Armchair Vacation: Five Films To Watch This Weekend [November 1-3]

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Every day, more and more films are added to the various streaming services out there, ranging from Netflix to YouTube, and are hitting the airwaves via movie-centric networks like TCM. Therefore, sifting through all of these pictures can be a tedious and often times confounding or difficult ordeal. But, that’s why we’re here. Every week, Joshua brings you five films to put at the top of your queue, add to your playlist, or grab off of VOD to make your weekend a little more eventful. Here is this week’s top five, in this week’s Armchair Vacation.

5. The Petrified Forest (Hulu)

Based on a novel from Shintaro Ishihara, this film from legendary director Masahiro Shinoda, this film is one of the bevy of films currently available to subscribers to Hulu from the filmmaker, and it’s far and away one of the most interesting. Following the story of a young med student and his contact with two women, the film plots two different relationships, one between our lead and a friend who he is lusting after, and a second relationship that is far more estranged, between he and his mother. With stunning photography and a director at the very top of his game, this stark drama is one of the most expertly crafted films from an unsung master of the medium. A brazenly off kilter cinematic experience, this film is an unsung masterwork that absolutely needs to be seen to be believed.

4. Before Midnight (VOD)

Speaking of cinematic experiences that need to be seen, very few films this year have hit as hard as the latest entry in Richard Linklater’s breathtaking Before trilogy. Now available on VOD, the third film has finally arrived in the hands of an ever-awaiting public, and it’s a beauty. Featuring two breathless turns from Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy and some of the most inspired direction from Linklater in years, the film itself stands as a year-best masterwork. However, as part of this trilogy, the film caps off what may be the best trio of films ever put to screen. Beautiful photography from Christos Voudouris adorns this heartbreaking drama, and it stands as both an unforgettable look at a relationship, and one of the best finales to a trilogy ever.

3. Tabu (Netflix)

From a great 2013 release to a masterpiece released just one year ago, Miguel Gomes’ brilliant Tabu is now available on Netflix to stream. A stunning black and white epic of sorts, this film (ostensibly split into two different pictures) is both a haunting look at a relationship remembered and then the power of cinema itself, the final act here is as powerful a single bit of cinema as was released last year. A nearly silent final half, Tabu is an unforgettable piece of utterly pure cinema, blending 35mm and 16mm into what may be the latest and most potent statement for the importance of film. With a fantastic soundtrack to boot, the film made the festival rounds at the end of last year (landing firmly in my top 10 of 2012), and is not only finally available on home video (sadly not Blu-ray for some silly reason), but should firmly be planted on the top of anyone’s Netflix “list.”

2. The Goddess (TCM; Sunday, Midnight)

A rarely-discussed masterpiece from director Wu Yonggang, the film has seen a bit of a resurgence thanks to its inclusion as part of the documentary series The Story Of Film, and is now finally making yet another run on TCM’s airwaves. Hitting late Sunday night as their Silent Sunday entry (still this writer’s favorite weekly series of theirs), this haunting look at the life of a lower class woman in China during the 1930’s is an absolutely fantastic bit of silent cinema. A beautiful directorial effort from Yonggang (a filmmaker I’m not entirely familiar with outside of this picture), The Goddess is a definitive entry in Chinese cinema’s golden age, a film that takes a searing look at social issues that plagued China at its very core. With a devastating lead turn from Ruan Ling-yu, the film is as great a silent film as you likely have not seen, and proves that China’s golden age may be one of the most fruitful eras in all of world film.

1. Five Dolls For An August Moon (Fandor)

An odd choice to have at the top of this list, it’s hard to argue with one of Mario Bava’s most entrancing pictures. Ostensibly a riff on an Agatha Cristie novel entitled And Then There Were None, the film is a neon-fueled, ultra-mod noir picture that looks at a group of people hell bent on winning the rights to a new scientific breakthrough. However, when things turn murderous, the film becomes something entirely its own, a film that owes as much to Bava’s interest in eroticism as it does to the mystery-filled structure of a Cristie novel. Light on plot, stakes and ultimately themes, this is a purely visceral experience, a purely aesthetic experience, one that is unlike anything Bava would ever make.  With a fantastic score and some of the best photography Bava’s canon would ever see, the film finds Bava stepping out of his comfort zone, only to create a film that is almost entirely unclassifiable. It’s an absolute must-see.

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