actually screened in recent editions of the festival and now is as good a time as any to check them out.

The top service for festival-style films is Mubi, a rolling line-up of 30 films. Every day a new one is added and an old one disappears. So, depending on when you are reading this, my specific advice could already be completely useless.

Today (17 July 2019) they just added Werner Herzog’s documentary about the Internet: Lo and Behold, Reveries of a Connected World (NZIFF, 2016). At the time, I described it thusly: “Broken up into pseudo-biblical chapters, Herzog’s film only really scratches the surface of the technical and communications revolution that is transforming life on Earth. Could easily be a series for television, I reckon. Billionaire nutbar Elon Musk, for example, deserves a film of his own.”

Nanni Moretti’s wry comedy drama Mia Madre (NZOFF, 2015) stars John Turturro as an egotistical Hollywood actor thrust into his director’s family tragedy. Roy Andersson’s deadpan existential comedies have a small but loyal following at festival time and his most recent, A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence (NZIFF, 2015) won the Golden Lion at Venice in 2014. Laura Gabbert’s affectionate documentary about LA food critic Jonathan Gold, City of Gold (NZIFF, 2015) returned for a local release where I got to review it for At the Movies: “… a film that’s as much about the Los Angeles melting pot and how unique, wonderful and under-appreciated it is …”

Juliet Binoche in Olivier Assayas’s popular drama Summer Hours (NZIFF, 2009).

Juliet Binoche in Olivier Assayas’s popular drama Summer Hours (NZIFF, 2009). Photo: NZIFF

Peter Strickland has a new film in this year’s festival, In Fabric, but in 2015 the festival screened another of his delicate, erotic and stylish arthouse objects, The Duke of Burgundy. In 2014, the festival screened English comedian Richard Ayoade’s second feature, the Dostoevsky adaptation The Double starring Jesse Eisenberg. Like other past NZIFF titles, Bernie (Richard Linklater’s true crime comedy), Stranger by the Lake (Alain Guiraudie’s hardcore seduction from 2013), The Future (Miranda July, 2011) and Assayas’ Summer Hours (2009), both of those are also screening on Mubi.

I’d heartily recommend you at least take out a 30-day trial for Mubi and use their apps to make your viewing pleasure as smooth as possible. Students (and teachers for that matter) are also entitled to sign up for Mubi free of charge for as long they have a working dot ac dot nz email address. That’s an amazing gift to any future filmmakers you might know.

Incidentally, Mubi is currently screening a film that gained notoriety in New Zealand via the 2003 Incredibly Strange Film Festival. Gaspar Noé’s Irreversible caused a storm when it was programmed and eventually the censor agreed to let it screen only in the festival – once in Auckland and once in Wellington – and it has been effectively banned ever since but it would appear that the grey area over online streaming and classification means home viewers can finally see it here.

Monica Belluci takes a fateful walk in Gaspar Noé's Irreversible.

Monica Belluci takes a fateful walk in Gaspar Noé's Irreversible. Photo: Mubi

Amazon’s Prime service recently added some great festival fodder: Fellini’s La Dolce Vita (1960) and De Sica’s Bicycle Thieves (1948) are obvious stand-outs, but Claude Berri’s Manon of the Spring (1986) was enormously popular in arthouses and the documentary Jazz on a Summer’s Day had a revival a few years ago in NZIFF’s sister festival, the World Cinema Showcase.

Emmanuelle Béart as Manon in Manon des Sources (1986) - the sequel to Jean de Florette which is also screening on Prime.

Emmanuelle Béart as Manon in Manon des Sources (1986) - the sequel to Jean de Florette which is also screening on Prime. Photo: Amazon

A more recent festival presentation, now on Prime, is Tanna – the first feature film to be made on Vanuatu and a ravishing presentation of a place and a culture.

Netflix doesn’t have a strong reputation in the arthouse or festival department but there are some gems there if you dig deep enough. They recently added Jeff Nichols’ Midnight Special (NZIFF, 2016), a wonderful film built around a great performance from Michael Shannon.

Finally, if you are happy renting, last year’s terrific drama about refugees and relocation, Transit and Lucrecia Martel’s multi-award winning Zama from Argentina have both just become available from Apple.

Every month, Dan Slevin highlights some of the best and most interesting movies that are new to Kiwi streaming services.

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