The latest pandemic news: still horrific. And maybe you are still spending a lot of time indoors. But at least, there is no need to line the pockets of Jeff Bezos and the like when you want to relax with a movie. The Popula Film Club brings you worthwhile options to stream, chosen with a view to quality, and to withholding as much money as possible from oligarchs and monopolists.
My five picks for this week are off-the-radar films worthy of a larger audience’s attention. They are also presented and promoted via artistic institutions, non-profits, and rogue collectives working on behalf of local arts communities and preservation efforts, as well as presenting new visions to carry filmmaking into the future.
p.s. to readers: please send your non-plutocratic streaming tips to email@example.com with the subject line, POPULA FILM CLUB.
Notes on An American Film Director at Work: Martin Scorsese (dir. Jonas Mekas, 2005)
via Anthology Film Archives; free
Anthology Film Archives was the grand vision of founder Jonas Mekas and fellow pioneer Stan Brakhage, founded in 1970 and dedicated to cinema’s preservation. Now, from this same archive, we can see one of Jonas Mekas’s rarest and most enjoyable films. He wanders onto the set of Martin Scorsese’s The Departed and, in typical Mekas style, simply begins documenting everything as is. No narrative, no agenda, no cutely curated images arranged to deliver a “message”. Mekas was cinema’s stenographer, quietly sketching the world’s unrehearsed moments.
The Anthology Film Archives is the lifelong endeavor of experimental film pioneer Jonas Mekas and his collaborators, Stan Brakhage, Jerome Hill, P. Adams Sitney, and Peter Kubelka. It is a museum and international film center dedicated to the preservation, study, and exhibition of film and video mostly focusing on avant-garde and documentary filmmaking.
Relaxer (dir. Joel Potrykus, 2018)
via BAM; pay-what-you-like, $0.99 minimum
In the face of apocalyptic doom, some people choose to reconnect with loved ones, others spiral into panic, and a select few decide to… finally beat Pac-Man. Y2K and the collapse of human society are on the horizon, and Abbie is stuck on level 256 of Pac-Man. Can he finally conquer the classic video-game’s most unbeatable level before the world ends?
You can’t judge him because you’re spending the COVID-19 crisis watching him try to do it.
BAM, or the Brooklyn Academy of Music, is a multi-arts venue in Brooklyn, NY.
DAU (dir. Ilya Khrzhanovskiy, 2020)
via DAU; $3.00 rental for each part
What is DAU? It started in 2007 as a simple movie, and expanded and kept expanding into a project that is unwieldy, visionary, stunning, and rife with shocking controversy. It’s an entire society built and lived by actors who play characters and are under constant surveillance and by a KGB-style system. The project bled into reality and people began to wonder… is this art gone too far?
Is this the masterpiece of a madman? Is it a crime? Is it both? You decide.
DAU is a cinema project by Ilya Khzhanovskiy to examine the limits of cinema as a lived reality. Art as a separate world, society, and recreation of the past.
Feast of the Epiphany (dir. Farihah Zaman, Michael Koresky, and Jeff Reichert, 2018)
via Museum of the Moving Image; $12 rental
The Museum of the Moving Image has long run a publication known as Reverse Shot, headed by editors Michael Koresky and Academy Award-winner Jeff Reichert (American Factory). Now, along with debut feature director Farihah Zaman, the duo bring a fantastical drama about a meal made with love that turns into a metaphysical change in people. An emotional tonic, reminiscent of Babette’s Feast.
The Museum of the Moving Image is based in Queens, NY and presents screenings, exhibitions, and other interactive artistic events and educational programs.
Inventing the Future (dir. Isaiah Medina, 2020)
The future is now. Visual artist and filmmaker Isaiah Medina combines a stunning reel of images with a radically edited soundscape adapting Alex Williams and Nick Srnicek’s study of technology in the age of capitalism. The people can seize the means of technology to usher in a new world.
Quantity Cinema is an online collective that produces films and film criticism from independent artists and writers in Canada.