Hello film fans, it’s the weekend! This week’s picks from the Popula Film Club offer all kinds of escape from the madness of the IRL.
We have a Siberian family drama, a stylish (and terrifying) horror classic set in Venice, and a legendary Middle East correspondent of the old school, and more! Please keep safe, and try sprinkling a bit of ground cumin on your popcorn.
Nainsukh (dir. Amit Dutta, 2010)
via MUBI ($9.99/month subscription)
This masterpiece, made on a shoestring budget and shot on location in the beautiful Kangra Valley of India, tells the story of the 18th-century Indian miniaturist painter. Nainsukh is structurally radical, spare in dialogue and plot, presenting its story in an impressionistic, disjointed visual template mirroring the Pahari style favored by the legendary painter. Dutta tells his story in bits and parts, focusing on individual characters before ultimately shifting into an establishing shot giving us the full context of the scene. The colors and scenery are sublime and transportive, and their simplicity belies their clever and insightful design.
MUBI is an independent streaming website 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.
Don’t Look Now (dir. Nicholas Roeg, 1973)
via Criterion Channel ($99.99/year subscription)
October is coming to a close soon, the perfect time of year for watching a horror classic. The late Nicholas Roeg’s psychological masterpiece Don’t Look Now tells the story of a couple who, following a family tragedy, take refuge in Venice, where an atmosphere of dread gives way to violence. The couple’s mysterious family secrets and events in the city begin to collide. The script is based on a Daphne du Maurier short story, but Roeg created a deeply unsettling ambience all his own, turning Venice from the city of romance into the city of nightmares. This weaving narrative is one of the greatest in horror history, and crowns the unendurable tension with a startling, unforgettable ending.
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.
The Woman Who Left (dir. Lav Diaz, 2018)
via Filmatique ($4.95/month subscription)
Filipino filmmaker Lav Diaz is known for his exceedingly lengthy films, most of which range from six to ten hours long! But never fear, The Woman Who Left brings you Diaz’s brilliant, engrossingly personal and political filmmaking into a much more manageable three and a half hours. Horacia, released from prison after a 30-year sentence, goes in search of the powerful man who framed her. The film is epic in its narrative sweep, but intimate in detail. Horacia assumes multiple identities in the course of her methodical search through Manila’s nightlife as she plots out the murder of the wealthy elitist Rodrigo. Taken in brilliant black and white cinematography, The Woman Who Left is a film of human contrasts: revenge and empathy, memory and death, light and shadow.
Filmatique is an online streaming service dedicated to streaming award-winning festival films.
This is Not a Movie (dir. Yung Chang, 2019)
via Austin Film Society ($12 rental)
The Middle East as seen through the eyes of famed (and controversial) journalist Robert Fisk of The Independent. In this absorbing if somewhat hagiographic documentary, director Yung Chang’s examination of Fisk paints a wildly different picture of world affairs from what we’re shown in mainstream media. Fisk takes us deep into the communities and through the bloody histories where truth of the Middle East is buried under the lies of American and British oligarchs. Fisk’s philosophy on journalism is simple and piercing: “Journalists must objectively be on the side of those who suffer.”
The Austin Film Society is a filmmaking hub started by Austin legendary filmmaker Richard Linklater which provides screenings, workshops, and production funding to help grow a creative cinematic ecosystem for budding filmmakers.
Braguino (dir. Clement Cogitore, 2017)
via Le Cinema Club (Euro 2.99 rental)
Clement Cogitore’s Braguino offers a glimpse of the little-known culture of Siberia, set in the remote isolation of a community where hunting and fishing provide sustenance, territory and resources are sacred, and unspoken rules enjoin respect for the land. Amid their subtle infighting, Cogitore documents the daily life of a Siberian family. Familiar scenes of children playing and a family going about its everyday chores are juxtaposed with the disorienting sense of being on another planet, utterly foreign in its simplicity and freedom from technological and sociopolitical anxiety. The film reads both like the account of a lost culture, and a tale full of narrative twists and quirks emanating from the filmmaker’s imagination. Make no mistake though, this is real, and the result is both mesmerizing and dark.
Le Cinema Club is a film curation and streaming platform showing independent, foreign, and short films. One film each week is free, the rest are available to rent.
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 the oligarchs and monopolists of Amazon, Netflix, YouTube and the like.