You Should Be Watching: November 1-7

Welcome to You Should Be Watching, my weekly opportunity to introduce you to a variety of great films, gems of the past and present, available for you to stream from Netflix, Amazon Prime, FilmStruck, and anywhere else streams are found.

In honor of this month being FilmStruck’s swan song, I am setting my spotlight on their rich catalog of films while I still can. But brace yourself. This week it’s going to get dark.


STREAMING PICKS OF THE WEEK


Elevator to the Gallows

 

Year: 1958

Director: Louis Malle

Genre: Crime, Drama, Thriller

Cast: Jeanne Moreau, Maurice Ronet, Georges Poujouly, Yori Bertin, Lino Ventura, Iván Petrovich, Elga Andersen, Jean Wall, Gérard Darrieu, Micheline Bona, Charles Denner, Félix Marten, Hubert Deschamps, Jacques Hilling, Marcel Journet, François Joux, Jean-Claude Brialy, Gisèle Grandpré

A predecessor to the coming French new wave, Elevator to the Gallows is a remarkable piece of nuanced French film-noir from first-time filmmaker Louis Malle that is enhanced even further with a pitch-perfect Miles Davis score. The striking opening shot of Jeanne Moreau’s eyes with everything else concealed in shadow is a bold start to the filmmaker’s career. The film opens on Florence (Moreau) and Julien (Maurice Ronet), lovers separated by two ends of a telephone call, conspiring to kill so they can be free to be together. Suffice it to say, things don’t go according to plan. The contemplative jazz score enhances our insight into the emotional state of the characters, especially that of Florence as she walks the streets in silence, lost in her thoughts as she searches for her missing lover,

What’s somewhat surprising is that the film isn’t content to be a mere thriller, though there is tension to be found. Malle’s interest is in more of a psychological exploration, a character study, not only of our two primary lovers, but also the younger pair of lovers, Louis (Georges Poujouly) and Véronique (Yori Bertin). They express the volatility, unpredictability, and naivete of youth, Their actions create a case of mistaken identity that not only finds themselves helplessly trapped but also traps Julien and Florence. Both couples have committed themselves to evil. But neither being spontaneous nor planning every detail gives either one what they want.


The Passion of Joan of Arc

Year: 1928

Director: Carl Theodor Dreyer

Genre: Biography, Drama, History

Cast: Maria Falconetti, Eugene Silvain, André Berley, Maurice Schutz, Antonin Artaud, Michel Simon, Jean d’Yd, Louis Ravet, Armand Lurville, Jacques Arnna, Alexandre Mihalesco, Léon Larive, Jean Aymé, Gilbert Dacheux, Gilbert Dalleu, Paul Delauzac, Dimitri Dimitriev, Fournez-Goffard, Henri Gaultier, Paul Jorge, Marie Lacroix, Henri Maillard, Raymond Narlay

Carl Theodor Dreyer’s passionate portrayal of Joan of Arc’s famous trial has been heralded as one of the all-time classics of the silent era, and it’s easy to see why. Perhaps not until 89 years later with the release of Darren Aronofsky’s mother! would a woman’s face so consume the screen of a film. Through Joan’s Passion, so named for its similarities to the trial and crucifixion of Jesus, Dreyer presents a critique of the state church. A Church not just willing but with the power and obligation to torture and execute those deemed heretics.

Renée Jeanne Falconetti (aka Maria) as Joan is a constant presence. Dreyer uses extreme close-ups throughout to bring us intimately into her experience, as barely seconds go by without her tear-streaked, emotionally-strained face filling the screen. And when it’s not her face, it’s often one of her oppressor’s, so we as the audience more directly feel the weight of oppression as well. At times, Dreyer’s film is quite shocking, such as the threats of the torture chamber, Joan’s bloodletting–surprise, it’s real, not an effect, and the burning at the stake itself, which manages to be powerful despite not showing a lot of detail.

