Films in the time of Coronavirus

Twenty-ish films you can watch online that aren’t crap and most of them don’t involve rental fees.

MUBI – you can sign up for a 30-day free trial here: https://mubi.com/t/web/global/51klF_iI

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  1. Touch Me Not, Adina Pintilie (MUBI, £2.49 to rent): https://www.amazon.co.uk/Touch-Me-Not-Laura-Benson/dp/B07JN9GWJV + https://mubi.com/films/touch-me-not-2018

This film is none of the things that Peter Bradshaw calls it in his review from the Berlinale – “shallow, silly, a calamity for the festival”. It’s a really smart and emotionally inquisitive film about touch, filmmaking, and humanity. We need films like this that ask us to step outside our comfort zones and that question the process of filmmaking, the act of looking, touching, and the importance of embodied experiences. There are loads of great movies available to rent, but I’ve only included one on this list because this list is primarily for friends of mine who might not want/be able to spend money right now. It’s also because this is, in part, an alternative list to Peter Bradshaw’s supremely crap one in the Guardian, so I had to start it with this film. Here’s something I wrote about it after the director, Adina Pintilie (an incredibly smart and eloquent filmmaker) came to Watershed for a screening + Q&A: https://www.watershed.co.uk/articles/touch-me-not-fusing-forms-and-breaking-borders

  1. High Life, Claire Denis: https://mubi.com/films/high-life-2018

This is one of the richest, smartest, most densely packed science-fiction films I’ve ever seen. Sure, it’s got some violent moments – that silent scream set to Stuart Staples’ (Tindersticks) score is forever burnt into my brain – not to mention the fuckbox… but even if those things are bracing for you, I implore you to stick with it and let it percolate. It’s cinematic stuff of the highest order but if you can crank the volume and watch it in the dark then it will suture you in, and maybe spit you out again, let’s see. Plus, R-Patz.

  1. Existenz, David Cronenberg: https://mubi.com/films/existenz

Wanted to programme this for our sci-fi season of Sunday Brunch films at Watershed but couldn’t because we couldn’t clear theatrical screening rights. This is what the season looked like without it: https://www.watershed.co.uk/whatson/season/477/lost-in-space Such a great sci-fi, super fun and squishy.

  1. Mustang, Deniz Gamze Ergüven https://mubi.com/films/mustang

This is film has everything you need; a righteous fight against gendered oppression, sisters being amazing, a score composed by Warren Ellis and the beautiful backdrop of Northern Turkey. The spirit of this film is punk, and its aesthetic is all arthouse.

Netflix– because most of my friends already have Netflix, soz if you don’t.

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  1. Shirkers, Sandi Tan, trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u3wPWCj2L6I

I wish more documentaries were like this; a perfect storm of personal reflection and structured storytelling. It’s intimate in a way I want cinema to be and Tan’s story is filled with heart, nostalgia and sincerity.

  1. Taylor Swift: Miss Americana, Lana Wilson

It doesn’t matter if you don’t love Tay-Tay already, because this doc is also about the systemic infantilizing of women, and we all know its tune. It’s never easy for celebrities to transition through adolescence in the public eye but what the world expects from women, and an All-American sweetheart, is another thing entirely.

  1. Catfight, Onur Tukel

Sandra Oh and Anne Heche are both absolutely brilliant as women enraged; about their years-long rivalry, of course, but that’s all just a fun metaphor for the world, innit. Political and feisty.

  1. The Endless, Justin Benson, Aaron Moorhead

Low-fi sci-fi at its best. I know I’ll get an egg or two thrown at me for saying this, but I liked it more than Primer.

BBC iPlayer

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  1. After the Storm, Hirokazu Koreeda: https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m000g20s/after-the-storm?fbclid=IwAR2gzYkEHqoPE9dHswe83DJLbkPNsgMpWcbPxMi6gIncrTd56-if8OHLWPo)

If we’ve ever met, then you know how much I love Kore-eda. This is an unofficial sequel of sorts to Still Walking. I wrote about it for Desist, here: http://blog.desistfilm.com/2016/11/21/cairo-international-film-festival-2016-after-the-storm-by-hirokasu-kore-eda-eng/ To watch as a double bill, you can rent Still Walking from iTunes or BFI Player.

