Hello, things are still terrible! That means it’s a good time to watch a movie (streamed, as always at the Popula Film Club, on non-plutocratic platforms). Takes your mind off of… things.
Short films feat. Steve Dalachinsky (various directors)
via Anthology Film Archives (free)
The poet Steve Dalachinsky passed away in New York last September. His wide-ranging, funny and fascinating mind are on view in this series of short films. In Jacka Spades, Dalachinsky and his wife Yuko Otomo, also a poet, document their collaboration, bringing a pet project to life in ‘real time’ with painstaking, rigorous observation. Owen Kline’s Fowl Play begins with a couple of cockfighters buying a rooster—actually a hen—from a sneaky vendor played by Dalachinsky, and evolves into a series of rambling conversations between street guys in New York, misleading each other and generally giving each other ‘tha bizzness’. If you get a kick outta guys bustin’ each otha’s bawls, this is the movie for you. In Jazzy for Joe, the legendary talk-show host Joe Franklin finds an abandoned toddler on his doorstep, and decides to make her his protégé. It’s a charming, absurdist story about the extremes of age that plays like a classic SNL skit or a running joke from Late Night with Conan O’Brien.
The Anthology Film Archives is a lifelong project 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.
Aquarius (Kleber Filho Mendonça, 2016)
via MUBI ($9.99/mo subscription)
Mendonça’s confident, politically-charged filmmaking has made waves in the context of Brazil’s autocratic Bolsonaro administration. Aquarius, the stark tale of an older woman dealing with a predatory landlord and real estate developer forcing her to sell her apartment, was nearly banned. Sônia Braga, known in America mostly for her Golden Globe nominated performance in Kiss of the Spider Woman (1985), delivers a rich, stirring performance as a woman fighting against the tide of corruption and immorality that is hitting Brazil’s middle and lower middle classes hard. The director’s equally excellent Bacurau was released earlier this year in virtual cinemas in the U.S. Be sure to catch this earlier Mendonça film while it lasts.
MUBI is an independent streaming service with a self-proclaimed “ruthless” approach to streaming. They present a new film each day, it lasts for 30 days, and then it goes away.
Son of the White Mare (dir. Marcell Jankovics, 1981)
AFI Silver Theater ($10.00 rental)
If 3D animation has gotten stale for you, Son of the White Mare will be a wonderful shock to the system. This rarely-seen Hungarian film explodes beyond the scope of the conventional understanding of the power of animated film. A white mare gives birth to three heroes to go to war with the 77 dragons defending the roots of a gigantic cosmic oak tree. If this sounds wild, wait until you watch it. A white, blue, and yellow canvas of electrically kinetic cartoon imagery leaves you with hardly a moment to relax. Dazzling imagery and an engrossing story with a very different vibe from what aficionados of American or Japanese animation have been conditioned to expect from this medium.
The AFI Silver Theater is the official theater of the American Film Institute, screening mainstream, art, and foreign cinema.
The Brood (dir. David Cronenberg, 1979)
Criterion Collection ($99.99/year subscription)
Criterion kicks off October with a 70’s horror series. One of the best of the bunch is David Cronenberg’s first big movie, The Brood, features some absolutely (and typically) disgusting imagery of contortion, mutilation, and disembowelment. The Brood centers on a pregnant woman who has psychoplasmic therapy performed on her by an insane doctor, as a series of unexplained murders ravages the small Canadian town in which the film takes place. These two narrative lines intersect in shocking ways that make this one of Cronenberg’s most persistently unsettling films. Undertones of trauma, abuse, and psychological manipulation burrow in to touch deeper questions of the human condition that make this gross-out horror film much more intellectually compelling than it looks on the surface.
The Criterion Channel is a subscription streaming service from The Criterion Collection offering classic and art cinema; a more refined and adventurous alternative to the corporate streaming services.
Buoyancy (dir. Rodd Rathjen, 2019)
via Lumiere Cinema ($12.00 rental)
Winner of the Jury Prize at the Berlin Film Festival, Buoyancy is a visually alluring and brutal tale. A young Cambodian field hand named Chakra comes to the city in hopes of getting a factory job, realizes he was duped, and winds up enslaved by the ruthless captain of a Thai fishing vessel. This movie depicts reality for many poor people in Thailand and Cambodia, exploited in the physically punishing fish trade. Environmental catastrophe and human rights abuses combine to display the disastrous effects of Western capitalism on the global south, and how torture, and pain flows down to the most underprivileged in order to keep the machinery of commerce running. Filmed with a fluidity that manages to find moments of tranquil beauty amid the chaos and deprivation, Buoyancy is a deeply affecting movie, worthy of your attention.
Lumiere Cinema is a historical independent L.A. theater established in 1938 in Beverly Hills screening the latest independent, foreign, and art films.