The 20 Best Movies on Metrograph At Home (June 2024)

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The 20 Best Movies on Metrograph At Home (June 2024)

The best movies on Metrograph At Home—the streaming service curated and maintained by the fine folks behind Metrograph NYC’s theater and the Metrograph distribution company (which helped bring restorations of films like Possession to discerning moviegoers—are hard to nail down simply because there’s so much quality on offer. Much like the Criterion Channel or another highly curated service, there’s some serious distance between what Metrograph At Home offers compared to a more slop-centric streamer like Amazon. That’s a huge plus, but it can also be a little intimidating. We’ve looked at the very best on offer, and kept our list up to date with the films coming and going to the service

Available on Roku, Fire TV, Android TV, Apple TV, Google TV and Chromecast, Metrograph at Home offers over 100 movies, hand-picked by the same team programming the theater. Maybe you can’t make it out to a screening at Ludlow Street. Maybe you want to supplement your frequent trips with some bonus content and better deals. Maybe you live somewhere where an “arthouse theater” is just whoever in town owns the most Criterion DVDs or has the biggest torrented Plex library. Whatever the case, there’s fewer and fewer opportunities to watch rotating film collections that actually feel like collections rather than business decisions. With movies streaming from filmmakers like Jane Campion, Jafar Panahi, Joanna Hogg, Jean Renoir, Jean-Luc Godard and others whose first names don’t start with J, there’s a ton of film history at your fingertips—supplemented by filmed Q&As and informative subsection write-ups. It’s relatively inexpensive ($50 gets you a year, with extra goodies if you live in New York) and thoroughly rewarding.

Here are the best movies streaming on Metrograph At Home right now:


1. Possession

Year: 1981
Director: Andrzej Zulawski
Starring: Sam Neill, Isabelle Adjani
Rating: R
Genre: Horror

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When Andrzej Zulawski’s Possession finally opened, critics, unfamiliar with horror movies to the point of lacking qualification to cover them, plead the fifth by pivoting to Roman Polanski’s Repulsion. Let’s be fair to these critics: In 1983, they saw Zulawski’s vision trimmed by 40 minutes and recut into what writer, filmmaker and scholar of Eastern European cult cinema Daniel Bird calls “a conventional horror film,” speaking with Paste. As if proving the point, Metrograph Pictures premiered a new 4K restoration of Zulawski’s masterwork. This version of the film, Bird says, is not a conventional horror film, by either the 1980s’ standards or those of today. Because today, Possession has an audience and a reputation. Possession is gooey, gory and grotesque, and on romantic matters it’s plain old icky. The movie’s hardest to watch scenes occur between its protagonists, Anna (Adjani) and Mark (Neill), a husband and wife in the midst of upheaval against the backdrop of Cold War-era West Berlin, a place experiencing upheaval of its own. Mark’s a spy returned home having completed undisclosed espionage in an undisclosed country. Anna fell for another man in Mark’s absence and wants to try separation. Mark abhors the idea, though he abhors the man, Heinrich (Heinz Bennent), more. Most of all, he abhors the discovery that Anna’s been two-timing both of them with a slimy tentacle monster in a derelict apartment just a hair away from the Berlin Wall. Possession captures the dissolution of two relationships: West Germany’s from East Germany and Mark’s from Anna. Everything ends in tears. That’s horror, folks.—Andy Crump


2. Caravaggio

Year: 1986
Director: Derek Jarman
Starring: Nigel Terry, Sean Bean, Tilda Swinton
Rating: NR
Genre: Drama

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A tragic, beautiful experiment in blending painting with cinema—and in blending period biopic with modern nonlinearity—Caravaggio saw filmmaker Derek Jarman get about as mainstream as he ever would. Replicating the masterworks of Caravaggio (Nigel Terry) in exquisite detail (and what else would be expected from the production designer for Ken Russell’s The Devils?), Caravaggio is stunning in its pseudo-static moments. Lingering on immediately recognizable compositions, lit and colored to perfection, poetic interludes of voiceover are broken up by sheer artistry from Jarman and production designer Christopher Hobbs. But Caravaggio’s merits aren’t simply found in its media-bending stagings of paintings. Add in some anecdotal adventures from the painter’s admittedly punk rock life, and the cheeky anachronisms, heartfelt AIDS gestures and searing religious criticism craft a truly representative portrait of a person while keeping to a non-traditional method befitting its subject. Another way in for contemporary viewers: Sean Bean and Tilda Swinton fulfill their destinies in their debut performances as two vertices in Caravaggio’s bisexual love triangle.—Jacob Oller