  1. Night of the Living Dead, George A. Romero: https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b0078pw1/night-of-the-living-dead

One of the original six midnight movies. It’s amazing.

BFI Player – sign up for 14-day free trial: https://player.bfi.org.uk/subscription 

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  1. Explore archive films: https://player.bfi.org.uk/free

Fall down an afternoon archive wormhole with amazing slices of (film) history like Cheese Making at Home. My recommendation: make a cuppa first.

  1. Appropriate Behaviour, Desiree Akhavan, BFI Player, subscription: https://player.bfi.org.uk/subscription/film/watch-appropriate-behaviour-2015-online

Even if you’ve already seen this, it’s so great it’s worth another watch. Akhavan is my jam. This film is what I wish the TV show Girls had been like. If you love this and want to pay money to rent a title, then you can also catch up with her second feature for £3.50, The Miseducation of Cameron Post: https://player.bfi.org.uk/rentals/film/watch-the-miseducation-of-cameron-post-2017-online

  1. Aniara, Pella Kågerman: https://player.bfi.org.uk/subscription/film/watch-aniara-2018-online

This is definitely one of those films that didn’t get a lot of love on release but is actually really good.

  1. Taxi Tehran, Jafar Panahi: https://player.bfi.org.uk/subscription/film/watch-taxi-tehran-2015-online

One of those rare beasts that is as fun as it is clever. I wrote about it for Desist: https://desistfilm.com/berlinale-2015-taxi-by-jafar-panahi/

  1. Bait, Mark Jenkin: https://player.bfi.org.uk/subscription/film/watch-bait-2018-online

The film that got all the praise in 2019, and for good reason. Mark is such a talented filmmaker; he works with hand-processed 16mm and his work is very expressive. If you like this, or have already seen it, then check out Mark’s lengthy-short, Bronco’s House (which you can rent for £3), and is imho even better: https://vimeo.com/ondemand/broncoshouse

I’ve also written about Bronco’s House for S&S: https://www.bfi.org.uk/news-opinion/sight-sound-magazine/comment/festivals/encounters-35mm-broncos-house-revival

  1. Evolution, Lucile Hadzihalilovic: https://player.bfi.org.uk/subscription/film/watch-evolution-2015-online

Eerie and wet.

Other

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  1. The Green Fog, Guy Maddin https://vimeo.com/356966508?ref=tw-share&fbclid=IwAR26UYIoWF7V254XyGdMSU9LCDgaLFXJJyUArU78lUSp7RdWnsSqk5ROS0k

Thanks, Guy Maddin, for putting your fever dream online for free during this difficult time! Like a wander through cinema history, but a bit drunk. Here’s my interview with Maddin for Desist when the film screened (at the IMAX!) for LFF: http://blog.desistfilm.com/2015/12/11/too-much-fragment-of-an-interview-with-guy-maddin-eng/

  1. Beyond Clueless, Charlie Shackleton (formerly Charlie Lyne) https://vimeo.com/ondemand/beyondcluelessfilm use promo code “idlehands”

All the fun of teen movies rolled into one bumper edition by the always clever and entertaining Charlie Shackleton who has, kindly, made this free to watch with promo code during the current crisis. Perfect self-isolation viewing, it’s a quality genre breakdown and a reminder about how cruel cool teens can be.

  1. Whale Rider, Niki Caro, free on Amazon Prime: https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B07N3BLBG9?camp=1634&creativeASIN=B07N3BLBG9&ie=UTF8&linkCode=xm2&tag=just016-21

I love this film so hard. I programmed it as part of the very first Girls on Film Fest in Melbourne (2014) and it’s so beautiful. About a young Maori girl determined to fight gender bias whilst upholding and respecting her family’s (patrilineal) traditions. Would make great double-bill viewing with Mustang.

