Ever go abroad and realize, to your crippling chagrin, that your streaming subscriptions don’t work in other countries? Yeah, me too.
To ameliorate that problem on at least one end, the generous San Francisco-based streaming service Fandor has launched a streaming site in Canada. (If you’re a stateside cinephile who doesn’t already have a US subscription, you’re a fool.)
This landmark move arrives in the wake of the Toronto International Film Festival, currently in mid-swing as it wraps up this Thursday. And what a game-changer this service will be. Netflix currently offers its own streaming arm in Canada, but Fandor wants to supplement that VOD monopoly’s gobbling selection with more cinephile-tailored offerings. Fandor’s initial Canadian launch of 2,200 titles includes works from the vaults of Kino Lorber, Zeitgeist, Vanguard Cinema, FilmBuff and more. This can only mean that more Canadian streaming services will be queuing up to cash in on the VOD content vacuum. (Check out THR’s story and interview with Fandor CEO Dan Aronson here.)
In celebration, this week I take a look at some of the best cinematic offerings from the Great White North currently available to stream stateside.
I’m late to the game here, as this film played fall festivals last year and had its US run in the spring, but I have just seen Sarah Polley‘s “Stories We Tell” (iTunes and Amazon). It is an emotional wallop of a doc, a glorious feat of self-discovery as troubling and poignant a nuclear family revisionist portrait since “51 Birch Street” and (the way, way darker) “Capturing the Friedmans.” I have always admired Canuck auteur Polley’s deeply personal films and earlier this year I went as far as putting her woozy romance “Take This Waltz” as number one on my top 10 of 2012.
But “Stories” is her most satisfying film yet, a passion project in which she examines the thorns of her own sinuous family tree while also retaining her gifts for cinematic style. Polley bravely conveys the sense that as hard as she may try, her work as an artist, child, daughter and a human will never be done. I won’t spoil as much as the trailer (after the jump) does, but this film is as powerful a personal journey as it is a storyteller’s reflection on her own art. (Check out TOH!’s candid video interview with Polley here.)
Picks from Fandor and SnagFilms you don’t want to miss after the jump.
Also streaming on Fandor are many works by Canadian iconoclast Guy Maddin, whose precious oeuvre of often silent, black-and-white and totally whacked-out films brandish one of the most brazenly unconventional talents working today.
You can catch a ton of Maddin films on Fandor, from his early morbid fantasies “Tales from the Gimli Hospital” (1988) and “Careful” (1992) to the later, just as experimental but perhaps more accessible films “Dracula: Pages from a Virgin’s Diary” (2002), “Coward Bends the Knee” (2003) and “Keyhole” (2011). Both “Coward” and “Dracula” are pure genius, giddily defiling the rules of cinema — “Dracula” is a ballet! — while also riffing on its roots. Maddin has sure seen a hell of a lot of German expressionist cinema because its severe arches, Escher-like distortion of visual space and painterly lighting run rampant in these films.
Maddin’s 2007 pseudo-documentary “My Winnipeg” — my favorite film that year — used to be available on Netflix, but now you have to shell out $2.99 to catch it on Amazon. It’s sort of like “Stories We Tell” in that Madden examines his own childhood and family through a very personal lens. But “Winnipeg” is, also, nothing like that film or anything else you’ve seen for that matter.
A must-see is 2012 minimalist verite drama “Francine,“ up on Fandor, directed by American documentary filmmaker Brian M. Cassidy and Canadian Melanie Shatzky. Cementing her status as the premier portrayer of working-class, salt-of-the-earth broads, Melissa Leo plays an ex-con whose introverted behavior and almost pathological loneliness lead to animal hoarding and a string of empty encounters. I’m not really selling it here, but this bizarre and beautiful film brings to mind Kelly Reichardt‘s rural portraits of blue-collar despair and even Errol Morris‘ funny-sad pet cemetery doc “Gates of Heaven.”
Finally, just to pack in some of those derogatory Canadian remarks right here, head over to SnagFilms to watch Albert Nerenberg and Rob Spence‘s satirical documentary “Let’s All Hate Toronto” (2007). The filmmakers explore the nation’s animosity toward the city of Toronto — something like the way Manhattanites, say, shit on Times Square and Brooklyn or how Parisians scoff at the mere mention of the Eiffel Tower — along the way meeting “recovering Torontonians” as well as denizens who’ve vowed never to set foot in the city.
Go North, young cinephiles!