Every week at Movie Mezzanine, we pick some of the best films currently on Netflix Instant in the United States and Canada. Whether they are big releases or hidden gems, these movies make your subscription worth the price. From each library we select one Newly Added film, one Catalog Title and one Expiring Title for your viewing pleasure. Read on for this week’s picks.
New: Sleepless Night (Frédéric Jardin, 2011)
Jardin’s contained thriller—about a corrupt police officer who runs afoul of the mob and must retrieve a satchel of drugs he stole or lose his son—is such a love letter to American action films that it is surprising not to see the EuropaCorp brand attached to it. (Indeed, the film is purportedly something of a laughing stock in its homeland for bastardizing French into Amerophile jargon.) Made with international money, the film’s central location, a mafia-owned club, actually comprises sets built and filmed in different countries. That unseen spatial distance between rooms carries over to the film, which uses its repeated movements through its confined spaces with more kinetic dynamism than similarly boxed-in action vehicles like The Raid. If the violence grows downright comic at a certain point, that is only because the film refreshingly does not take itself too seriously and allows the well-choreographed fighting to go to the extremes it clearly wants to explore. — Jake Cole
Catalogue Title: Ghost Dog: Way of the Samurai (Jim Jarmusch, 1999)
Jim Jarmusch, one of the finest voices in American independent film, turned 60 this week, and what better way to celebrate by watching one of his movies? As Kristen has already extolled the virtues of Dead Man, I will avoid echoing her recommendation (other than to say it really is among the finest American films of the 1990s) and instead spotlight this strange feature, also on Instant. Starring Forest Whitaker as a Melville-esque samurai/hirman, Ghost Dog incorporates various cultures into its title character, whose eccentric personality reflects this hodgepodge of references in relation to the static but repellent white, American male culture allayed against him. As with Jarmsuch’s best work, the movie operates through an ostensible minimalism of character, plot and aesthetic, yet it yields a dense tapestry of formal construction that must be studied carefully and repeatedly to unlock its meanings and even the fullest extent of its visceral pleasures. — Jake Cole
Exp. Feb 1: New Rose Hotel (Abel Ferrara, 1999)
At his best, Abel Ferrara manages to bend exploitation cinema to a feverish but deconstructive personal vision. New Rose Hotel, perhaps his densest, most esoteric feature, builds that style of ugly beauty to its arguable peak. To what extent its plot can be followed, the film concerns a corporate raider (Christopher Walken), his lackey (Willem Dafoe) and the prostitute (Asia Argento) they hire to seduce their mark. Yet the narrative soon collapses with the image, pangs of lust and abandon mirrored in the aesthetic, in which grainy, almost verité movements through grimy streets are abstracted through color and editing into a future in which reality itself seems to be a VR sensory simulation (and stimulation). Admittedly not for the uninitiated, New Rose Hotel is nevertheless one of the boldest features from one of America’s boldest, most neglected voices. — Jake Cole
This week, due to the fact that no good movies have been added, nor will any noteworthy titles will be expiring from the Canadian catalog, here are three catalog picks to delve into.
At the moment, Netflix Canada only has the first four seasons of Fringe available for streaming. The fifth and final season finished airing last week and was, by all accounts, a very satisfying conclusion. Fringe is an interesting piece of television in that it’s very much an X-Files knock-off, only it has actually managed to best its forbear in numerous ways. The first season was problematic, but by the time the second season rolled around the writers went full force on serializing their sci-fi story. The result has been a wild ride through multiple universes and bizarre pseudo-scientific events. What the deep serialization affords beyond a compelling larger arc is a beating heart within the characters. Anna Torv’s Olivia began life as a lifeless protagonist, only to become a wonderfully complex character, beautifully acted. The real MVP, though, is John Noble as Walter. He’s manic and tragic and it’s hard not to fall in love the character. It’s a series well worth your time. – Corey Atad
Barton Fink (Joel and Ethan Coen, 1991)
The trailer for the Coen Brothers’ next film, Inside Llewyn Davis, dropped yesterday. Until that film arrives, though, maybe it’s a good time to let the Coens show you the life of the mind. Barton Fink, the Coens’ Palme d’Or-winning film about a playwright trying to work on a screenplay in Hollywood, only he’s suffering from a terrible case of writer’s block. Barton Fink still stands as one of the most bizarre Coen Brothers film, but it’s also one of the best. John Turturro anchors the film in a hilariously depressive performance, and as usual John Goodman shows up to steal the show. – Corey Atad
Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father (Kurt Kuenne, 2008)
In case you haven’t seen this documentary before I won’t discuss at all what it’s about. Just know that it’s boldly manipulative, angry filmmaking, but also incredible and moving. In a week in which I’ve had to seriously consider the idea of truth in documentary, Dear Zachary is one that doesn’t hide its bias, but doesn’t do so by playing fast and loose with facts. It uses all sorts of debatable narrative tricks, but the emotional journey of the film is strengthened because of that. If you don’t mind crying a lot and getting very angry, Dear Zachary is necessary viewing. – Corey Atad