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.
Claire’s Knee – available as of 4 September 2020
Claire’s Knee’ is the penultimate of Eric Rohmer’s Six Moral Tales series of films, and only his second shot in colour. The transition is clear, so many directors take colour as a tool in their arsenal for granted, but with directors who transition from black-and-white to colour film, there is a real precision and purpose in how they interpret the colour through the lens. Especially in this film, the hues of green are on display, the appearance of the mountains and the lake are essential to the setting of the film. Claire’s Knee follows a handsome, middle-aged man who visits an old friend, ‘Aurora’ and her landlady at Lake Annecy. Whilst there, Aurora finds that the landlady’s teenage daughter has a crush on the man, Jerome. From here, the machinations of the plot are unpredictable, and I wouldn’t want to spoil how it unfolds. This is a film that is deceptively simple, but forces the viewer to engage meaningfully and critically with the narrative. Are Jerome’s motivations of flirting with the teenager truly what he says? Is he fooling himself and Aurora in his actions or are they real? It’s an excellent exploration of self-deception and has some of the most fantastic dialogue I’ve ever heard. This should be a film everyone sees.
“I don't really have a type. Looks don't matter to me. That is, beyond a certain level of acceptability. All women are equal. It's the character alone that counts.”
Rocco and His Brothers – available as of 4 September 2020
Luchino Visconti is known as one of the Italian masters. Back-to-back, he directed two of the greatest films ever made, The Leopard and Rocco and His Brothers. Rocco and His Brothers is about four immigrant brothers from the south of Italy, who have recently moved into an industrial society in the North. Their relationships quickly deteriorate in this alien society. Within this film, you can see the seeds of Coppola’s Godfather trilogy, and Scorsese’s Raging Bull. In the relationship between the dysfunctional brothers, and the stylisations of the boxing matches, I can imagine Scorsese, De Palma, Spielberg and Coppola sitting in a theatre, drooling over the beautiful images of this film. Legendary cinematographer Giuseppe Rotunno made his masterpiece with this film, if you carefully watch the framing, the composition and the style, it is truly an astonishing feat. Nothing like you’ve ever seen. With this new restoration, its especially beautiful. Visconti’s film isn’t one you will immediately fall in love with, but no doubt, in time, fall for it you will.
“Rocco's a saint, but what can he do in this world? He won't defend himself. He's so forgiving. But one mustn't always forgive.”
Tokyo Drifter – available as of 4 September 2020
A stylistic predecessor to Nicholas Winding Refn’s works, Tokyo Drifter is a classic example of ‘style-over-substance’. It’s a completely nonsensical and juvenile narrative that’s hard to follow and has no discernible characters. There’s the protagonist (it even takes quite a while to figure out who that is!) and then there’s the bad guys. That’s all you need to know, because this film is really just eye-candy, but glorious eye-candy at that. Beautiful colours, exquisite composition and amazing set-pieces. The film is pop-art for the masses, but like most pop-art, its meaninglessness is both its greatest strength, and its greatest weakness.
“A drifter needs no woman”
Stroszek – available as of 4 September 2020
Werner Herzog’s first (partial) foray into American filmmaking, Stroszek is the strangest work he’s ever done; an oddity, an amalgam of everything not-Hollywood, and a journey with literally the most unlikely of characters. A feeble elderly man, a battered prostitute, and a mentally-challenged ex-convict escape from Germany and try to find a new life in America; believing the ‘American Dream’ to be real and something tangible. Of course nothing goes the way they want it to, and the film ends with an elderly man robbing a hairdresser and a rabbit in a fire-truck. Wikipedia says it’s a ‘tragicomedy’, I don’t agree with that, but I can’t think of a possible genre that this film could feasibly fit into. It’s a peculiarity, an oddity, but that’s what makes it worth seeing.
“We have a 10-80 out here, a truck on fire, we have a man on the lift. We are unable to find the switch to turn the lift off, can't stop the dancing chickens. Send an electrician, we're standing by.”