What to Stream: Forty-Six Films from OVID.tv, Crackle, and IFC Films Unlimited

Read Richard Brody’s lists of the best films on Hulu, Amazon Prime, and Netflix, and of twenty-three short films to stream.

With time to dive into the offerings of major streaming services and come up with treasures, I’ve also noticed that there are some significant omissions—notably in the realms of independent films, recent international films, documentaries, and even modern Hollywood. A trio of less prominent but generously programmed sites—OVID.tv, Crackle, and the newly launched IFC Films Unlimited—helps to fill in the gaps. Founded in 2019, OVID.tv is a consortium of eight of the most discerning distributors. Crackle, featuring films from Sony along with those of its predecessor, Columbia Pictures (which Sony took over in 1989), feels like a throwback to basic cable, both in its offerings and its functioning: it’s free but features commercial interruptions, about ten of them per movie. As for IFC Films Unlimited, it’s got a significant batch of independent and international films from the past twenty years. Here are some highlights from each of them. (The link on each title is to my review from The New Yorker.)

OVID.tv

“The Battle of Chile”

Patricio Guzmán’s heroic three-part documentary about the coup that forced Chile’s democratically elected president, Salvador Allende, out of power, in 1973, and replaced him with the sanguinary dictator Augusto Pinochet. It began filming even before the coup took place, and his reporting has a tragic, horrific immediacy.

“Cassandro, the Exotico!”

Marie Losier’s documentary about the great wrestler in the Mexican wrestling scene (whom William Finnegan profiled in The New Yorker, in 2014), a gay man who resisted and overcame hostility in the sport and in his family, is also an intimate first-person account of the physical toll of his athletic and theatrical artistry and the emotional toll of his struggle for acceptance.

“Chez Jolie Coiffure”

The release, in 2019, of two new documentaries by the Belgian-based, Cameroonian-born filmmaker Rosine Mbakam constituted one of the year’s major discoveries. This one is set in a Brussels hair salon, owned and operated by an African woman who turns the shop into a community center for the city’s African residents. (Mbakam’s other film, “The Two Faces of a Bamiléké Woman,” is one of the great recent personal documentaries, in which Mbakam returns to her native Cameroon, in the company of her husband and young son, and, in discussions with her mother and other relatives, unfolds her own cultural, familial, and political heritage.)

“Dawson City: Frozen Time”

Bill Morrison’s thrilling documentary is centered on the discovery of hundreds of reels of film from the nineteen-teens and twenties that were literally buried in a Yukon town—and the conjoined history of movies and of the town that the discovery brings to light.

“Did You Wonder Who Fired the Gun?”

Travis Wilkerson’s tense and impassioned exploration of a crime that his great-grandfather, a white man, committed in his home town, in rural Alabama, in 1946—in which he shot a black man to death and went unpunished—reveals intimate details of the history of Jim Crow and of resistance to it, as well as its enduring effect on the region to this day.

“Far from Vietnam”

This 1967 compilation of films relating to the Vietnam War, by many of the best directors working in France in the late nineteen-sixties, including Agnès Varda, Jean-Luc Godard, Alain Resnais, and William Klein—brought together by Chris Marker—offers a wide range of visions for political cinema.

“Fengming: A Chinese Memoir”

The director Wang Bing’s extended and clandestine interview with He Fengming—who recounts the horrific exactions that she and her late husband endured, in the late nineteen-fifties, in China’s so-called Anti-Rightist Movement, and then, years later, during the Cultural Revolution—brings to life cruel repressions and offers a shocking reminder that the regime that perpetrated them is still in power, suppressing the evidence. (The site also offers his even-more-extensive documentary “Dead Souls,” in which many more victims discuss their experiences and help the filmmaker find physical traces of them in the landscape.)

“Full Moon in Paris”

Working with his lead actress Pascale Ogier, one of the real-life tragic heroines of modern French cinema, Éric Rohmer develops, in this 1984 drama, a story of youthful passion and cultural transition that’s both unique to his filmography and exemplary of both his lifelong themes and the times.

