As you suffer the excruciating seven days until the next episode of “Breaking Bad” — and the ramp-up to fall festivals — here’s a roundup of solid movies new and old now streaming on VOD to ease the pain. Trailers for all after the jump.
“A Teacher” (2013) Dir. Hannah Fidell
My number one pick for the week. Hannah Fidell’s moody psychological drama “A Teacher,” about a high school English teacher caught in a torrid affair with her 17-year-old student, announces the arrival of a bold new talent. Rather than dramatizing a tabloid scandal, this is an intimate, tres European, two-character piece free of easy moralism that ranks among the best debuts in recent memory. Lindsay Burdge’s furiously internalized performance as the bad teacher in question is a thrill to behold and so convincing that we understand, at all times and in so few words, what she’s feeling and why she might be attracted to this teenage boy. An early subplot about mommy issues is suggestively Freudian, but, smartly, it gets out of the way early on.
“And While We Were Here” (2013) Dir. Kat Coiro
It’s time to reevaluate Kate Bosworth as a serious actress. In “And While We Were Here,“ Kat Coiro‘s romantic travelogue set on the Italian island of Ischia, Bosworth plays an American writer adrift both geographically and existentially as she accompanies her husband on a business trip. Like Scarlett Johansson’s Charlotte in “Lost in Translation,” Bosworth’s Jane finds solace in her own projects — and in the arms of another man, a local hunk played by Jamie Blackley. Sumptuously shot in panoramas that evoke the kind of halcyon summer affair abroad that could only ever be cinema’s creation, this is a well-acted dramedy that will hold you over until the next entry in Linklater’s “Before” series. If there ever is one.
“Flirt” (1995) Dir. Hal Hartley
Free on SnagFilms
You either like Hal Hartley or you don’t. There’s no in between. In “Flirt,” the auteur tells the same story of broken love three different ways in three different cities, changing up the actors with each retelling. Though gimmicky in theory, the triptych effect works. It gives Hartley more room to play in his world of brooding loners — including Hartley stalwart Martin Donovan — and hipsters who speak only in platitudes and absolutes. And if you haven’t seen his 1990 effort “Trust” with the late Adrienne Shelley, out on Blu-ray earlier this year, do so tout suite.
“The Gospel According to St. Matthew” (1964) Dir. Pier Paolo Pasolini
Free on SnagFilms
For cinephiles, Pasolini’s rewrite of the life of Jesus Christ proved hard to track down. Now available to stream for free on SnagFilms, this early work demonstrates Pasolini’s aesthetics and interests in politics and religion at their most nascent. But the film also anticipates the breathtaking tableaux of his final feature “Salo” (1975) — in my top 10 — and the deconstruction of the Christ figure in 1968’s “Teorema.“ Pasolini was an atheist, but you wouldn’t know it. In the black-and-white “St. Matthew,” he draws upon iconic images from the Christ story while supplying his own cinematic gravitas, recasting Jesus as a kind of Marxist figure for the times.
“The Paperboy” (2012) Dir. Lee Daniels
Sure, Lee Daniels‘ “The Butler” is the crown of the box office right now, but let’s talk about “The Paperboy.” Reviled at Cannes, dead-in-the-swamp-water at the box office and utterly misunderstood, this is Lee Daniels’ pulpy, sweaty, lurid southern gothic featuring Nicole Kidman‘s best screen performance since 2004’s (also misunderstood) “Birth.” Here she plays a trashy femme fatale out to exonerate the psychopathic jailbird (John Cusack) of her affections. The messy narrative, like the sinuous bayous of the film’s Florida setting, hits a lot of dead ends along the way but as a whole it’s strangely satisfying. Excessive shots of a lithe Zac Efron in his tighty whities should have guaranteed this a success. What a shame. And yes, this is that film where Kidman pisses on Efron. See you at the midnight screenings in ten years!
“A Single Shot” (2013) Dir. David M. Rosenthal
Set in the gullet of a West Virginia backwoods, Rosenthal’s “A Single Shot” is a tightly wound cat-and-mouse noir that brings to mind the Coens’ “No Country for Old Men” and Raimi’s “A Simple Plan.” Here, a lone hunter (Sam Rockwell) accidentally and fatally wounds a young woman, watches her die and then takes a box of cash found near her body. He thinks he can get away with it but if you know how these movies go, he turns out to be very wrong indeed. With fine performances by William H. Macy as a two-bit lawyer and Jeffrey Wright as Rockwell’s washed-up drinking buddy, this is cinema at its most claustrophobic. (Tom Christie’s interview and review from Berlin here.)
“The Trial” (1962) Dir. Orson Welles
You hear of “Citizen Kane,” “F for Fake” and “Touch of Evil” get tossed around a lot in the conversation, but “The Trial” stands as Welles‘ unsung masterpiece, and the only adaptation of Franz Kafka to get his novels right. Anthony Perkins is Josef K, a humble bank clerk thrust into a judicial rigamarole for a crime that he not only didn’t commit, but for a crime he can’t identify at all. No one else seems to know either. Welles designs an entirely singular, dystopic world through surreal visual architecture and a cast of sinister characters. Look for a sexy Jeanne Moreau in a brief appearance as a nosy neighbor and, of course, for Welles himself. The streaming quality is shit, and there’s some dubious dubbing at work here, but this remains one of the greatest films of all time, surely in my top 20.