Internet movie options can be so numerous as to be overwhelming these days. If you need help picking out some films to watch that are off the beaten path, then fear not, I am here for you. Here are some recommendations from across the streaming landscape.
Jean Rouch’s Ethnographic Films
Mubi’s January lineup features a selection of the pioneering documentary director’s films from the 1950s through 1970. While influential, his work has received significant backlash over the years, especially from African critics and filmmakers. (Senegalese director Ousmane Sembène famously told Rouch that he was “looking at us like insects.”) Whether you view the cinematic tools of anthropology as incisive or flawed, you can trace many of them back to these documentaries.
Available on: Mubi
Jacques Rivette’s nearly 13-hour epic (helpfully broken into eight parts for easier viewing) brings together an acting troupe, a con artist, and a busker who becomes increasingly convinced that a bizarre conspiracy is afoot. This is a singularly strange and absorbing film that zeroes in on the minutiae of performances of all kinds.
Available on: Kanopy
Moses and Aaron
An adaptation of an unfinished Schoenberg opera (which preserves the original’s unfinished nature, with the final act consisting of an actor reading Schoenberg’s notes), directors Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet apply their sparse, exacting style to the Exodus story. It’s absolutely nothing like what you would usually think of when you hear “opera,” but in the best way.
The basis for last year’s Steve Carell-starring Welcome to Marwen, this movie tells the story of artist Mark Hocancamp, who recovered from a brutal assault by turning his life into a metaphorical miniature town. The haunting close-up photography of his work makes this documentary vivid and memorable.
Too Late For Tears
This criminally overlooked noir starts with a couple stumbling upon a suitcase full of money, kicking off a series of events which, naturally, spiral into murder and intrigue. An unforgettably dogged, devious performance by Lizabeth Scott as the “heroine” makes this one for the books.
Paris Is Burning
In many ways an obvious pick, but this seminal documentary on the ’80s New York ball culture scene remains not just relevant (what with the FX hit Pose taking a ton of notes from it) but notable, as it’s one of the precious few older movies left on Netflix.
Available on: Netflix
Let the Sunshine In
An underrated French gem from last year, Claire Denis’s story about a woman (played by Juliette Binoche) undergoing various romantic woes avoids most of the clichés you may associate with that description. An understated, funny, sharply directed film that features one of the funniest credits scenes in recent film history.
The Waldheim Waltz
In 1986, Austria elected a former Nazi as president. In this documentary, Ruth Beckermann dissects how onetime UN Secretary General Kurt Waldheim was able to exploit Austria’s eagerness to erase its history. A disquieting work of archival reconstruction. (Squint and you may see some relevance to contemporary politics.)
Available on: Hoopla