  1. My Darling Quarantine: https://talkingshorts.com/festivals/my-darling-quarantine-short-film-festival?fbclid=IwAR2v1b0IlNAC1bobOAMgV5iObdmiP6mXCVRux6ZTJ8QT5eFXmhXDbFtRn6k

A bunch of super talented folk in the short film world got together and created this. It’s a platform for watching quality short films while many short film festivals are postponed or cancelled and, if you have any funds you wish to contribute, they are splitting the crowdfunder between two really great causes.

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  1. Mythory of the Kelly Gang, Tara Judah and Peter Walsh, de Filmkrant, vimeo: https://vimeo.com/394577846

And so, Pete and I made this video essay and presented it at IFFR last year. Thanks to the fine folk over at de Filmkrant, now you can watch it online via vimeo. Explanatory text in the link. Thanks for watching!

22. The Pain of Others, Penny Lane: https://vimeo.com/193459773?fbcl

A late addition to this list because I wrote this post and only then saw Lane’s tweet. I saw this at IFFR and it’s fantastic. It’s like squeezing a pimple; engrossing but also uncomfortable. And, once you’ve watched it, you also need to check out Chloé Galibert-Laîne’s video essay, Watching the Pain of Others, which is also brilliant: https://vimeo.com/298425068

CPH:DOX film reviews

Though I didn’t physically attend CPH:DOX, I did manage to catch a couple of films from the programme. My reviews are included in Desist Film’s festival coverage, linked below.

THE END OF FEAR (Barbara Visser)

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WEAPON OF CHOICE (Fritz Ofner)

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GIANTS AND THE MORNING AFTER (Alexander Rynéus, Malla Grapengeisser, Per Bifrost)

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Delete/Ignore: locating gremlins and glitches in the machine. Or, how I met the humans and parasites of Planet IFFR

This year’s invitation to “Meet the humans of Planet IFFR” was about locating the humanity in cinema and cinema-going. For me, it reflected poignantly on how each of the micro worlds we create, such as a film festival like Rotterdam, participates in and wrestles with the wider global matrix. At its most hopeful, the theme demonstrates how there is more that unites us as humans than that which tears us apart.

My full report from this year’s International Film Festival Rotterdam can be read in Issue 86 of Senses of Cinema, online journal. Includes musings on; The Cleaners, I, Tonya, Piercing, Insect, Inside the Machine, Possessed, The Return, My Friend the Polish Girl and more. 

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Five Minutes on Film with Me

My video interview calling for the continued production and exhibition of photochemical film for the Film Advocacy Task Force. Watch it on Vimeo here.

Image from Astor Theatre, 2012, courtesy of Loz Dalton.

Sweet Country Video Essay

In October last year at LFF, I saw Warwick Thornton’s Sweet Country and was completely blown away. Stunning cinematography comes together with a story full of truth and heartache to create one of this year’s finest films. I found the work deeply moving as it engages with the complex and painful history of Australia. With the help of video essayist Jonathan Bygraves, who edited this for me, I created my first ever video essay, which you can watch on my new Vimeo channel, here: https://vimeo.com/259302371

The following short text accompanies the video:

Filmed in the MacDonall Ranges in central Australia, Sweet Country is based on a true story. Fiction and history intersect in this stark and painfully honest depiction of a country in conflict.

The story is of Sam Kelly (Hamilton Morris) and his wife Lizzie (Natassia Gorey Furber). Though they weren’t exactly free before his arrival, things get decidedly worse when war vet and violent alcoholic Harry March (Ewen Leslie) comes to town.

Cinematographer and writer/director Warwick Thornton (Samson & Delilah, 2009), brings an untold story from Australian history to the fore, highlighting the need to revisit what is known in Australia as The History Wars.

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A battle for who gets to tell a story raged in the 1980s, 1990s and into the early 2000s, until it was hushed by politicians and the media grew tired of the topic. With a movie camera as his weapon of choice, Thornton takes aim at the heart of this issue and explodes it onto the screen with great power and poise. Sweet Country is a righteous retelling of 1920s Australia, with potent nods to the American Western, marking a new page in the country’s (film) history books. The History Wars, Thornton is saying, may not be front page news anymore, but they are far from over.

