Film

What to Watch Right Now on the Criterion Channel and OVID

The two streaming sites kicked off this past month with a robust, diverse selection of movies.

24 Frames (screenshot by the author for Hyperallergic)

Last year, cinephiles mourned the demise of the streaming platforms FilmStruck and Fandor (the latter’s Amazon add-on continues to work for now, at least). Both were much-loved sources for the kinds of films that mainstream sites such as Netflix and Hulu have mostly abandoned. But there’s fresh hope for movie fans seeking subscription services with robust, diverse, and interesting catalogs. Over the past month, two streaming sites have launched. OVID is a joint venture between multiple indie companies, including arthouse stalwarts Icarus and Grasshopper. The Criterion Channel is the new streaming branch of the Criterion Collection, unquestionably the most revered boutique distributor today. For this month’s roundup of streaming recommendations, we’re highlighting some films you can currently only see online via these new sites.

24 Frames

The final film by Iranian titan Abbas Kiarostami is, as the title suggests, a series of 24 tableaux. All in black and white, mostly depicting nature scenes, and with heavy use of painterly effects, Kiarostami took inspiration from portraiture and photography to probe the circumstances surrounding specific images (the 24 frames) rather than merely show the images themselves. An elegiac film you could think about for years.

On the Criterion Channel.

South

Chantal Akerman intended to make a loving tribute to the American South when she traveled there in the late ’90s. But then came the brutal racist murder of James Byrd Jr., which spurred her to change tack entirely. Akerman’s version of a crime documentary is unlike anything you’ll find on Netflix today, spurning sensationalism and morbid rubbernecking in favor of careful reconstruction and meditation on the murder and the circumstances around it.

On OVID.

News From Home (screenshot by the author for Hyperallergic)

News from Home 

Flipping services but sticking with Akerman, News from Home is a reconstruction of her time living in New York as a 21-year-old in the early ’70s. She returned to the city in 1976 and filmed the places she often visited when she was living there. In voiceover, she reads the letters she wrote to her mother back then. The result is a deeply relatable portrait of what it’s like to be displaced as a young person for the first time.

On the Criterion Channel.

The Battle of Chile

Patricio Guzmán’s three-part documentary epic lays out the events leading up to Chile’s 1973 coup d’état, in which the military overthrew democratically elected socialist president Salvador Allende with the backing of the CIA. The film is an invaluable look at how reactionary forces take power to fight progress, step by step.

On OVID.

Onibaba (screenshot by the author for Hyperallergic)

Onibaba

This Japanese horror classic from director Kaneto Shindo features a middle-aged woman and her young daughter-in-law struggling to survive on their own in a remote hut during a time of war. When the younger woman begins sleeping with an attractive neighbor, the older woman takes to impersonating a demon to scare them apart. It’s a creepy, thrilling parable about jealousy and isolation.

On the Criterion Channel.

Fengming, a Chinese Memoir

Decades of Chinese history are packed into a three-hour monologue from a woman who lived through it. In an extreme minimalist setup envisioned by modern master Wang Bing, He Fengming speaks about the aftermath of the Chinese Revolution, during which her dedication to the Maoist cause gave way to multiple imprisonments and ultimately political rehabilitation during the Cultural Revolution.

On OVID.

Zazie dans le Metro (screenshot by the author for Hyperallergic)

Zazie dans le Métro

Louis Malle’s madcap live-action cartoon follows a 9 1/2-year-old girl and her uncle on various adventures throughout Paris. It’s essentially an excuse to try out whatever filmmaking technique Malle could think of, throwing anything and everything at the wall. Delirious, breathless fun.

On the Criterion Channel.

Shorts by Kihachirō Kawamoto

Kihachirō Kawamoto was a legendary doll maker and animator who helped bring bunraku (Japanese puppet theater) into cinema. Drawing on Japanese folklore and tradition, these shorts display a marvelous attention to the details of performance and expression, all done with puppets.

On OVID.

Chungking Express (screenshot by the author for Hyperallergic)

Chungking Express

One of Wong Kar-wai’s early works consists of two different stories about characters trapped in romantic wistfulness (one of the Hong Kong director’s favorite themes). Assuming you don’t mind getting “California Dreamin'” stuck in your head, this is mandatory viewing for any movie fan.

On the Criterion Channel.

The Last Angel of History

A hybrid documentary and fiction film about Afrofuturism by director John Akomfrah. The fiction portion features a time traveler scavenging history for technology, while the documentary portion has Akomfrah interview musicians, artists, and writers about how Black music connects disparate people and groups across different time periods.

On OVID.

comments (0)