3. It Felt Like Love

Year: 2013
Director: Eliza Hittman
Starring: Gina Piersanti, Giovanna Salimeni, Ronen Rubinstein, Jesse Cordasco, Nicolas Rosen, Richie Folio, Kevin Anthony Ryan, Case Prime
Rating: NR
Runtime: 115 minutes

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With It Felt Like Love, writer-director Eliza Hittman takes a few routine subjects—the coming-of-age story, sexual awakening, adolescent confusion—and reminds us that a confident directorial voice can make material this common appear as fresh, strange, and surprising as a good science-fiction story. She herself invokes Maurice Pialat and Catherine Breillat when describing her influences in this genre, but her fascination with skin and bodies also owes a debt to Claire Denis. The movie’s opening image shows the protagonist, 14-year-old Lila (Gina Piersanti), standing on the shore of a beach, staring out onto the water in a one-piece bathing suit. At the start of the shot, she’s out-of-focus; by the end of it, her back has come sharply into focus. (Hittman’s use of shallow focus is one of the movie’s greatest qualities; one particularly enthralling example arrives during a fleeting moment aboard a Ferris wheel, when Lila’s blurry hand collides with the people below on the ground.) Our first look at Lila’s face, which directly precedes the title card, is startling: it’s caked with white sunscreen lotion, and she’s staring back into the camera, as if wondering what we’re even doing here watching her. Set during a hot summer in a working-class Brooklyn neighborhood, It Felt Like Love’s primary concern is charting Lila’s sexual anxieties and experiences. Hittman’s aforementioned experimentation with soft focus is nothing less than extreme, and her employment of slow motion and expressive colors likewise pushes the material into aesthetically adventurous terrain. A key party sequence in the middle of the film speaks to this: Hittman depicts Lila wandering through the space in a slow-motion haze, surrounded by red and green. Hittman and cinematographer Sean Porter’s insistence on close-ups puts a lot of weight on the shoulders of Piersanti—who, like her director, is here giving her feature debut. But the actress responds to the challenge with an absorbing performance that manages to remain true to the film’s troubling ambiguity without sacrificing psychological consistency or clarity.—Danny King


4. Long Day’s Journey into Night

Year: 2019
Director: Bi Gan
Starring: Tang Wei, Huang Jue
Rating: NR
Genre: Drama

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The film that’s broken box office records in China asks that you wait to put on your 3D glasses until you see its title card, which emerges 74-or-so minutes into the film, after our wandering noir-oneiric narrative leads Luo Hongwu (Huang Jue) to a theater where he falls asleep. His 3D glasses perched on the end of his nose, we’re pulled into his dream, a mild-mannered noir (of sorts) of its own, part psycho-sexual sinking into complete delusion and part alternative history, all represented by a 59-minute (or so) single take. It’s anecdote enough to justify broken record talk, but it hardly does any justice to just how enchanting director Bi Gan’s film can be, even before we stumble into the virtuosic stuff, as Luo’s drawn back to his old neighborhood by the death of his father, though mostly preoccupied with finding his long-ago lover. Her name is Wan Qiwen (Tang Wei), and she was probably involved in a criminal organization that probably had something to do with the murder of Luo’s childhood friend Wildcat. Probably—as Luo draws closer to tracking down the woman he remembers with so many charged emotions, his memories return in hyper-stylized fragments, like premonitions for both good and ill, and the prospect of actually finding her becomes more and more laced with dread. But then, we plunge into his head even further, feeling—through unbroken immersion and unpretentious iconism—the many complex ways he’s forever drawn to more than this woman, but to the life that’s died behind him. Bi’s second film after the similarly ravishing Kaili Blues, Long Day’s Journey into Night astounds as powerfully as it refuses to rest on gimmick alone. —Dom Sinacola