Furthermore, Thornton uses one of the most famous entries into Australian film history to make his point. Contrasting one Kelly with another, he uses footage from the first feature film ever made, The Story of the Kelly Gang (1906). The white chorus in the film sit outside, under the stars and in front of a pub to look and laugh at its moving images. The scene is a literal and figurative lesson in how white Australia has projected its own mythology onto the cinema screen and into the history books. Today, much of the actual film remains missing, and some of it has physically decayed over time; a fitting metaphor for the surviving accounts of Australian history itself.

Sweet Country, then, is a fictional film that proudly wears its truth on its sleeve, just as it puts its Indigenous characters front and centre. Sam and Lizzie Kelly may have the weight of history against them, but Thornton makes damn sure they have the audience on their side. It may be fiction, but the peoples and the cultures that Sam and Lizzie come to represent cannot be erased from our collective memory anymore: they are the very heart of this film.

 

The Monocle Daily – report on 68th Berlinale

After a whirlwind visit to the 68th Berlinale – Berlin International Film Festival, I stopped by the studios at Monocle24 radio to talk with The Daily’s Andrew Mueller about Timur Bekmambetov’s newest “screen life” movie, PROFILE, Josephine Decker’s latest contemplation of the artistic process and its ethical implications, as well as episodes 1 & 2 of the new Australian television adaptation of PICNIC AT HANGING ROCK. Originally broadcast on Friday 19th Feb, you can listen back online, at 51 minutes in. 

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Looking for life in a sea of loss: on Jasmine Te Hira’s Lost Content (2013) and The Beauty of Invisible Grief (2016)

We look before we see. It looks as if it were light as air; as if sweet breath plumped it up. When we look for longer, we can see that it changes shape, leaves a mark and grows ever heavier on the arm that wears it.

Made of ice, it is not just cold, but painful to the touch. The longer it is worn (or held on the bearers arm) the more the object becomes less tangible and more slippery. Inside the bracelet – once free in water, now trapped in ice, melting slowly in real time, but in abrasive temporal leaps for the viewer, hair, fingernails and pearls are slowly released, falling away from the arm that wears it.

Read my full essay on Jasmine Te Hira’s work over on the CIRCUIT – Artist Film and Video Aotearoa New Zealand blog.

The Cleaners, Western & I, Tonya – The Monocle Daily, Friday Feb 2nd

Reporting from the press room at this year’s International Film Festival Rotterdam, I talked about three new films; The Cleaners, Western and I, Tonya, as well as the festival’s overall theme, ‘The Humans of Planet IFFR’. You can listen back here.

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Re-inventing Mitchell & Kenyon: Local Films for Local People at IFFR 2018

At this year’s International Film Festival Rotterdam, as part of the Critics’ Choice IV programme, Dr Peter Walsh & I staged a contemporary cinema-going film experiment.

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Bringing the films of Mitchell & Kenyon to life, with a live cinema event, we showed several of their films on 35mm at Rotterdam’s amazing venue, WORM. We also filmed our very own ‘living pictures’ the day before the screening, with the assistance of camera operator Lichun Tseng, on 16mm. The event was a one-off to raise questions and conversation about scarcity, cinema-going, selfie culture, photochemical film and the execution and authenticity of an historically researched and engaged live event cinema. Peter and I both thoroughly loved deepening our critical and historical engagement with cinema through practice and owe a huge thanks to Dana Linssen and Jan Pieter Ekker who co-ordinated the event as part of Critics Choice IV.

This event has already taken place. To learn more about future events from us, follow @JudahandWalsh on instagram. 

A Million Pictures: Magic Lantern Heritage Workshop

As my interest in early cinema continues to grow, so too does my curiosity. For a while now I’ve wondered: What do those marvellous looking objects in glass cabinets actually do?

Visits in the last two years to the Bill Douglas Cinema Museum in Exeter, the National Science and Media Museum in Bradford, and to the Lumière! L’invenzione del cinematogafo exhibition in Bologna have all left me with a sense of disappointment. Sure, the apparatuses in the glass cabinets, perfectly preserved and kept on pedestals are beautiful, but weren’t they built for purpose?

Read the rest of my blog post on magic lantern shows on the Film Hub SWWM page.