Jewish-themed world cinema you can stream from your home.
With movie theaters remaining closed due to COVID-19, we wanted to spotlight some lesser-known streaming services that offer more than your typical Netflix fare. This is the first part in a series on the Jewish Virtual Arthouse.
Marketing itself as “a film festival in your living room,” the streaming service Mubi (mubi.com) specializes in heavily curated international, independent and classic cinema. Most of its selections are exclusively available through the platform.
In the past, Mubi has only offered 30 films at any given time: a new one made available every day, for a total of 30 days, for a constantly rotating selection. But beginning in late May, the service unveiled a major new addition: the “Mubi Library,” featuring a deeper well of content without an expiration date attached. That helps to make its $10.99/month price point much more attractive.
Here are some of Mubi’s Jewish-interest selections for the month of June:
Chantal Akerman’s Legacy
A pioneering figure in feminist cinema, the experimental Belgian director Chantal Akerman incorporated Jewish themes into her films without ever identifying as a Jewish director. This month, in honor of what would have been her 70th birthday, Mubi is programming Akerman’s final film, 2015’s No Home Movie, which explores her deeply personal relationship with her Holocaust survivor mother.
The service is also offering one of her narrative features, Almayer’s Folly, and a documentary on her work, I Don’t Belong Anywhere: The Cinema of Chantal Akerman.
The Day After I’m Gone
Available beginning June 18, this sensitive family drama follows a father who takes a road trip to reconnect with his teenage daughter after she attempts suicide. It is the debut feature from Israeli director Nimrod Eldar and received strong notices at the Berlin Film Festival.
The Man With The Golden Arm
Born into a Jewish family, the legendary Austrian director Otto Preminger made many classics of Hollywood’s golden era (including the Michigan-set Anatomy of a Murder). This is one of his most famous entries: a 1955 crime drama starring Frank Sinatra as a jazz drummer who fights a heroin addiction. The sprightly, minimalist opening credits, designed by Saul Bass, are worth the price of admission alone.
Films from Weimar Germany
Some of Germany’s most influential movies were made in the volatile time period before Hitler came to power. Mubi’s collection of Weimar-era films includes F.W. Murnau’s trailblazing vampire classic Nosferatu, written by Jewish screenwriter Henrik Galeen.
Fritz Lang’s sci-fi masterpiece Metropolis supplements the selection, and the documentary From Caligari to Hitler: German Cinema in the Age of the Masses ties the whole era together.
The kidnapping of a young Jewish couple in a remote Russian village is the focal point of this 2017 drama from Russian wunderkind director Kantemir Balagov, who is only 28 years old. (His latest film, the tremendously gripping Beanpole, was recently featured in the Virtual Cinema for Hamtramck’s Film Lab.) Closeness deals directly with the uneasy relationships between Russia’s Jewish population and its territorial ethnic groups — in this case the Kabardians, who dominate the North Caucasus near the Georgian border. Warning: Contains some graphic, disturbing footage.
Lloyd Kaufman and Troma
Get a taste for bad taste with the raunchy Jewish producer Lloyd Kaufman and his Troma studio of DIY gross-out flicks — the kind you’d find at drive-ins back in the day.
Mubi’s Troma collection, cheekily deemed “The Vulgar Disruptor,” includes several Z-grade cult “classics”: the superhero spoof The Toxic Avenger, the questionable Shakespeare adaptation Tromeo & Juliet and, most infamously, the punk-rock battle royale Surf Nazis Must Die. That’s the one where an earthquake unleashes a surfing gang of teenaged Nazis on an unsuspecting public. You’re welcome.
A Mubi membership is $10.99/month or $95.88/year. More info is at www.mubi.com.