Each week, dozens of new films hit the Fandor library, and we know it can be difficult to keep track of them all. That’s why each week, we make a point to collect and highlight a few of the Fandor new releases (of which there were twenty-seven this week, but who’s counting?) that may have slipped under your cinematic radar but might also be just what you’re looking for.
Let’s start off this edition of the roundup with a bang, shall we? Starring a penthouse pet as an artistic ingenue pulled under the erotic spell of an older, wealthy real estate developer, Pleasure or Pain (pictured in this week’s featured image), the last project from late director Zalman King (of 9 1/2 Weeks and Red Shoe Diaries fame), is a sure-fire way to steam up your evening in. And, it passes the Bechdel Test! This tour-de-force of decadence and debauchery is for mature audiences only, obviously, and makes a great choice for those of us who enjoy cinematic titillation and feel like Fifty Shades of Grey just doesn’t cut it. That’s all of us, right?
Speaking of risk-taking directors and their unabashed efforts, we were given a tremendous gift this week at Fandor: the gift of Melvin Van Peebles. Sweet Sweetback’s Badasssss Song was the cinematic shot heard ’round the world when it was released in 1971, but we are also now newly acquainted with silly and strange action-comedy Identity Crisis, which is about what happens when hardcore rapper Chilly D (played by Martin’s son Mario, who you may recognize from the TV show Damages) gets possessed by the spirit of flamboyant fashion designer Yves Malmaison. It may not be the best movie ever made (and plenty of people will say, in fact, that it’s in the running for the worst), but it did screen at the Cannes Film Festival in 1989, for what it’s worth.
For a real blast from the past, look no further than Tabu, which came out of a collaboration between two of the biggest luminaries of early cinema: F.W. Murnau and Robert J. Flaherty. No, not the 2012 Miguel Gomes film Tabu! This silent drama was filmed on location in Tahiti with a cast of local talent and mixes the “creative ethnography” that Flaherty pioneered with Murnau’s significant stylistic might. The film received the 1931 Oscar for best Cinematography, and is now presented on Fandor in its full and uncensored form. It’s actually kind of a banner week for ethnographic experiments on Fandor: We’ve also got Flaherty’s Polynesian-set follow-up to Nanook of the North, Moana, new to the library, as well as a few new films from contemporary avant-garde ethnographer and FIX filmmaker Ben Russell. We would love to hear your thoughts on the evolving ethics, conventions and expectations of this art form!
Far from the tropics of the South Seas, acclaimed documentary The Horse Boy takes us to the steppes of Outer Mongolia, as a family searches for a way to heal their autistic son. Let’s be clear: This film is not about finding a “cure” for autism in the face of raising a child with unique needs. Nor is it a fetishization of shamanic rituals, folk rites and non-Western modalities, although the treatment sought by this family does seem to have an impact. Rather, it’s an exploration of a condition that is still, in many ways, an utter mystery to us, and a testament to the power of love to transform communication. Based on the book of the same name, this stirring portrait of a child’s need for connection and his family’s quest to connect with him won the 2009 Grand Jury Prize at Sundance.
A lighter slice of family-centered fare can be found in the very Italian Mid-August Lunch, about a freeloading bachelor who gets his just desserts when he is forced to entertain four elderly ladies during the Feast of the Assumption. If he doesn’t keep them happy, entertained and fed, his landlord (whose mother is among them), won’t look the other way on a substantial debt, and he and his own mother will be out on the street! This delightful dramedy has drawn plenty of praise from critics who love the understated production and the sharp, profound portrayal of old age. Society often renders women of a certain stature invisible, so it’s lovely to see a movie that privileges their experiences and perspective. Molto bene!
This handful of titles is, of course, just a fraction of the treasures that await on our New Releases page. Let us know what you are watching this week, and we’ll be back soon with another crop of options from every genre. No matter what you’re watching this week, we hope you stream it like you mean it!