“In the Shadow of Women”

Philippe Garrel’s drama, from 2016, maps a filmmaking couple’s romantic crises onto political and historical conflicts, and does so with a self-aware and self-excoriating irony.

“Marcel Ophüls and Jean-Luc Godard: The Meeting in St.-Gervais”

The trend of in-depth interviews with filmmakers, begun in France in the nineteen-fifties, found its king in Jean-Luc Godard, whose sixty-year history of philosophical and rhetorical improvisation (as seen in his Instagram appearance earlier in April) is an art form in itself. His 2009 discussion with his near-contemporary Marcel Ophüls (which was also published in book form) is centered on the failed effort of the filmmakers to collaborate on a movie, about Judaism—a project that nonetheless made its mark on Godard’s subsequent work.

“Party Girl”

“Party Girl.”Photograph from Alamy

It took a trio of directors (including Samuel Theis, one of the sons of the protagonist) to make this vital and vigorous docu-fiction, from 2014, centered on Angélique Litzenburger, portraying herself, as a French woman who commutes across the border to Germany to work as the hostess at a strip club and whose personal life grows increasingly intertwined with her job.

“The Punishment”

Jean Rouch may be the most important little-known filmmaker in the history of cinema; his combination of documentary and fiction, his virtual invention of metafiction and first-person documentary, has proved startlingly influential, and many of his major films are available on the site, including “The Human Pyramid,” from 1961, and this confrontational and analytical fiction, from 1962—featuring several of the participants in that earlier film, in a story about a young woman, a high-school student in Paris, who conducts a personal social-science experiment into men’s private lives and probes the city’s unchallenged ambience of public sexual aggression.

“Rocky Road to Dublin”

This 1968 documentary, the journalist Peter Lennon’s only film, is a loving yet bitter vision of the political and religious oppression that prevailed in Ireland at the time and that threatened the nation’s rich artistic and cultural heritage. As evidence of its power, the film was banned in Ireland until 2004. (Paul Duane’s terrific supplement, “The Making of ‘Rocky Road to Dublin,’ ” is also streaming on the site.)

“Sir! No Sir!”

This documentary, by David Zeiger, movingly details protest against the Vietnam War from within the military itself, blending archival material with the accounts of veterans in recent years.

“Time Regained”

Raúl Ruiz’s daringly stylized adaptation of Marcel Proust’s seven-volume novel (centered on the final book), starring Catherine Deneuve and John Malkovich, displays an imaginative and technical flair that meets Proust in the realm of memory and reconnects with silent-era movies in the domain of fantasy.

Crackle

“Afterglow”

Alan Rudolph’s rarefied sense of style gives fantasy physical impact and spangles melodrama with the stuff of dreams, as in this poignant and pugnacious tale of crisscrossing romances, from 1997, starring Julie Christie and Nick Nolte.

“Bellflower”

Evan Glodell’s first feature, from 2011, is an ecstatic terror of temptations and impulses, a tale of reckless romance and its self-punishing, guilt-riddled consequences.

“Bernie”

“Bernie.”Photograph from Millennium Entertainment / Everett

Richard Linklater’s local and personal artistry flourishes with hearty and sardonic glee in this comedy of murder, starring Jack Black and Shirley MacLaine and a host of townspeople, from 2012.

“The Big Chill”

Lawrence Kasdan’s 1983 drama packs a wide range of grand themes into its romantic plot—the dispersal of nineteen-sixties ideals into American life at large, the enshrinement of cultural nostalgia as a prime mainstream mode—and launched a new generation of actors that included Glenn Close, Kevin Kline, Mary Kay Place, Jeff Goldblum, and Meg Tilly. (It also offers that most welcome of psychosexual twists, a variation on a theme by Ernest Hemingway, updated for the era’s new mores.)

“Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice”

Paul Mazursky’s first feature, from 1969, is another generational marker—a comedy of emotional and sexual liberations and their smash-up impact on the young-middle-aged liberal bourgeoisie, incarnated with self-dramatizing flamboyance by the quartet of Elliott Gould, Natalie Wood, Dyan Cannon, and Robert Culp.

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What to Stream: Forty-Six Films from OVID.tv, Crackle, and IFC Films Unlimited