5. Behemoth

Year: 2015
Director: Zhao Liang
Rating: NR
Genre: Documentary

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The experience of watching was never more ravishing at True/False than in Behemoth, Chinese director Zhao Liang’s visually striking overview of a mining community. Somewhat predictably, Zhao juxtaposes gorgeous images with ugly truth: the miners dying of black lung, the devastation of a region’s natural resources. Still, if Behemoth tells us depressingly familiar news—China’s rush to modernize is poisoning its people spiritually and physically—Zhao has assembled a mournful picture book of atrocity.—Tim Grierson


6. 35 Shots of Rum

Year: 2008 
Director: Claire Denis
Stars: Alex Descas, Mati Diop, Nicole Dogue
Rating: NR
Genre: Drama

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A poetic, Parisian take on Yasujirō Ozu’s Late Spring35 Shots of Rum is about the steady, rumbling progression of our lives. It’s only natural that Lionel (Alex Descas) literally keeps the trains moving forward. He and his daughter Josephine (Mati Diop) have a small, quiet life together. So do the others in their apartment building: Lionel’s old flame, the warm and chatty cabbie Gabrielle (Nicole Dogue), and Josephine’s new one, the scruffy drifter Noe (Gregoire Colin). The progress of vehicles, either stalling out, humming along or dutifully following their tracks, is given just as much screen time by Claire Denis as the dramatics between her characters. Elegantly interwoven, they reflect each other easily. We have choices, but we can easily stay on a path – in a rut. We can even stop completely, and it’s not the end of the world. With a close camera and minimal dialogue, Denis draws realism out of the quiet. And, out of the music – especially a rain-drenched barroom dance sequence set to the Commodores’ “Nightshift” – she draws magic. Love, electricity, passion and ennui flow as easily as alcohol at a wedding (or a wake, or a retirement). The rituals that connect us, even the most mundane, stand out from the day-to-day flow Denis observes, marking the easygoing film with moments and images that softly burn like the only remaining memories of a year gone by. 35 Shots of Rum isn’t just a movie you can live in, but one so insightful that you wonder if you’ve lived it before. —Jacob Oller


7. All Is Forgiven

Year: 2007
Director: Mia Hansen-Løve
Starring: Paul Blain, Marie-Christine Friedrich, Victoire Rousseau, Constance Rousseau
Rating: NR
Genre: Drama

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Her first feature film is also her most heart-wrenching, rough and colored with the imperfect emotion characteristic of Pamela (Victoire and Constance Rousseau) and Victor’s (Paul Blain) relationship. With All Is Forgiven, it is clear that Hansen-Løve had yet to gain complete control over cinematic pacing, and yet her ability to structure ordinary stories that coil around a single, devastating event proves to be a thrilling watch. Furthermore, Constance Rousseau’s performance as the older Pamela proves to be one of Hansen-Løve’s best casting choices. Her absorbent gaze reflects a flurry of unspoken questions and conveys an infinite reserve of care and concern for the father she can’t quite remember.


8. Mountains May Depart

Year: 2015
Director: Jia Zhangke
Starring: Zhao Tao, Zhang Yi, Liang Jingdong, Dong Zijian
Rating: NR
Genre: Drama

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The films of Jia Zhangke often explore a simple, supple theme: the ways time changes everything. A frequent chronicler of the massive transformation going on in China—technological, cultural, economic—Jia studies how individuals cope when the world they know shifts under their feet. The filmmaker behind The World, Still Life and A Touch of Sin plays with that theme anew for Mountains May Depart, a somewhat straightforward love story. I say “somewhat” because the film, which travels across three time periods, could almost be viewed as Jia’s one-movie version of Richard Linklater’s Before trilogy, watching the development of a couple’s relationship over 25 years or so. But Mountains May Depart soon proves that with whom it’s concerned is more than just a handful of characters—yet again, the writer-director is investigating an entire society in transition. Opening in 1999 to the strains of the Pet Shop Boys’ exuberant cover of The Village People’s “Go West,” Mountains May Depart introduces us to a romantic triangle already in progress. Tao (Zhao Tao) has feelings for both Liangzi (Liang Jin Dong), a worker in a coal mine, and Zhang (Zhang Yi), a wealthy man who will end up buying Liangzi’s mine. Liangzi resents Zhang, a feeling that’s only exacerbated when Tao accepts Zhang’s marriage proposal, declining to attend the wedding. That triangle’s destiny will play out over two more eras—2014 and, provocatively, 2025—but that summation doesn’t do justice to Jia’s particular ambition. While he certainly cares about his characters’ fate, he also has his eyes fixed on larger issues. In this sense, Tao, Liangzi and Zhang represent different aspects of Chinese culture, their individual paths meant to be heavily symbolic. In the world of Mountains May Depart, people lose themselves for plenty of reasons, but Tao alone seems to retain a core sense of herself, which is a triumph in a Jia film. It can hardly be an accident that the movie ends on her in a scene that can only be described as hopeful. Time changes everything, Jia tells us, but maybe some things survive—a good person’s soul, for instance.—Tim Grierson


9. Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance

Year: 2002
Director: Park Chan-wook
Starring: Shin Ha-kyun, Song Kang-ho, Bae Doona, Han Bo-bae, Im Ji-eun
Rating: R
Genre: Thriller

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Blunt. Pointless. Devoid of passion. And no, I’m not just talking about my first reviews. This is revenge in Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, where attempts to better one’s station or right injustice end in a cacophony of senseless brutality and collateral damage. Park’s film is filled with offbeat, outsider characters, but the whole film is framed and shot so clinically, it’s difficult to muster a whole lot of sympathy for the players involved—despite how horrible a situation they find themselves in, be it bereft of a child or conned out of a kidney. Stylistically, it often feels more like a industrial film about murder than a crime thriller, distancing us from the rich and thorny emotional crises that plague the protagonists of Oldboy or Lady Vengeance. Can we ever truly feel sympathy for those who commit such barbarity? Can there ever be satisfying closure once violence is committed against someone? Sympathy may feel colder than other Park Chan-wook films, but its rebuttal to the glorification of violence in mainstream cinema still grabs you by the throat.—Rory Doherty


10. Blue

Year: 1993
Director: Derek Jarman
Rating: NR
Genre: Documentary

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An avant-garde death dream, transposing filmmaker Derek Jarman’s fading eyesight to an unceasing, unyielding blue frame for 79 solid minutes, Blue is one of the most poetic and sensational films ever made. Jarman’s diary-close text, read in voiceover by Jarman and longtime collaborators John Quentin, Nigel Terry and Tilda Swinton, moves between memory and imagery easily, leaping from playful profanity to heartbreakingly simple repetition as one would cross a stream on a series of flat stones. Of course you don’t buy new shoes when you’re dying of AIDS. The shoes you’ve got on will do, until you don’t need them any longer. Sad and furious and masterful, it’s as intimate a farewell as has ever been put on screen. The blue sharpens us, consumes us, cuts out all the other bullshit of the world and allows us to really, truly listen. You know how they say that removing one sense heightens your others? Blue is a sensory deprivation film, but it gives you so much in return.—Jacob Oller


11. Her Socialist Smile

Year: 2020
Director: John Gianvito
Rating: NR
Genre: Documentary

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Everyone labeled Millennial and older will likely remember Helen Keller’s story as one of inhuman or maybe hyper-human-perseverance, of someone overcoming the unimaginable to inspire countless generations to never give up, or something. John Gianvito’s Her Socialist Smile pushes beyond Americana, beyond Keller’s mythos to explore her writing, activism and, ultimately, her popularly uncelebrated populist character. Beginning in 1913 with Keller’s first time, well into her 30s, speaking in public, Gianvito has poet Carolyn Forché (a fellow progressive American luminary) read a prepared narrative, as well as Keller’s speeches in voice over, the words stark white over a black background. Intoxicatingly tangential images, mostly pastoral and wonderfully tactile alongside Forché’s voice, form bridges between Keller’s speeches, all gorgeous and alive with socialist revelry and functional leftism. As her ideas mature and gain experience, Her Socialist Smile expands on Keller’s incredible biography, re-shaping her image as a figure of American moralizing while never losing track of Gianvito’s own intentions. After all, he’s telling a story about Helen Keller too, albeit a leftist-leaning one. The more we attempt to examine a life, the more we mold its story to fit our own.—Dom Sinacola


12. A Touch of Sin

Year: 2013
Director: Jia Zhangke
Starring: Jiang Wu, Zhao Tao, Wang Baoqiang, Luo Lanshan
Rating: NR
Genre: Action