Were it not for the young Jean Massieu (Antonin Artaud) who tries with great compassion to help Joan out of and through her fate, the misery might be unbearable. But he is a reminder that every little bit of good we can do helps.


Night and Fog

  

Year: 1955

Director: Alain Resnais

Genre: Documentary, Short, History

Cast: Michel Bouquet, Reinhard Heydrich, Heinrich Himmler, Adolf Hitler, Julius Streicher

One of the most artful and moving documentaries ever created. It’s as much of a slow burn as a 32-minute documentary about the horrors of the Holocaust can be. Alain Resnais infuses a general sense of dread even when nothing shocking is occurring or when the most shocking thing is a Nazi walking by in an apparent good mood. The way he uses generally happy, even playful music reminds us we are in more pleasant times now, but when he keeps using it even when it stands in stark contrast to the horrific images being displayed, it creates unsettling internal tension in the viewer.

Combined with the narration that briefly touches on the unspeakable horrors before shifting the perspective and forcing the viewer to evaluate their own attitudes and assumptions, an uncomfortable yet poignant experience is established that will not be shaken. And the timeless message of the closing monologue along with the now peaceful images it’s spoken over declare a warning against complacency and are one of the most powerful and effective of their kind.


COMING AND GOING


LAST CHANCE (last date to watch)

NETFLIX

November 3
The House of Small Cubes (2008)

November 4
A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence (2014)

November 6
Europa Report (2013)

November 11
Anna Karenina (2012)

November 15
Paddington (2014)

AMAZON PRIME

November 1
Morris from America (2016)

November 7
Into the Forest (2015)
Krisha (2015)

November 11
Green Room (2015)

FILMSTRUCK

November 2
Alphaville (1965)
Army of Shadows (1969)
Bob le Flambeur (1956)
The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)
Le Trou (1960)
Libeled Lady (1936)

November 9
The Big Sleep (1946)
Dark Passage (1947)
Dogville (2003)
Petulia (1968)
To Have and Have Not (1944)

November 16
The Asphalt Jungle (1950)
Let There Be Light (1946)
The Maltese Falcon (1941)
The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)

November 29
Everything else

JUST ARRIVED

NETFLIX

Animal House (1978)
Cape Fear (1991)
Children of Men (2006)
Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)
Cloverfield (2008)
Doctor Strange (2016)
Dracula (1992)
The English Patient (1996)
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
Fearless (2006)
Filmworker (2017)
From Dusk Till Dawn (1996)
Ghostbusters (1984)
Good Will Hunting (1997)
The Raid (2011)
Shirkers (2018)
United 93 (2006)

AMAZON PRIME

Badlands (1973)
The Ballad of Cable Hogue (1970)
The Birdcage (1996)
The Black Stallion (1979)
Brewster McCloud (1970)
Dead Ringers (1988)
Duck, You Sucker (1971)
Excalibur (1981)
GoldenEye (1995)
It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
Licence to Kill (1989)
Michael Clayton (2007)
My Girl (1991)
Triangle (2009)
You Were Never Really Here (2017)

FILMSTRUCK

The Body Snatcher (1945)
Cat People (1942)
Day for Night (1973)
The Headless Woman (2008)
The Leopard Man (1943)
The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945)

HULU

Title (year)


COMING THIS WEEK

NETFLIX

November 2
The Other Side of the Wind–NETFLIX FILM (2018)

November 4
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End (2007)

AMAZON PRIME

November 2
Wonder (2017)

November 3
Kick-Ass (2010)

HULU

November 2
Wonder (2017)

November 3
Kick-Ass (2010)

November 7
Europa Report (2013)


Jacob Neff is a film enthusiast living east of Sacramento. In addition to his contributions as an admin of the Feelin’ Film Facebook group and website, he is an active participant in the Letterboxd community, where his film reviews can be found. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter to keep up with his latest thoughts and shared content.

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