Mohammad Rasoulof directs this Iranian thriller

‘Manuscripts Don’t Burn’ on Amazon Prime

What’s most startling about Mohammad Rasoulof’s Iranian thriller Manuscripts Don’t Burn (Iran, 2013, not rated, with subtitles) is its audacity. Iranian filmmakers have a history of couching their criticisms of life in Iran in metaphor. This film puts its portrait of authoritarian oppression out in the open. We open on a contract murder that plays like […]

Viggo Mortensen stars in "Captain Fantastic."

‘Captain Fantastic’ – Alternative family values on Hulu and Kanopy

Captain Fantastic (2016) is a road movie, a family drama, a tale of loss, and a loving portrait of an alternative family that is prepared to face everything but the modern world. Viggo Mortensen is Ben, the father who (with his equally committed but currently absent wife) moved into the deep woods of the Pacific […]

Jafar Panahi’s ‘3 Faces’ free on Kanopy

In 2010, Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi was arrested and charged for “Propaganda against the Iranian government.” His sentence: he was forbidden to leave Iran or make any films for 20 years. 3 Faces (Iran, 2018) is the fourth feature he has made since the sentence was passed. And once again Panahi plays himself on screen, […]

Steven Soderbergh’s ‘Che’ on The Criterion Channel

Steven Soderbergh’s Che (2008) is both two features and one work, a 4 ½-hour production that carves out what Soderbergh, producer/star Benicio Del Toro, and screenwriter Peter Buchman see as the two defining periods in the life of Ernesto Che Guevara: the Cuban Revolution and the Bolivian expedition. Except for a brief scene where Guevara […]

Quentin Tarantino’s ‘Inglourious Basterds’ on Netflix

Is there another American filmmaker who takes such joy in telling stories and spinning cinematic spells as Quentin Tarantino? I don’t mean tackling big issues or making epic statements. I’m talking about the sheer pleasure of telling audiences a tale that takes them places they don’t expect and ways they haven’t quite experienced before. The […]

Robert De Niro as Travis Bickle in 'Taxi Driver'

Martin Scorsese’s ‘Taxi Driver’ on Netflix

Taxi Driver (1976), Martin Scorsese’s incendiary masterpiece of alienation and anger and urban anxiety may be the most maverick vision of seventies American cinema. It is certainly one of the most visceral portraits of the American urban underbelly ever put on film, a movie bathed in blood as much as in light, and almost forty years […]

‘Easy Rider’ – On the road to find America on Criterion Channel

Peter Fonda was already a counterculture icon when he suited up in black leather and a star-spangled helmet, mounted a Harley-Davidson chopper, tossed his watch to the desert floor, and drove off with a shaggy Dennis Hopper in search of America. The film was Easy Rider (1969), an independent film produced by Fonda, directed by Hopper, […]

Anamaria Marinca and Laura Vasiliu in Cristian Mungiu’s beautiful and harrowing Romanian drama '4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days'

‘4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days’ on The Criterion Channel

Cristian Mungiu’s beautiful and harrowing Romanian drama 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (2007) won the Palme d’Or at Cannes and Best Film at the European Film Awards, yet didn’t even make the short list for Best Foreign Language Film nominations. I can’t fathom this defiant snubbing of such a powerful and provocative film, […]

David Lynch’s ‘Mulholland Dr.’ on VOD and Criterion Blu-ray/DVD

Mulholland Dr. (2001) – David Lynch pulled a near magic trick in what can only be an exercise in creative rewriting and re-conception. Taking an open ended TV pilot rejected by the networks, he added 45 minutes and created closure in a weird, mystical logic that, in its unique Lynchian way, makes a twisted emotional […]

Sasha Lane and Shia LaBeouf in "American Honey," directed by Andrea Arnold

‘American Honey’ – Youth unbound on Netflix

American Honey (2016), the first American film from British filmmaker Andrea Arnold, is a road movie powered by the restlessness and passion of its young heroine Star (newcomer Sasha Lane), the eldest daughter of a deadbeat mom and a skeezy father (step-father?) who won’t stop pawing her teenage body. Recruited by Jake (Shia LaBeouf), a […]