Streaming Suggestions is a month-by-month series of recommendations for film lovers and those interested in expanding their horizons.
While I assume most readers will have at least one of the popular streaming services, I understand that some don’t, so I have also included the excellent free service, SBS on Demand.
Young Girls of Rochefort – available as of August 3 2020
I don’t think this film has a single thing to say about anything, but it has a whole lot to make you feel. Jacques Demy is one of my favourite filmmakers, and this film is in a pair of masterpieces he made, the other being Umbrellas of Cherbourg. This is a film of such simplicity, such narrative contrivance, that it no longer veers into the cliché, but launches way past it into the endearing. The new restoration brings out the colours, the style, the movements so perfectly; Demy has this inimitable, pretty style that has gone on to influence so many films and musicals. Catherine Deneuve and Françoise Dorléac star in this movie as the titular Young Girls of Rochefort, alongside other familiar faces from Demy’s earlier films, as well as Gene Kelly! A really wonderful musical that is an excellent crowd-pleaser, forever tying the plot threads together but always keeping true love just one step away from flowering.
“I must steer clear of dreary bourgeoisie art, I must be avant-garde and paint what's in my heart.”
High Life – available as of August 3 2020
Claire Denis is a master filmmaker, and High Life marks a large shift away from what her previous work has been. Instead of locations as Denis seems to prefer, this film is wholly on set, instead of having autobiographical elements, this is sci-fi, and it’s with the American studio, A24. It’s certainly an interesting film, but I wouldn’t recommend it generally, because it’s so bat-shit insane and exactly not what a good introduction to Denis is. However, if there exists a single person who is reading this, interested in sci-fi, and loves really weird films, this might just be for you. High Life is paced like a typical European film in that it is slow, often boring, and sometimes infuriating. But this feels like it is especially engineered by Denis to reflect the monotony of the existence of the prisoners, sailing in a ship in which they were destined to die. This is a hesitant recommendation from me, most people won’t enjoy it but it’s definitely highly original, evocative, stylish and has a hell of a performance by Juliette Binoche.
“The Sensation of moving backwards even though we are moving forwards, getting further from what's getting nearer, sometimes I just can't stand it.”
Aguirre the Wrath of God – available as of August 3 2020
Werner Herzog’s first masterpiece, and probably the film he is best known for, Aguirre the Wrath of God is another testament to Herzog’s bravery in filmmaking. Klaus Kinski heads this film about a group of Spanish conquistadors who travel through the Amazon River in search for the lost country of El Dorado. Naturally, decapitations, mutinies and blasphemies occur, and Aguirre (Kinski) becomes the leader of the expedition. I don’t think this would be a proper Herzog film without some typical near-death experiences. During the production, a crew member’s finger was shot off, Herzog was bitten by about 150 fire ants, and he was scheduled to take flight LANSA Flight 508 (which disintegrated mid-air from a lightning strike) but had a last minute change of plans. But, it was all worth it, and Herzog would continue to risk his life, and the lives of others, in a whole lot of other films. Because of this, Aguirre, has a grit and a grime unlike many other films, it's almost as if it were a documentary: camera-carrying charlatan filmmakers following Spanish conquistadors in the 1500s. The performances are amazing, the evocation of the setting is astounding, and the score by Popol Vuh (using what I believe to be a Mellotron), is haunting. An essential watch.
“That man is a head taller than me. That may change.”
Animal Kingdom – available as of August 3 2020
David Michod came all guns blazing with his first mainstream film, Animal Kingdom. This is truly a crime masterpiece, and has powerhouse performances by Jackie Weaver, Guy Pearce, and Ben Mendelsohn. Weaver is so good in this movie that she seems to have been coasting on this for the past decade, not unlike Christoph Waltz and his brilliant Hans Lander. The film follows a young man’s introduction into his family’s world of crime, led by the insidious matriarch played by Weaver. The score to the film is an amazing accomplishment, understated yet profound; it has inflections of some great theatrical piece, and it’s evident that Michod is profoundly influenced by Shakespeare (it seemed inevitable that he would make a Shakespeare adaptation, low and behold 2019’s The King). The narrative is thrilling, the scenes are played out to their tensest, and the characters are real nasty, but most of all, it evokes suburban Australian crime so well. This is powerful Australian cinema at its best, watch this film.
“No one's invisible, mate.”