Scene one, hot take one: FilmStruck is dead, long live the Criterion Channel

Two woman look away from the camera. One has shorter, blonde hair and is wearing a blue shirt, the other has longer, black hair and is wearing a red shirt and black jacket.
Graphic by Nina Potischman

In late 2018, film fans across the world were dismayed when WarnerMedia announced that FilmStruck was being shut down for good.

In many ways, FilmStruck was too good for this world — it was a streaming service made up of highly regarded and rare films, hand-selected by directors and scholars alike. As one of its many fans, I felt that it was truly special, and its loss left a hole for premium content that no other streaming service provided.

Luckily for myself, and many other cinephiles, the creators of FilmStruck launched the Criterion Channel earlier this month as a way to fill the gaping FilmStruck hole in all our lives. Since the streaming service has been taking up all my designated film watching hours, here are five great films I’ve found that are available to stream on the platform right now.

  1. “The Mirror” (1975)

When people ask me who I think the greatest director of all time is, my answer is always the same — Andrei Tarkovsky. I believe that “The Mirror” is Tarkovsky’s greatest work, so it’s a natural pick for this list.

The film has no conventional structure; instead, it follows the memories of a dying poet as he recalls key moments from his life. These memories are full of the most haunting and thought-provoking imagery ever shown on a screen, and the film’s ultimate lack of answers allows the audience to look inwards at their own lives.

If any of this sounds pretentious, then I should say that the film contains my favorite shot of all time — a house burning.

Also by Tarkovsky: “Stalker” and “Solaris”

  1. “Tokyo Story” (1953)

Yasujirō Ozu is your favorite director’s favorite director, and his masterpiece “Tokyo Story” is a must-watch for any fan of cinema. The plot follows a retired couple as they visit Tokyo to see their son, daughter and widowed daughter-in-law.

Ozu’s unconventional camerawork makes the world of the film feel truly lifelike in a way that no other director has ever come close to capturing. This film conveys a feeling of reality that many directors are still trying to replicate — no one does it as well as Ozu.

Also by Ozu: “The End of Summer” and “I Was Born, But…”

  1. “Persona” (1966)

Director Ingmar Bergman was determined to grapple with the eternal question of humanity: How do we deal with our own mortality? Bergman famously depicts this through a chess match in “The Seventh Seal,” but it is in “Persona” where the father of art house cinema is truly at his best.

The film follows a stage actress who has suddenly gone mute due to a tragic event in her past. Shot in a dreamlike manner, the film deals with the idea of trauma and how we can get past it.

Also by Bergman: “The Seventh Seal” and “The Wild Strawberries”

  1. “Mishima: A Life In Four Chapters” (1985)

Paul Schrader is the most complicated director on this list. Unlike the legends of Bergmann, Tartovsky or Ozu, Schrader has more misses than hits. However, when a Schrader film hits, it hits hard.

“Mishima: A Life In Four Chapters” is one of the great underappreciated films of all time. The film illustrates the life of Yukio Mishima by merging fact and fiction over the course of four distinct chapters.

This narrative action results in a biopic of an artist that is truly a work of art — it is as thought-provoking as it is beautiful. If nothing else, watch this film for Philip Glass’ immaculate score.

Also by Schrader: “First Reformed” is free on Amazon Prime.

  1. “Mulholland Drive” (2001)

If Bergman is the master of dreamlike style, David Lynch is the master of nightmares.

“Mulholland Drive” tells the story of two women who meet in Los Angeles and have their lives intertwined, and ultimately torn apart, by supernatural events. The film truly plays out like a nightmare — each frame feels surreal and haunting, as if they are coming from the depths of your subconscious. At its best, the film creates images that will haunt you for a year to come, and the only cure is to re-watch it.

Also by Lynch: “The Elephant Man” and “Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me”

Ben Hafetz PZ ’20 is TSL’s film columnist. He is a media studies and politics double major who likes to not only see movies, but also tell his friends why they should or should not like certain ones.

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