Jaman, The Auteurs, and now iArtHouse — how many companies does it take to cater to the sliver of the media-consuming public who cares about international art cinema? Don’t get me wrong: I’m all for webcos whose mission is to peddle the likes of Tian Zhuangzhuang, Lou Ye, Michael Haneke, Ken Loach and Jacques Rivette. But the cynic in me — cultivated after decades of watching great movies die in the marketplace — wonders how many downloaders out there really want to pay $8.98 to get a DVD quality file of Lee Chang Dong’s “Oasis”?
Unlike Jaman, which solely provides high-quality rentals, iArtHouse’s main business seems to be sales. Streaming movies are available — how excited I was to see that Fritz Lang’s masterpiece “M” is available for free viewing! — but I quickly discovered the films don’t stream at a level of high resolution that discerning art-house viewers would expect. DVD downloads, I imagine, are much better quality. Still, you’ve got to hand it to the programmers: In addition to the aforementioned, iArtHouse has a rich selection, from “The Third Man” to “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg” to “The Man with the Golden Arm.”
I presume The Auteurs, which I’ve been told will launch in November, will similarly make hard-to-find foreign titles available for an online audiience. But with Jaman and now iArtHouse in the mix, what will The Auteurs do to set themselves apart? But hey, how can you complain about increasing ways to find classic art cinema?