BY Richard Austen

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.”

Prime Video

The Farewell – available as of August 3 2020

A nicely made film that captures the essence of being a ‘second-generation’ immigrant, what it means to be Chinese in a Western country, and what it does to your identity. Lulu Wang is the director of this feature, and she does just fine, confident in her visual style, but never rising to a level that impressed me. The film follows Awkwafina’s character, a placeholder for Wang herself, in her return to China and guilt when taking part in a collective lie with her family: to not tell their grandmother she is dying of cancer. The story has twists and turns, and a surprising ending, but it never quite raises itself to the level of a great film. The film seems to run out of energy toward the end, and it begins to drag: something you don’t want in a relatively short feature. It’s a novel film, and it’s exciting to see Asian-American filmmakers starting to get more attention, but it is only ever a film that is quite good. Temper your expectations when watching this, and you’ll have a good time, Lulu Wang is someone to watch out for in the coming years.

“I walked the path of life and I have to say, you will face with difficulties. But you have to have an open mind. Don't be like a bull hitting his horns all over the walls of the room. Life isn't just about what you do, it's more about how you do it”

The Souvenir – available as of August 3 2020

Joanna Hogg’s semi-autobiographical film, The Souvenir is a quaint, self-indulgent piece, but not in a bad way. It follows Julie (played by Tilda Swinton’s daughter!) as she works her way through film school and a troubling relationship with a civil servant, who seems to have a more mysterious life than he lets on. Its quite interesting to see that on Rotten Tomatoes, the critical score is 89%, compared to the audience score of 36%. Do with that information what you will, but I will say that it is a slow-burn, with an ending that fizzles out rather than a satisfying climax. But this isn’t a crowd-pleaser kind of film, it’s a film of patience, and has this soft, painterly quality that some will appreciate. Just a side-note, the film has a sequence set to Robert Wyatt’s brilliant single, ‘Shipbuilding’, one of my favourite songs, so that pretty much puts it up there with some of the best films of 2019.

“We don't know what the inner machinations of their mind are, or their heart. We don't know. But that's what we want to know when we go and see a film. We don't wanna just see life played out as is. We wanna see life as it is experienced, within this soft machine”


Scarface – available as of August 3 2020

I don’t think anything I write can accurately capture the multi-faceted, nuanced picture of the Cuban crime wave that this film creates. I think it will suffice if I simply include below some quotes from Al Pacino in the film.

“Another Quaalude, and she'll be mine again.”

“I always tell the truth. Even when I lie.”

“I never fucked anybody over in my life didn't have it coming to them. You got that? All I have in this world is my balls and my word and I don't break them for no one. Do you understand?”

“You know what capitalism is? Getting fucked!”

“Chi Chi, get the yeyo.”

“Manny, look at the pelican fly. Come on, pelican!”

“I'm getting you a one way ticket to the resurrection.”

“You wanna fuck with me? Okay. You wanna play rough? Okay. Say hello to my little friend!”

Atlantics – available as of August 3 2020

Mati Diop’s wonderfully crafted debut feature, Atlantics is a powerful, surreal and unexpected film. It explores so many ideas: class struggle, the refugee crisis, responsibility and love, and places them against the backdrop of an ethereal, haunted Dakar. Diop is a Senegalese director, previously known for her shorts, but with this film, she shows a surprising inexplicability that you simply don’t see in many fresh filmmakers. Atlantics follows a young woman, and the man she loves, Souleiman . Of course, they are separated by circumstances out of their control. Souleiman, with many other young men, are ‘lost at sea’, and the film is about them finding each other once again. Yes, there is a whole lot of symbolism in this film and you have to use your brain quite a lot. Added on top of the simple premise, halfway through, the film dips into the horror genre, with characters wandering about, seemingly possessed. It’s in this ethereal, genre-defying space where the film operates best, and when it shines, it’s really like nothing else you’ll have seen. Trust me, the film is well worth a watch if you want to see something intelligent, powerful, and original.

“Some memories are omens. Last night will stay with me, to remind me of who I am and show me who I will become”

Goodfellas – available as of August 3 2020

Martin Scorsese reinvented the gangster flick with Goodfellas, turning it from the tradition of epic saga (as per The Godfather and Once Upon a Time in America) to the fast-paced, doowop singing, violent, style you see mimicked so frequently today. Ray Liotta plays Henry Hill, an up-and-coming mobster alongside Robert De Niro’s Jimmy Conway and Joe Pesci’s Tommy DeVito. Having recently re-watched the film, I find that the plotting is definitely there, but now more than ever, you can feel the sense of nostalgia that Scorsese so well instils in the first half of the film. This first hour is probably some of the most entertaining filmmaking you’ll ever see, and its pacing and characters allow for what all comes inevitably crashing down in the second half. Master editor, Thelma Schoonmaker, shines here most of all, the quick cuts, the one-shot in the Copacabana, the cross-cuts, it’s a masterclass of editing and structure - something to behold when you really put your eyes on it. If you’ve never seen it, give it a go, you’ll most certainly come out at the end loving every minute.

“I like this one. One dog goes one way and the other dog goes the other way.”

