On Screen: Virtual Cinema Blooms

As Covid-19 distancing gets really real, more and more distributors are picking up the model launched by Kino Lorber last week to bring Bacurau to audiences in partnership with local arthouse theaters. A few exciting releases on that front provide opportunities to see arthouse films while bringing ticket revenue to struggling local theaters whose real doors have closed during the pandemic.

  • Film Movement+ is using their streaming platform to bring Diao Yinan’s The Wild Goose Lake (Grand Illusion) to audiences. The Chinese neo-noir competed at Cannes last year and was just launching a stateside launch right before the virus shut it down. In an unfortunate bit of serendipity, the contemporary crime drama is set in Wuhan, so you can get a glimpse of the dark underbelly of the city first hit by this coronavirus.
  • Also from Film Movement, Corpus Christi, which Chris called “absorbing, moving, and thought-provoking” during its abbreviated Seattle run gets another virtual swing through town. You’ll have to wait until April 1st to view it while supporting Northwest Film Forum, but if you simply can’t wait, Bellingham’s Mary Pickford Film Center has it starting today.  
  • The Grand Illusion is soldiering along by bringing their adventurous film programming online, this week in the form of St. Francis via indie distributor Oscilloscope Labs and their virtual platform. Alex Thompson’s drama about a nanny befriending her six-year-old charge soon after having an abortion made a splash at SXSW last year. It’s available through this experimental collaboration now for $10.
  • Music Box has And Then We Danced, a coming-of-age story about competitive dancers falling in love amidst the conservative confines of modern Tbilisi. You can watch director Levan Akin‘s feature — Sweden’s selection for the Best International Film Oscar — right now on the StreamLocal platform (so far no Seattle theaters on the docket, but you could throw some love to the Kiggins Theater in Vancouver, WA). Then tune in for a livestream Q&A on April 2.

Aside from those virtual experiences, there are dozens of new films rushing to video-on-demand including films that barely made it to theaters. Chris already mentioned Crip Camp and Vitalina Varela, but mainstream releases like Downhill (the ill-advised Force Majeure remake), Bloodshot (Vin Diesel as a nanotech-enhanced killing machine), The Way Back (sad Ben Affleck as a basketball coach) are also among the slate of releases now available for rent. Two of the more exciting, though, are:

  • Portrait of a Lady on Fire – easily among my favorite movies of 2019, this sensuous romance had its US theatrical run cut short. But don’t be too heartbroken: Neon is bringing Celine Sciamma’s celebration of the female gaze exclusively to Hulu this weekend. See it again or for the first time!
  • Banana SplitBen Kasulke’s directorial debut took the form of a teen friendship comedy that charmed us at SIFF 2019 with strong performances from Liana Liberato and Hannah Marks as well as some Cole Sprouse scenes set to Carly Rae Jepsen. It hops over to Prime Video this weekend for rent.

Many more films are scheduled for early release in the coming days and weeks; we’ll try to keep an eye on them as they hit the digital airwaves. Feel free to let us know if you’ve found any streaming gems — new or archival — by hitting us up with recommendations on Facebook or Twitter.