At this point of the bleak midwinter, you’ve made your way through the entire Netflix catalogue (there’s only so many ‘Witty Films with a Strong Female Lead Based on a Book’ you can handle) and are looking for a different, more varied streaming experience. With that in mind, let me guide you through some lesser known movie streaming sites, taking you through what you can watch in your free 30 day trial membership and beyond. We start with Mubi, the curated art and classic film site.
You can come to a film too young. Not necessarily because of its sex or violence, but because of its other adult themes. Take Fellini or the director whose debut film Mubi are showcasing today, Michelangelo Antonioni. At 22, it is difficult to really engage with their satire against wealthy Italians of the ’50s and ’60s. Writing as a struggling creative juggling my time between dull suburban Bristol and the various dodgy flats of my fellow desperate young London creatives, it is difficult to look at these people and not feel envious .When Lucia Bosè turns up in another stunning gown in Story of a Love Affair it is hard to see the dress as a signifier of the spiritual emptiness within when you can’t get over how beautiful she is in it.
As such, I’ve always found Antonioni films difficult to get through, if you are not fully attuned to the clever satire committed against the characters and against the audience, then the measured sense of ennui Antonioni has created just feels like straight-up boredom. I found L’Avventura a slog a few years ago, and even found the far more accessible Blow Up a little difficult-going (this didn’t stop me putting up the poster in my flat like the pretentious film dickhead I am). So would Mubi change my mind with his debut, Story of a Love Affair.
My mind isn’t necessarily changed, but my eyes are opened wider. Perhaps this is because this film is much more engaged with film tropes, my particular interest as a writer.The film is essentially a long string of them , with the elements that have made thousands of other films being disregarded one by one. What begins as a private eye story becomes a procedural becomes a murder plot becomes a romantic drama becomes a comedy of manners becomes another murder plot becomes an end-of-romance story, with each shrugged off like just another costume for Bosè to wear. Looking at the film as a whole, this is ingenious and actually quite a funny, playful thing to do.
It is not playful as a viewing experience though. As accustomed to genre as I am, the moments that would perk me up would be when Antonioni started up another style, over for my attention to dwindle as he disregarded it, save for the occasionally beautiful shot that would grab my attention. I feel I understand the emptiness of the lives of those we see in the film (which makes me want to have another go at L’Avventura, which basically plays like this film stripped down to its barest roots, almost like an Italian Neorealist Beckett play), though I’m not at a stage where it is enough to engage me. Come back to me in 26 days and see how much better trained I have become in the rhythms of Antonioni.
Read the Rest of the ’30 Days of Mubi’ Series so Far: