MUBI Weekly Digest | 20th February 2021
Staff Reporter | On 20, Feb 2021
With MUBI readying to release Gianfranco Rosi’s latest documentary, Notturno, this March, the streaming service this week offers a primer on the filmmaker, with two of his preious works, including the Oscar-nominated Fire at Sea.
Elsewhere, there’s more from Cédric Klapisch’s The Spanish Apartment trilogy, another chance to catch teen movie study Beyond Clueless and, if you need a reminder of Martin Scorsese’s brilliance outside of a Twitter debate, the arrival of The King of Comedy.
All that plus a rare opportunity to see Dead Pigs, the debut of Birds of Prey director Cathy Yan? This is your weekly MUBI Digest, highlighting what’s new, coming soon and leaving soon on the subscription service. For our guide to the best films in MUBI Library, click here.
This week on MUBI
Russian Doll – 20th February
The endearingly chaotic ex-flatmates of The Spanish Apartment – including Romain Duris and Audrey Tautou – reappear in this stylish, charming follow-up.
The King of Comedy – 21st February
Robert De Niro is disturbingly cheerful in Scorsese’s twisted satire of celebrity culture.
Gianfranco Rosi: Sacro Gra – 22nd February
Gianfranco Rosi’s snapshot of life in Rome drifts round ring road GRA to capture lives that have come to a halt on the fringes of a society that races on.
Gianfranco Rosi: Fire at Sea – 23rd February
A daring and virtuosic exploration of a modern humanitarian crisis.
The Sky Is on Fire – 24th February
A hypothetical digital ruin of a virtual Miami street is the backdrop for the monologue of a Miami resident who reflects on the desire for immortality that drives our need to capture everything in an image.
Beyond Clueless – 25th February
Charlie Shackleton’s essay dissecting high school movies is a smart, entertaining ode to the teen movie legacy.
Chinese Puzzle – 26th February
Chinese Puzzle stars Romain Duris as Xavier, whose world is turned upside down when wife Wendy announces she is moving to New York, with their children in tow. Life takes a series of twists and turns, and Xavier finds himself fathering a child to a lesbian couple, marrying a Chinese-American to obtain citizenship, and reigniting a flame with his first love.
Other new releases on MUBI
Alex Ross Perry: Listen Up Philipy
Jason Schwartzman is impeccable in Alex Ross Perry’s obnoxious, awkward and highly, highly amusing comedy about a self-important writer.
Alex Ross Perry: The Color Wheel
JR, an aspiring news-anchor, forces her younger brother Colin to embark on a road trip to move her belongings out of her professor-turned-lover’s place. Traveling through New England, they uncomfortably run into old school-mates or revisit familial history from which they have long since diverged.
A Family Tour
After directing the film The Mother of One Recluse, director Yang Shu has been forced to live in exile in Hong Kong. But when her mother has to undergo a serious operation, the two women plan to meet in Taiwan where Yang will be attending a film festival with her husband and son.
After the Carnation Revolution, the peasants in the Alentejo region occupied the huge properties where they were once submitted to the power of their masters. Resistants of this struggle tell their story to the youngsters of today, in their own words.
A beguiling new short film from Peter Strickland, shot on black and white Super8 and 16mm film. Originally commissioned by the London Short Film Festival to wriggle inside the ASMR phenomenon, it follows the repeated rituals of an online performer and the transfixing, hypnotising effects she has on her viewers.
Berlinale: Bad Tales
The summer heat beats down on a residential estate in the suburbs of Rome. There is a sense of unease that can explode at any moment. Parents are frustrated because they are not from a better suburb, but their children are the protagonists of the shock wave that propels the estate towards collapse.
Berlinale: The Twentieth Century
Toronto, 1899. Mackenzie King dreams of becoming Canada’s Prime Minister. In his quest for power he faces his Mother, a war-mongering Governor-General. When the run for leadership leads to a battle between good and evil, King learns that disappointment is the only way to survive the 20th century.