Da 5 Bloods – available as of August 3 2020

Spike Lee’s imperfect Vietnam epic, Da 5 Bloods is a conflicted kind of film. Lee has such amazing stylisations, performances and ideas he explores in the movie. Delroy Lindo is drop-dead amazing in his almost Shakespearean soliloquy, but the film suffers from a weak script. It starts off as an exploration of the Black experience during the Vietnam war, but ends as a lacklustre adventure film with an aging Jean Reno. Some of the sequences are breathtaking, others feel lazy, ill-conceived or just tonally incoherent (see: the landmine sequence). As well as this, Lee seems to be, in his more recent movies, determined to use the listing of political facts as a part of his movies. I find this generally to be pretty lazy, unnecessary and ages the film immeasurably. It’s the kind of thing a student-films do, or a political issue-film, not one of the great filmmakers. However, Lee is a master at this point, and is able to drag us through the narrative’s failings with his amazing sensibility of storytelling. He has some pretty awesome, jaw-dropping sequences of super-impositions and monologues. The most fascinating part, and the most brilliant element of the film is its character dynamics. Lee situates the characters at different points of their lives, going different places, but with the same camaraderie that they once had. This is a big, sloppy, and imperfect film, but one worth seeing.

“Don’t go and talk about my father. God is my friend. Jesus is my friend. He made this world for us to live in, and gave us everything. All He asks of us, is we give each other love”

SBS on Demand

The Lunchbox – expires June 2021

I’ve been meaning to get around to recommending a film with Irrfan Khan, who as you may know, passed away earlier this year. The Lunchbox is a perfect vehicle for his style of acting, that kind of earnest dignity and humility. I don’t think many people realise how great an actor Khan really was. He had that same type of charisma you’d seen in all of the great film stars like Toshiro Mifune and John Wayne. Sure, you may have seen him in bits of Jurassic World or other blockbusters, but it was always these smaller movies that allowed him to move people with his performances. The premise of this film is simple but effective. Khan’s character is a retiring accountant who mistakenly receives a lunchbox from a young wife seeking her husband’s affection. She prepares her husband’s meals lovingly and spends a long time getting everything just right, but as he comes back from work, nothing seems changed. Then comes the sweet exchanges between Khan’s character and the wife, and everything that unfolds is a surprisingly apt story that I originally thought would go down the path of antiquated gender narrative clichés. There’s a sense of loneliness in Khan’s character, he’s not a very nice man to be sure, and he is as fallible as the next person, but the director knows the limits of where things can go, and leaves us feeling at the end, a sense of loss in what could have been, but a happiness in what was.

“I think we forget things if there is nobody to tell them.”

Big Night – expires November 2020

One of the ultimate foodie films, Big Night is a nice, cosy blanket of entertainment with which to wrap yourself up on a cold winter night. Stanley Tucci co-directs this good film with a veil of nostalgia and simplicity. Two immigrant brothers from Italy have opened a restaurant in New Jersey, one of them a perfectionist chef, the other, a restless restaurant manager. Their restaurant is failing, and the chef refuses to give in to cooking Americanised Italian foods. Their competitor sees copious amounts of business and always speaking to them with the veneer of a close friend. The ending is, yes, a bit predictable, but it has the greatest dinner sequence of any film you’ll see. Each course comes out, you see the chefs working so hard to perfect them, and their customers’ reactions at the wealth of food at their tables. Its wonderful, and a real easy watch.

“God damn it, I should kill you! This is so fucking good I should kill you!”

Thunder Road – expires May 2021

The feature debut by Jim Cummings, Thunder Road is a remake of his acclaimed short film, expanding on the ideas, emotions and characters. Made on a microbudget of $200,000, Cummings is precise and clever in how he directs the film. Contrasting this with Avengers Endgame, with a budget of $356 million, its kind of insane how much money is wasted on big blockbusters that barely have a fraction of the wit or emotion of these microbudget movies. The film follows a police officer (played by Cummings) who has a major break-down during his mother’s funeral, fumbling through a speech and not getting his speaker to play Bruce Springsteen’s song. The rest of the film is essentially an expansion of this breakdown and a consolidation of the relationships Cumming’s character has with others. This is an exactly perfect film in craft, in emotions, and in storytelling. Cummings seems to have such a deft craftsmanship in his first feature that any film he makes after this, I’ll be first in line to watch.

“Just because somebody leaves... just because somebody chooses to leave, that doesn't mean they didn't want to be here with you. It means they had a hard time with things. It's a lot for some people.”

Bugsy Malone – expires October 2020

Alan Parker passed away at the end of July this year, and he was my favourite filmmaker. I recommended his most famous film, Midnight Express in my very first article, and I think now is an appropriate time to recommend his wonderful debut Bugsy Malone. Parker is, to me, one of the great directors, and made a string of the greatest films through the 70s and 80s. Along with other British filmmakers of the time like Ken Loach and Mike Leigh, Parker always had a working-class man’s sensibility in his craft. He was ambitious, and his films had ideas. Bugsy Malone exemplifies this, even a cursory glance at the genres it inhabits is reflective of how versatile Parker was throughout the rest of his career. It’s a children’s musical, and a gangster comedy film. The children’s’ performances are wonderfully kitsch. Parker directs them in a knowing way, and the world of the film is such a great place to be. It’s short and sweet, there are gags of course you might roll your eyes at because you’re a bit older than the target audience, but it’s just magical. Jodie Foster delivers a really endearing performance, and I’ll give a shout-out to the kid that plays Fat Sam - simply amazing. Never mind the fact that the singing voices don’t match up to the children’s mouths. Don’t think about the logic of the film; it’s a kids' phantasmagoria of pure wonder and excitement that ends in one of my favourite film finales of all time. Please give this film a watch, and give Alan Parker the recognition he deserves. You give a little love and it all comes back to you.

"I like my men at my feet."

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