November 29, 2018 has come and gone, which sadly means the wonderful streaming service FilmStruck is now officially closed. Like many of you, I’ve been spending as much time as possible over the past month trying to clear out my watchlist because once the service closed, most of the things I had saved on there wouldn’t be so easy for me to find anymore. Despite my best efforts, I didn’t get my watchlist down to zero, but I did get to discover lots of new movies and revisit a few old favorites along the way. All in all, I watched over 30 new-to-me movies and while I can’t review all of them, I thought I’d highlight a few of my favorite discoveries.
Asian film has long been one of my biggest cinematic blindspots and since there were so many Asian movies available on FilmStruck, I didn’t want to pass up the opportunity to try and fix that. It was a good call because Kuroneko ended up being my absolute favorite discovery.
In October, I was strongly drawn toward movies best described as “atmospheric horror,” so when I saw that phrase in the description for Kuroneko, it went straight into my watchlist. I was completely captivated by this one. The cinematography is nothing less than magnificent. It’s truly haunting and I look forward to including this in my future Halloween horror movie marathons.
Cluny Brown (1946)
Ernst Lubitsch is one of my favorite directors so I wasn’t about to pass up the chance to see one of his movies that isn’t officially available on DVD. It’s a delightful little movie and while I wouldn’t say it’s one of my favorite Lubitsch movies, it was very good and gave me a newfound appreciation for Jennifer Jones. I’ve seen many Jennifer Jones movies, but I never really had a strong opinion of her as an actress. I never disliked her, but I never made a point to see a movie because of her, either. But in Cluny Brown, Lubitsch brought out a very delightful side to her that I hadn’t seen before. I really would have loved to have seen her in more movies like this.
Black Lizard (1968)
Black Lizard is another movie I’m glad I was able to see on FilmStruck since it’s not available on DVD. It’s a campy, highly stylized, jazzy tale of a jewel thief, played by famed Japanese female impersonator Akihiro Maruyama. It’s extremely entertaining and completely my style.
True Stories (1986)
I hadn’t heard much about True Stories until the Criterion Collection announced they’d be releasing a DVD/Blu-ray of it and several people who I know to have good taste in movies were really excited about it. So, luckily for me, this came up on the Criterion Channel just before the service shut down. I’m always happy to see John Goodman in a movie and when you add a great soundtrack and David Byrne’s unique style, this was bound to be a hit with me. Brilliantly funny and perfectly offbeat.
Deux Hommes Dans Manhattan (1959)
One of the biggest regrets I have about my Farewell, FilmStruck binge is that I didn’t watch more Jean-Pierre Melville movies. I got into Le Samourai maybe a year and a half ago and after seeing When You Read This Letter at TCMFF this year, I’ve really been wanting to see more of Melville’s work. But I did at least get to see Deux Hommes Dans Manhattan, which isn’t as strong as Le Samourai, but still enjoyable. I have a soft spot for movies that really make the most of the scenery in a city and this one has tons of beautiful footage of 1950s New York City.
Honorable Mention: King Kong (1933)
During my Farewell, FilmStruck binge, I largely tried to focus on movies I hadn’t seen before and movies that aren’t commercially available elsewhere. While King Kong most definitely wasn’t a new movie to me, it was one of the first things I knew I needed to watch before the service shut down.
One of the best things about FilmStruck is the fact that they added bonus features for many of the movies, like old TCM introductions and audio commentaries. In the case of King Kong, they didn’t just have an audio commentary, they had the very first audio commentary ever recorded for the Criterion Collection’s 1984 King Kong Laserdisc release. Criterion never released King Kong in any other formats, so this particular feature has been out-of-print for at least 20 years. The commentary was by Ron Haver, who knew Merian C. Cooper very well and provided a lot of excellent insights about the production of the movie and made me feel like I was getting to see it in a whole new light.
So long, FilmStruck. Thank you to everyone who worked so hard to turn it into the coolest streaming service I have ever used. It really was the closest any streaming service has ever gotten to recreating the experience of walking into an independent video store and being able to discover movies mainstream stores just didn’t have.