Where’s it on? BFI Player
Anyone inspired by Portrait of a Lady on Fire to travel backwards through director Céline Sciamma’s career to date is well served online. This week sees her previous film, 2014’s Girlhood, added to the subscription offering on BFI Player, where it joins 2011’s Tomboy. Set in the Parisian banlieues (suburbs) and following 16-year-old Marieme as she seeks acceptance into a girl gang as an escape from tough circumstances, it could scarcely provide a greater contrast in tone, pacing and situation with her subsequent taboo-breaking 19th-century romance. Yet here too is a film about liberating energies, and a vitality that spills over society’s boundaries; the girls’ camaraderie hitting a high note with the unforgettable sequence in which they get high and lip sync to Rihanna’s ‘Diamonds’.
Killer of Sheep (1978)
Where’s it on? Milestone Films
Here’s a gift not to be passed up: Charles Burnett’s 1978 film Killer of Sheep is currently streaming for free internationally on Milestone Films’ website. One of the great American debuts, this landmark portrayal of urban African-American experience – specifically, family life in the Watts district of Los Angeles – was shot on a shoestring in the early 1970s and subsequently submitted as Burnett’s masters thesis to UCLA. A key title in what became known as the LA Rebellion movement of local black filmmakers, its grainy monochrome images have a haunting lyricism unlike much else in American cinema, then or now.
Embrace of the Serpent (2015)
Where’s it on? Film4, Sunday, 1.05am
The highlight of Film4’s wares this weekend is a middle-of-the-night broadcast of this hallucinatory jungle journey from Columbian filmmaker Ciro Guerra. Embrace of the Serpent tells of an indigenous shaman whose local knowledge is called upon on two separate trips by foreign scientists deep into the rainforest in search of a rare and sacred plant. Reframing the gaze of Amazonian expedition movies from Aguirre, Wrath of God (1972) to The Emerald Forest (1985), Guerra’s film delivers a forceful critique of the impact white colonists have had on tribal communities in the Amazon. Unfolding in humid black and white, it’s enveloping in its evocation of the sights and sounds of a threatened wilderness.
Tokyo Twilight (1957)
Where’s it on? BFI Player
The Japan 2020 collection on BFI Player doubles this week with a mass of titles from one of Japan’s most revered directors, Yasujiro Ozu. Seventeen Ozu joints are added to the selection already available, including his early gangster films That’s Night Wife (1930) and Dragnet Girl (1933), wartime family dramas Brothers and Sisters of the Toda Family (1941) and There Was a Father (1942) and a trio of his refined latter-day domestic pieces: The Flavour of Green Tea over Rice (1952), Early Spring (1956) and – perhaps finest of all – 1957’s Tokyo Twilight. Ozu’s final black-and-white film, this quietly devastating work centres on two adult sisters who discover that their long-lost mother is in fact the proprietress of the local mahjong parlour. With a more pronounced sense of unhappiness and broken lives than is often the case in Ozu’s temperate cinema, Tokyo Twilight hits as hard as any of his more famous films.
Horse Money (2014)
Where’s it on? Second Run on Demand
For a long time one of the UK’s most exciting and adventurous players within the DVD world, Second Run has now made a welcome dip into streaming with Second Run on Demand, a rental service resident on Vimeo that offers a selection of the label’s releases for online viewing. Part of the fee for each rental will be donated to the UK’s independent cinemas, to help support them through this time of closures. The service has kicked off with 10 films from nearly as many corners of the globe, with Czech classics Daisies (1966) and Valerie and Her Week of Wonders (1970) competing for your attention with the likes of Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s debut film Mysterious Object at Noon (2000) and Pere Portabella’s meta-vampire film Vampir Cuadacec (1970). I’m singling out Pedro Costa’s Horse Money here because it’s vital companion viewing to his most recent release, Vitalina Varela (2019; currently on Mubi), but isn’t streaming anywhere else. Both films form part of Costa’s visionary cycle set amid the immigrant community in the Lisbon suburb of Fontainhas.