From Cleo from 5 to 7 (screenshot by the author for Hyperallergic)

For this month’s roundup of streaming recommendations, we’ve decided to highlight movies that can currently only be found online on select media platforms. Most of them are also unavailable on DVD or Blu-ray (or can’t be bought cheaply, at least), so you may want to catch them on these services while you still can.

Cléo from 5 to 7

Agnès Varda confronts mortality through a feminist lens in one of her earliest features. In real time, it follows the protagonist as she waits to get the results of a biopsy. A pioneering work of the French Left Bank movement, you can either stream it for free or fork over $80 for the Criterion box set which includes it and three other Varda films.

Available on Kanopy

Cousin Bobby

The recently, sadly departed director Jonathan Demme was never content to settle on one mode of filmmaking. Among his many concert films, he also made a documentary about his own cousin: Robert Castle, an Episcopal priest and prominent political activist. Demme’s usual compassionate lens is lent an unusually intimate feeling by his connection to his subject.

Available on Sundance Now (or Amazon with a Sundance Now add-on)

Red Hollywood

From Red Hollywood (screenshot by the author for Hyperallergic)

Thom Andersen is one of the premier film essayists currently working. This 1996 feature, co-directed by critic Noel Burke, scrutinizes the work of filmmakers who were blacklisted during the Red Scare. Made mainly by collating clips from scores of movies from the time, the film examines how they were able to get leftist ideas into their work in the midst of an incredibly conservative cultural climate.

Available on Mubi

Ball of Fire

Plenty of screwball comedies from Hollywood’s Golden Age are still beloved today, but this one from 1941 is all too often overlooked. Which is a shame, because it’s thoroughly delightful. Gary Cooper stars as an incorrigibly nerdy grammarian who’s contributing to the development of a new encyclopedia. To learn about modern slang, he strikes up a relationship with Barbara Stanwyck’s nightclub singer. This, of course, soon turns romantic, though not without a requisite number of misunderstandings, wacky situations, and clever banter along the way.

Available on Hoopla


We’ve previously highlighted how the complete work of veteran documentarian Frederick Wiseman is almost solely available on Kanopy. Here’s another highlight from his oeuvreabout Benedictine monks living in a monastery in Michigan. Wiseman’s fly-on-the-wall approach works wonders in such a peaceful, spiritually rich atmosphere.

Available on Kanopy

World of Tomorrow and World of Tomorrow Episode Two: The Burden of Other People’s Thoughts

From World of Tomorrow Episode Two: The Burden of Other People’s Thoughts (screenshot by the author for Hyperallergic)

These two short films from animator Don Hertzfeldt are among the best works of science fiction made this decade. In both, a young girl is given a time-traveling tour by her future clone, who reveals all the heartaches awaiting her among the wonders to come. (The toddler doesn’t understand any of it, and her innocence often contrasts humorously with her adult version’s melancholy.) Dazzlingly animated and packed minute by minute with ideas, both shorts are funny and disquieting in equal measure.

Available on Vimeo

Kazuhiro Soda: Radical Observation

In this special series, Mubi presents four films from documentarian Kazuhiro Soda. A devotee of “Observational Filmmaking” who follows a set of rules he’s established for himself, he tries as hard as possible to work from a sort of pure outsider perspective. His “10 commandments” include doing no prior research and no interviews with his subjects. His work is generally unknown in the US, so this is a great way to be introduced to it.

Available on Mubi

Journey to the Shore

From Journey to the Shore (screenshot by the author for Hyperallergic)

Kiyoshi Kurosawa makes movies with characters who act slightly … off from what we’re accustomed to. In this one, based on the novel by Kazumi Yumoto, a woman isn’t perturbed at all when her drowned husband suddenly shows up again three years later. It’s the rare director who can make a ghost romance road trip work.

Available on Mubi

The Exiles

This 1961 feature from Kent Mackenzie is a landmark both in American independent cinema and for Native Americans in film. It follows a day in the life of young people who have left their reservations to live in LA’s Bunker Hill neighborhood (at the time a seriously impoverished area and a favorite setting for noir writers). It’s raw, sometimes uncomfortably so, but an essential slice-of-life look at a community that’s too often ignored.

Available on Fandor (or Amazon with a Fandor add-on)

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Dan Schindel

Dan Schindel is a freelance writer and copy editor living in Brooklyn, and a former associate editor at Hyperallergic. His portfolio and links are here.