Another streaming service fades into digital dust. This week, FilmStruck died a not so lonely death – at least until it’s resurrection (or is it just a Christ-like rebranding?) as the Criterion Channel in 2019. At Bundler, it’s not really our business to dissect the complexities of the streaming media landscape, but if that’s your thing, you can read about it here and here. Wait... that’s exactly our business at Bundler? Crap. Then FilmStruck was probably too niche, too expensive, not widely enough available across devices, and/or alienating to millennial consumers who were asked to pay extra for a selection of titles that had previously been part of a Hulu subscription.
Streamonomics aside, our other goal here is to connect people with great films and television shows. FilmStruck’s catalogue from the Criterion Collection focused on classic, foreign and independent cinema, including some of the most acclaimed and daring films ever made. Not to get preachy, but that’s a worthy aim for any content provider. In fact, there are still many great titles that fit the "Criterion" model which are available across the stream. Here are some selections for anyone mourning FilmStruck’s absence this weekend.
The Kid With a Bike – Belgian filmmakers Luc and Jean- Pierre Dardenne tell simple character-driven stories that make provocative social and political statements with a deft human touch. Several of their movies have been included in the Criterion Collection, including this one about the familial bond between an abandoned child and a hairdresser. For a Dardenne brothers bonus, also check out Two Days, One Night which earned an Oscar nomination for star Marion Cotillard.
Touch of Evil – Arguably Orson Welles’ second most well-known film, this pulpy border town noir is memorable for the tracking shot in the opening sequence and Charlton Heston’s refusal to attempt a Mexican accent. Netflix may prefer rebooting 90’s sitcoms to classic American cinema, but the streamer has doubled down on Welles, recently putting together a cut of his unfinished film The Other Side of the Wind.
Donovan’s Reef – Speaking of Welles, the master himself called this his favorite American movie. Director John Ford and star John Wayne took a break from the western genre for this comedic story about a cantankerous WWII veteran trying to shut out the world on a Pacific island paradise. Get your post-colonialist critique ready to go.
Faces Places – Legendary French New Wave director Agnes Varda partnered with the puckish artist JR for this documentary chronicling a road trip through France. Like all of Varda’s best work, this film plays with the boundaries between fact and fiction, image and reality, subject and object.
Stroszek - Maybe Werner Herzog’s transformation from trailblazing German arthouse director to hipster celebrity was inevitable. This film's bizarre odyssey of the American interior featuring the enigmatic Bruno S. presents a different vision from the Jack Reacher villain and Parks & Rec guest star with a passion for Florida theme parks.
Ju Dou – Before he dazzled the world with the Beijing Olympics ceremonies and baffled it with an internationally financed, English language medieval epic about monsters attacking Matt Damon on the Great Wall of China, director Zhang Yimou made a name for himself with emotionally charged period dramas about life in rural China such as this one. Now considered a classic, this was originally banned by the Chinese government.
Santa Sangre – Even by Chilean filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky’s surrealist standards, this story of a traumatized circus performer, his armless mother, and occult serial murder is fucking bonkers.