Through movies, we know that there are an infinite number of universes, realities, ways of life and subjectivities brought to life onscreen. This week, we added twenty-seven new films to the Fandor library, and many of them operate as portals into communities and lifestyles with their own customs, social roles and values. They may seem totally foreign, they may surprise you with their resonance or they may feel just like going home. Let’s take a look at some of the highlights from this week’s world(s) tour:
The Cat, the Reverend and the Slave follows active members of the the 3D virtual world Second Life as they find different kinds of fulfillment online and sometimes struggle to reconcile the subcultures they create and co-create against the world outside of their computers. It’s far from a talking-head-driven, journalistically-based profile and more of a meditation on the evolution of desire and a revelation about the hidden lives of those around us. It’s a tender, but complicated, look at an ongoing phenomenon that has only become more layered since the rise of app-driven and massive multiplayer online entertainment.
It’s one thing to create a virtual reality, but what if you are in the business of fulfilling fantasy in the real world? That’s the goal for the caretaker of the insane and AWOL American soldiers in The Ninth Configuration. The men are all prisoners of their past, trying to combat perhaps their most insidious enemy: mental illness and post-traumatic stress. Directed by William Peter Blatty (of The Exorcist), who also wrote the novel on which it’s based, this movie starts out as one thing — a farce — and transforms into something quite different by the end.
If you’re looking for a journey through a different sort of subculture, we just added one juicy nugget of gonzo-bizarro alt-American history: High There, a documentary-ish movie about a marijuana travel series gone terribly wrong. This dark, reality-blurring comedy is the brainchild of Wayne Darwen, the famous innovator of
tabloid television (you’re welcome, world) here playing his barely-altered-ego Dave High. Part Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and part Cheech and Chong, this spiral of drugs and paranoia may be a way to fill the void left by Hunter S. Thompson. Watch with snacks. Fun fact: Wayne Darwen was the inspiration for Robert Downey, Jr.’s character in Natural Born Killers.
Or, for a more lyrical experience, step into the Christian, homeschooled, goat-farming, rural Texas family portrayed with empathy and dignity in Stop the Pounding Heart, a coming-of-age story that takes a cinema verité approach to its subject, a young woman wrestling with the forces of faith, family and puberty. Director Roberto Minervini has, in the words of Slant Magazine‘s Chris Cabin, “created a moving portrait of feminism born out of hard work and intuitiveness, but he never belittles or condescends to the faithful.” It’s a gorgeous, compassionate work of contemporary anthropology that you won’t want to miss if you’re a fan of Jesus Camp or The Devil’s Playground (or even However Many Kids and You Know What We Mean).
We’ll leave you in a black-and-white version of modern Berlin, with a promising debut feature that recently swept the German Oscars: A Coffee in Berlin (pictured in this week’s featured image) is about nothing much, and also kind of about a whole lot. Its jazzy soundtrack belies the millennial melancholy and inertia of the unrepentantly, unrelentingly lazy law-school dropout Niko, who exhibits shades of a young Woody Allen. After a particularly rough string of bad fortune, Niko must reckon with his state of detachment, but will he ever get that cup of sweet, caffeinated heaven?
We’ll leave you there, but you can always check out our New Releases for more cinematic portals. Until next week, enjoy your travels through our new releases, and we’ll soon have even more great movies to share. Happy watching!