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A Touch of Sin, from Chinese director Jia Zhangke, would appear to be a departure from his previous acclaimed work. But on closer inspection, his particular cinematic DNA has been perfectly preserved. It’s just that, this time, there’s a lot more bloodshed than we’ve come to expect from him. A Touch of Sin is Jia’s stab at more commercial filmmaking, although one should not confuse this ensemble drama with a conventional action movie or anything so easily accessible. (Jia made this film with the backing of Shanghai Film Group, a government-sponsored production company, which was a first for him.) The independent auteur of quiet character pieces like The World and Still Life has constructed a story about four loosely connected individuals whose lives are touched by violence or death. At its center are the same concerns that have always interested Jia—namely, how ordinary Chinese citizens are adapting to the rapid economic development of their nation. As usual, the characters struggle mightily with that proposition. But in A Touch of Sin, their anguish is expressed in gunfire and knife fights. This is less an action movie than it is an acting-out movie.—Tim Grierson


13. Lady Vengeance

Year: 2005
Director: Park Chan-wook
Starring: Lee Young-ae, Choi Min-sik, Kim Si-hoo, Oh Dal-su
Rating: R
Genre: Thriller

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The best entry in the Vengeance Trilogy marked its first female protagonist and Park Chan-wook’s first collaboration with Jeong Seo-kyeong, and there’s no better film to kick off one of the finest writer-director partnerships in modern cinema. Park’s female characters changed drastically for the better from this point; here illustrated by the aggrieved Geum-ja (Lee Young-ae), released from prison after a lengthy sentence for a crime she falsely confessed to so she could protect her daughter. It unpicks the emotional burden and aftereffects of vengeance in a measured, almost surgical way, and only in the trilogy’s final chapter do we see a central relationship that doesn’t become corrupted and vile. The final act, where the vengeance is actually carried out, is undoubtedly Park’s finest hour; filled with brutality, tragedy and quiet displays of powerful humanity. It’s a turning point for Park—one that would only lead him to greater glory.—Rory Doherty


14. Millennium Mambo

Year: 2001
Director: Hsiao-Hsien Hou
Starring: Shu Qi, Jack Kao, Chun-hao Tuan, Yi-Hsuan Chen
Rating: R
Genre: Romance

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Millennium Mambo is the first movie in director Hou Hsiao-hsien’s career to be distributed theatrically in the U.S., and that’s reason alone to seek it out. It’s the story of Vicky (Shu Qi), a modern young woman in Taipei with a little money in the bank and not much to do besides smoke, drink and hang out at clubs with her friends. She bounces between her controlling, on-again-off-again boyfriend Hao-Hao (Tuan Chun-hao) and the older, possibly wiser Jack (Jack Kao), with occasional detours to a snowy part of Japan. Each of these three locations has a gravitational pull on Vicky, sometimes defying all reason, and the movie artfully balances them and seems to weigh them for their worth, just as Vicky is doing the same. Every frame of the movie pulses with color and light. One of Hou’s strengths, evident in all of his movies, is his masterful sense of space. He fully utilizes the three dimensions of his locations, but not by roving the hallways. His camera usually sits still, but he makes the audience aware of spaces beyond its reach so that his worlds feel observed rather than acted. People disappear through doorways, but they still exist. They don’t stand artificially in front of the camera. If they need to move into the kitchen to get something, they do, and Hou’s camera waits for their return. The spaces in Millennium Mambo are more cramped than usual, and the situations more urban and tense. He packs the frame with people and furniture, reflecting not only the characters’ physical locations, but their lives as well, bouncing off each other, unstable, in need of fresh air. The way the music both connects and contrasts the settings is often mesmerizing. A country and its history are reflected in its people, and few filmmakers capture them so well.—Robert Davis


15. The Image Book

Year: 2019
Director: Jean-Luc Godard
Stars: Jean-Luc Godard, Dimitri Basil
Rating: NR
Genre: Documentary

