What to Stream This Weekend: Chris Marker, Chantal Akerman, and Other Highlights from the New Streaming Service OVID.tv
The shuttering of FilmStruck this past fall was a wake-up call to many cinephiles who, in the mere two years of its existence, had grown accustomed to instant access to the Criterion Collection’s wide range of classic movies. It was a reminder that streaming services aren’t our friends, that business plans shift, and that today’s pipeline may be tomorrow’s drought. This reminder shouldn’t spoil the viewing pleasure when its successor, the Criterion Channel, launches on April 8th—or, on Friday, March 22nd, when another streaming service of comparable and complementary importance, OVID.tv, launches, gathering films from eight of the most significant film-distribution companies currently in business.
OVID.tv does not offer the entire catalogue of each participating company, but it’s nonetheless a cornucopia of international movies and documentaries, short- and medium-length films and features, recent ones as well as classics. It’s far better for recent movies than FilmStruck ever was, and its spectrum of new movies is far more substantial than that of Netflix, wider-ranging than that of Amazon Prime.
Among the noteworthy recent films on the platform is Wang Bing’s mighty, agonized new film, “Dead Souls,” released in December, an eight-hour-plus documentary composed of the testimony of survivors of China’s “reëducation” camps where political prisoners accused of “rightism” were held—and left to starve—in the late nineteen-fifties. In “The Other Side of Everything,” released this past July, the director Mila Turajlić takes her family’s longtime apartment in the center of Belgrade, Serbia, as the starting point for her documentary about her mother, Srbijanka Turajlić, a professor and political activist who, as a crucial opponent of Slobodan Milošević’s genocidal regime, is still facing persecution. Travis Wilkerson’s fusion of personal, historical, and investigative filmmaking in “Did You Wonder Who Fired the Gun?,” released in February, 2018—in which he searches for traces of a racist murder committed by his great-grandfather—is among the best documentaries in recent years.
The site offers a half-dozen instant classics by the late Chantal Akerman, including “Almayer’s Folly,” her dramatic adaptation of a novel by Conrad, and “One Day Pina Asked . . . ,” in which Akerman’s filming of dances by Pina Bausch produces an extraordinary fusion of the two artists’ styles and reflects an intersection of their ideas. One of the major home-video events of the past few years is the Icarus Films boxed set of eight films by Jean Rouch, the ethnographic filmmaker who, with his fusion of documentary and fiction, is also the father of metafiction. All eight films are streaming on OVID.tv, including “The Punishment,” from 1962 (and formerly on FilmStruck), a sort of meta-metafiction—in which two characters from his earlier reflexive drama “The Human Pyramid” return as themselves (or their characters)—and also an unusual consideration, by a male filmmaker, of the constant threat of sexual aggression that women endure in public.
There’s also a noteworthy collection of films by Chris Marker, including a revelatory medium-length documentary that he co-directed with Yannick Bellon, “Remembrance of Things to Come,” from 2001. It’s a biographical portrait of the photographer Denise Bellon (Yannick’s mother) that’s centered on the photographs themselves, displayed in screen-filling detail. Denise Bellon’s wide-ranging career started in the nineteen-thirties, and Yannick Bellon and Marker, analyzing the photos, find that they have an extraordinary power to suggest historical events that were yet to happen. The idea, as Stewart says, is to trace the moments when the postwar world (in the shadow of the First World War) became the prewar one, as the premonitions of the Second World War became unmistakable. The film, a virtual mind meld between the photographer and the filmmakers, is one that I myself only just discovered today, thanks to OVID.tv.