BonusStruck on FilmStruck: The Great Beauty, Jacques Demy, and More
In the first entry in this on-going look at the bonus features the streaming service FilmStruck has to offer, I pondered when we’d see Google Chromecast, Playstation or X-Box support for this still very new service. The people behind FilmStruck have expressed that we’ll see support for those popular devices sometime this year. In the meantime, those who have Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV and Android and Apple devices are the lucky ones. And let me say, having been given an Apple TV for Christmas last month, I can say that the experience of viewing FilmStruck on that device is quite extraordinary. For the most part, the experience is smooth and having the films and special features at my fingertips with this much ease makes this service all the more worth it.
FilmStruck may never hit Netflix popularity levels, but it’s already taking steps into being one that offers its subscribers not only the superior film selection, but extensive features and information that you’d think would be freely available on each and every streaming service. In FilmStruck’s Help Center, you’ll be able to find a page that lists all the films that currently offer audio commentaries, which is extremely useful. Not only that, FilmStruck is very upfront about the availability of its film, so much so that they have page that lists which films will be leaving the service. You won’t find that anywhere on Netflix’s site, which is probably why FilmStruck is so open about it. With just about every move FilmStruck makes, they’re sending the message, “We’re trying to be Netflix. We’re trying to be better.” Hopefully, this trend continues and we'll see FilmStruck improve more and more over time.
Here are the films and special features of note which are currently streaming on FilmStruck’s The Criterion Channel.
The Great Beauty
(2013) – Spine #702
The Young Pope may be on the tip of everyone’s tongue at the moment, meme or otherwise, but let’s not forget about director’s Paolo Sorrentino previous efforts, including The Great Beauty, which was inducted into the Criterion Collection in 2014, a year after its theatrical release. A clear homage to La Dolce Vita (a Criterion release not yet on FilmStruck), The Great Beauty is lavish and breezy, yet a thrill to behold. Available here are all of the disc’s features, featuring new conversations with the director, actor Toni Servillo, and screenwriter Umberto Contarello. Also included are two deleted scenes and a trailer.
(1995) – Spine #739
Director Todd Haynes’ only film in The Criterion Collection right now is Safe. Needless to say, he has a filmography that’s ripe for restoration and reappraisal, with pretty much all of them candidates for the Criterion moniker–from Far From Heaven to Carol. Safe, Haynes’ sophomore effort starring Julianne Moore, is handled with the kind of care you hope to see with any future Haynes’ Criterion spine numbers. The film itself is an unsettling drama about social classes, heighten by the main plot concerning Moore dealing with a mystery illness. There’s an audio commentary included featuring Haynes, Moore and producer Christine Vachon. There’s also a newly-recorded 36-minute video conversation between Haynes and Moore. Producer Vachon discusses the background on the making of Safe, and topping it off a short by Haynes is offered, titled The Suicide from 1978. The good and bad about FilmStruck is, yes, they do offer these releases with their bonus features in their entirety, but sometimes there’s a ticking clock. The complete release of Safe is only available until January 31st.
(2010) – Spine #612
Abbas Kiarostami’s Certified Copy, starring Juliette Binoche and William Shimell, is a romance that unfolds into something more, ultimately revolving around love, art, and authenticity. One of the absolute best films of 2010, Kiarostami’s second-to-last film, before his passing in 2016, proves that the director was still able to create masterworks late into his career. His classic Close-Up is also available on FilmStruck, along with two other films of his. Among Certified Copy's features is Kiarostami’s rare film The Report, which is in rough shape, but if you’re a completest and a fan of the director then it’s a must-watch. Interviews with the director and actors are made available, as well as a nearly hour-long documentary on the making of Certified Copy.
The Essential Jacques Demy
FilmStruck offers the full Jacques Demy experience you'd get from Criterion's physical boxset, yet every title is not all together on one neat little page. The films featured, along with all their bonus features, include Lola, Bay of Angels, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, Donkey Skin, and Une Chambre en Ville. The features range from interviews with actors, short films by Demy, restoration demonstrations, filmmaker Agnès Varda’s two documentaries on Demy, original interviews, and a lot more. Notable here is The Young Girls of Rochefort and The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, which will both be released as stand-along Blu-rays by Criterion. Both films, especially Umbrellas, have jumped back onto people’s radar thanks their clear influence on La La Land. Regardless of how you came to Demy’s work, you won’t be disappointed. There’s a lot to dig into, thanks to Criterion and FilmStruck, so get to it.