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Jean-Luc Godard’s discursive follow-up to Goodbye to Language feels like a film that’s been put in a broken blender; it flings everything at the wall and sees what sticks. This is a Dadaist treatise on cinematic representation, violence, the fate of the world—or maybe none of those things. Le Livre D’Image produces everything from portraits of Arthur Rimbaud to clips from the cinema of Michael Bay, asking the audience to cling to whatever fragments of meaning they can find. In doing so, it’s an even more radical—albeit less focused—extension of Godard’s previous work. (The film is certainly peppered with the same unexpectedly lowbrow humor—be sure to look out for the cuts between Tod Browning’s Freaks and some abrupt anilingus.) If that isn’t enough of a hint as to the madcap, kamikaze nature of Le Livre D’Image, there are plenty of others. The screen periodically goes black while the scenes from films like the director’s beloved Johnny Guitar go on unabated. Home movie footage of executions and terrorist violence come hand-in-hand with a stream-of-consciousness voiceover full of Godardian declaratives. Split into unruly sub-headings that allow some brief guidance, Godard’s tendency toward the dislocated and oblique nonetheless reaches new heights here. Free floating without an evident thesis, the film bounces between wide-ranging issues—war, the environment and the potential for revolution. In one typically circular statement, the voiceover tells us that any activity can be art provided it is no longer dominant. If this is a statement about the death of cinema, retrospectively honored now that its 20th century dominance has faded, that seems to fit the filmmakers’ perspective well. It’s undoubtedly the viewpoint of an older man, revealing Le Livre D’Image as a rather grouchy film. As an elderly Godard ruminates on the fate of the world and the end of cinema, the film fills with apocalyptic imagery: the nuclear explosion at the finale of Kiss Me Deadly; abrupt bombings caught on camera. This could well be the old-man-yells-at-cloud meme in avant-garde cinematic form. Yet amid countless examples of pessimism both verbal and visual, Le Livre D’Image also occasionally ventures into hopefulness. It’s always been somewhat difficult to encompass Godard’s intentions, and this is particularly the case with his latest unwieldy creation. Are we doomed to an endless cycle of violence and degradation? Was cinema only great when no one regarded it as art? Is this all a profound joke? Is there anyone out there, on first viewing, that grasps every reference to political and cultural theory the film contains? It’s fitting, ultimately, that Godard seems so fixated on images of trains and train-tracks. Le Livre D’Image is a film that derails itself constantly and self-consciously.—Christina Newland


16. Nocturama

Year: 2017
Director: Bertrand Bonello
Stars: Finnegan Oldfield, Laure Valentinelli, Martin Petit-Guyot, Hamza Meziani, Manal Issa, Jamil McCraven, Ilias Le Doré, Rabah Nait Oufella, Robin Goldbronn, Vincent Rottiers
Rating: NR
Genre: Thriller

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Nocturama trusts its audience—more, even, than its audience may want to be trusted. Throughout, director Betrand Bonello folds timelines, indulges in flashbacks and replays moments from different perspectives, rarely with any warning but hardly without precision or consistency, investigating the comparatively small world of his film from every angle while implying that a much bigger, much more complicated world exists outside of its admittedly limited view. Bonello’s tact offers no explanations; his story follows a gaggle of beautiful Parisian teens, seemingly representing a broad swath of life, participating in a terrorist act, from planning through meticulous execution, and then, in the aftermath of the explosions, to the high-end department store where the teens hide out to watch the City respond. Bonello never allows these kids a monologue or conversation or anecdote to explain why they’ve gone to such extremes—their political understanding is about as sophisticated as that of a college student who’s only recently discovered Noam Chomsky, and even these beliefs they mumble to one another without much dedication. Instead, Nocturama is all surface, all watching: the faces of these innocents as they silently go about their terror, the tension that arises from knowing there is so much obscured behind those faces but also seeing so much so clearly in those faces, and then knowing that we will never know. Because these teens seem fine, even existentially so. They seem middle class, comfortable, unburdened by the wiles of puberty, free to do what they want, be with whom they want, say what they want—and only in the department store, amongst designer clothes and expensive, pointless home goods, do they yearn for more, potentially blowing up Paris not to protest anything, but to beg to be a part of the elite who define it. This is terrorism not against capitalism, but for it. Bonello trusts his audience to know the difference. —Dom Sinacola


17. The Stranger

Year: 1946
Director: Orson Welles
Stars: Edward G. Robinson, Loretta Young, Orson Welles
Rating: NR
Genre: Drama

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Orson Welles’ third feature film was the first to feature documentary footage of the Holocaust. This film noir follows a UN War Crimes Commission agent, Mr. Wilson (Edward G. Robinson) who’s hunting down fugitive Nazi Franz Kindler (Orson Welles). Wilson releases a repentant former associate of Kindler’s, hoping the man will lead him to the fugitive. Kindler has has moved to a small New England town and married the daughter of a Supreme Court Justice, teaches at a prep school—essentially has erased every possible trace of his former identity, save one: a longtime obsession with clocks. The former associate does find him, but Kindler’s a little reluctant to confess, opting to strangle his former friend, instead. Wilson continues to prove Kindler’s identity, and Kindler goes to greater and greater lengths to conceal it. Ultimately, of course, his undoing is a clock—literally. The producer was originally planning to hire John Huston to direct The Stranger; Welles got the job because of an ill-timed military tour that took Huston (literally and figuratively) out of the picture. Welles hadn’t directed a film in four years and was so eager for the work that he took a contract stipulating that if he went over-budget he’d be paying the studio out of pocket. It’s possible that Welles’ inventiveness was partially forged by the constraints under which he found himself working on all of his early films. He was dogged by cut-happy producers (it’s not even clear how much footage was removed but Welles was relieved of the first 16 pages of his script before principal photography even started) and contrarian casting and locations choices (Welles wanted Agnes Moorehead to play the investigator; the studio cast Robinson; likewise he got a budget-driven “no” on filming the prep school scenes at The Todd School in Illinois, his own alma mater). The desire to personalize this film despite so many interventions were probably fundamental to the development of its nightmare-like tone and the use of reflective surfaces to provide depth and dimension in his constructed set. (Check out the drugstore scene where Wilson plays checkers with Billy House.) But perhaps most striking is the use of actual footage from concentration camps, which are still shocking to look at today but were exceedingly potent in the 1940s when large numbers of Americans still did not understand that the camps really existed. In typical Welles-versus-studio fashion, the producers backed out at the last minute on the promise of a four-picture deal to follow this film—-they had become convinced it would run at a loss and Welles was incapable of directing a mainstream hit movie. As it turned out, it was Welles’ only significant box office success on release, and remains a canonized film noir. —A.G.


18. A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night

Year: 2014
Director: Ana Lily Amirpour
Stars: Sheila Vand, Arash Marandi, Mozhan Marnò, Marshall Manesh, Dominic Rains
Rating: NR
Genre: Fantasy, Horror

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Advertising itself as “the first Iranian Vampire Western,” A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night transcends just about every word in that description, and yet it has the defiant one-dimensionality of a lurid graphic novel. Its moody atmosphere is all of a piece, cutting off our connection to characters or any sense of deeper thematic or emotional terrain. The film stars Sheila Vand (Argo) as the titular girl. She lives in Bad City, a desert community littered with slowly churning oil derricks and an unsettling open pit where dead bodies are dumped. This unnamed character walks the city streets at night decked out in a chador, which makes her look like a superhero. More accurately, she’s a vampire, feasting indiscriminately on men deserving of the grisly fate. (Pimps and other baddies seem to be favored targets.) Shot in Southern California, A Girl Walks is a triumph of high-contrast lighting, the dark shadows coexisting with the flickering streetlights. (The whole movie exists in the same arresting permanent-midnight environment of Touch of Evil, where empty desert threatens to consume the few signs of civilization.) Such a heightened visual palette risks becoming monotonous, but Amirpour and cinematographer Lyle Vincent keep delighting the eye, finding endless ways to surprise us with the ghostly appearance of Vand in the background. (With her pale face, heavily-mascaraed eyes and dark cloak, she’s the most bewitching vision of death you’ve seen on a screen in a while.) Amirpour has crafted a tone poem to alienation and first love that’s incredibly sensual and eerie. It has its share of spilled blood, but Amirpour prefers the creepy-crawly to the crudity of gore. Like Jim Jarmusch, she enjoys playing around with genres from an ironic distance, letting her noir-ish tone set the terms for everything else that goes into the film. Hers is a feature debut is so enveloping that it doesn’t much matter that not a lot happens within the frame. Draped in dreamy black-and-white and scored with proto-Morricone instrumentals and evocative goth-rock, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night proudly stakes its claim as an aspiring cult classic. —Tim Grierson


19. Goodbye to Language

Year: 2014
Director: Jean-Luc Godard
Stars: Héloïse Godet, Kamel Abdeli, Richard Chevallier, Zoé Bruneau, Roxy Miéville
Rating: NR
Genre: Documentary

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Jean-Luc Godard made Goodbye to Language in much the same spirit as Taro Gomi’s seminal children’s book Everyone Poops: no matter what differences may set us apart from one another, we’re all united through our undeniable human need to defecate. It’s the greatest of equalizers. This, of course, suggests that any such spirit can be coaxed out of the film in just one screening. Woven sporadically throughout Godard’s visual essay are moments in which his quartet of protagonists talk philosophy on the john, the thunder of their bowel-voiding peppering conversation with the sounds of intestinal exertion. Coming from any other director, these sequences might stretch our willingness to offer our continued patience, but anyone who signs on for a modern Godard flick should probably have an idea of what they’re getting into. This holds true for Goodbye to Language as much as it does for, say, 2010’s Film Socialisme or 2004’s Notre Musique—though the latter films are downright coherent by comparison. It’s dense. It’s opaque. Goodbye to Language is crafted in a way that aggressively defies immediate understanding, really allowing only mitotic absorption; though it clocks in at 70 minutes, it feels like it’s twice as long. As a topper, Godard and his cinematographer Fabrice Aragno shot the whole damn thing in 3D. Coats, branches and many sundry objects poke out at us from the screen while the colors—oh, the colors!—practically vibrate with intrusive urgency. The toilet humor is almost a palette cleanser for his movie’s experimental qualities—which is a sentence I stand wholeheartedly behind. But these aren’t complaints; they’re the exact reason that the movie is such a joy to behold. So what does it all mean? What’s the ultimate point? Godard has a lot on his mind, as evinced by the sheer volume he’s jammed into Goodbye to Language’s sinewy frame. In that regard, maybe there doesn’t have to be a point, because the point, perhaps, is just to rifle through Godard’s brain-library and glimpse if only briefly what it’s like for him to live within that overstimulated architecture. That explains, if not justifies, the film’s sheer breadth of referentialism, which includes archival footage clips alongside nods to Fritz Lang, Alexandre Aja, Jean Cocteau, Samuel Beckett, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Mary Shelley, Lord Byron, Jean-Paul Sartre and, perhaps unsurprisingly, Godard himself. These materials, which Godard weaves together with a young man’s brio, aren’t a sendoff for language but rather a send-up: They wryly blur the line between truth and fiction, reality and fantasy. Maybe language keeps us at arm’s length from nature, but if so, it still does a pretty solid job of articulating the full gamut of human emotion. Put in short, the film is chaos, but glorious, wondrous chaos that lets us see what genius looks like from the inside. —Andy Crump


20. Fourteen

Release Date: May 15, 2020
Director: Dan Sallitt
Stars: Norma Kuhling, Tallie Medel
Rating: NR
Genre: Drama

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Fourteen explores lives in transit. Dan Sallitt’s minimalist epic takes up the slowly unspooling friendship between Mara (Tallie Medel) and Jo (Norma Kuhling), two twenty-somethings in New York City building careers in education and social work, respectively. It presents a vivid portrayal of the minutiae of a friendship, especially its rhythms. Sallitt’s editing style cuts together moments from their lives in a gamified way, with the viewer having to discern how much time has passed between one scene and the next, the time jump made discernible by a character’s new job or boyfriend. As a viewer, the feeling is that we’re brought into each scene in medias res. But this jumpy, fragmented way of editing adds to the film’s brand of realism. It helps that the film was shot gradually over several years—Sallitt’s previous film was 2012’s The Unspeakable Act, which also starred Medel—so changes in the characters’ appearances reflect the actors’ movements in time. Each scene is pared to the essentials, capturing Mara and Jo at a particular moment, allowing the viewer to observe subtle differences in each character’s behavior, from an annoyed tone on the phone or a missed dinner. With each passing scene, there’s a sense that Mara and Jo’s relationship is also the fantasy of an indissoluble friendship, tied together by aspirations to see the other in a way that no one else ever could, or the false promise that their once easy, breezy bond could stay the same as time goes on. The unsentimental drama aspires to evoke a slice-of-life naturalism, and mostly succeeds, illustrating the slow strain of a one-time best friendship that becomes just too difficult. —Isabella Bridie DeLeo

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