When Jonny visits his father Nikitas in his cabin in the woods after 20 years, the hermit ignores him. But to prevent the muddy ground from being pulled out from under their feet for reasons of profit, father and son must dig deep into it.
Berlinale: Uppercase Print
The story of Mugur Calinescu, a Romanian teenager who wrote graffiti messages of protest against the regime of dictator Nicolae Ceausescu and was subsequently apprehended, interrogated, and ultimately crushed by the secret police.
The fates of an unlucky pig farmer, a feisty home-owner defending her property, a lovestruck busboy, a disenchanted rich girl, and an American expat pursuing the Chinese Dream converge and collide as thousands of dead pigs are found floating down the Huangpu River, towards a modernizing Shanghai. Don’t miss the rare chance to catch this Sundance-winning debut from Birds of Prey director Cathy Yan. Read our full review
Stump the Guesser
He works at the fairground as “Stump the Guesser”, who can guess anything for a fee. But suddenly his tricks stop working. Then, he falls in love with his sister whom he believed to be lost. He sets out to scientifically disprove the theory of heredity and marry his beloved as soon as possible.
If It Were Love
1990s rave culture was a chance to let go of oneself. If It Were Love explores such dimension through the eyes of artist Gisèle Vienne: young dancers dissolve into a community on stage, where their bodies move in graceful slow motion. Performance and reality flow together into an artistic whole.
Renowned director Edward Yang (Yi Yi) refracts the changing society and culture of Taipei in this classic of New Taiwanese Cinema. In Taipei, the marital crisis between an emotionally stunted writer and a careerist doctor is mysteriously intertwined with the story of a photographer and a petty criminal. Police cars speed through the streets of the metropolis, helpless witnesses to new and violent social contradictions.
Song Without a Name
Peru, at the height of the political crisis of the 1980s. Georgina is an indigenous woman from the Andes whose newborn daughter is stolen at a fake health clinic. Her desperate search for the child leads her to the headquarters of a major newspaper, where she meets Pedro Campos, a lonely journalist.
Robert De Niro. Al Pacino. Michael Mann. Three icons of cinemas combine for his seminal crime drama, which sees a determine cop and an equally ruthless criminal in a cat-and-mouse game in a nocturnal Los Angeles caught with cool intensity by Mann’s deep-focused camera. A modern classic.
Once Upon a Time in America
The final film by Sergio Leone finds the maestro audaciously and ambitiously going beyond his Spaghetti Western roots for a sprawling, multi-decade New York crime epic. Robert De Niro leads a production at once resplendent and gritty—a familiar setting given operatic majesty and force by Leone. De Niro. James Woods. Leone. What more do you need?
Filmed from the artist’s window during lockdown, short fragments from British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s speeches relating to COVID-19 are combined with views of the London skyline.
Claire is a famous pianist whose life is controlled by her husband Frederic, who also acts as her agent/coach/minder. For the sake of Claire’s career, both have decided not to have children; but Frederic changes his mind and tampers with her birth control pills so that she becomes pregnant. Sophie Letourneur’s comedy about couple dynamics and maternalism kicks off this year’s MUBI selection of films from the MyFrenchFilmFestival.
MyFrenchFilmFestival: Heroes Don’t Die
In a street in Paris, a stranger thinks he’s recognized in Joachim a soldier who died in Bosnia on 21st August 1983. Thing is, this is the very day Joachim was born: 21st August 1983! Thrown by the idea he might be the reincarnation of this man, he decides to go to Sarajevo to find out.
February 1939. Spanish republicans are fleeing Franco’s dictatorship to France. The French government built concentration camps, confining the refugees, where they barely have access to hygiene, water and food. In one of these camps, separated by barbed wire, two men will become friends. One is a guard, the other is Josep Bartoli (Barcelona 1910 – NYC 1995), an illustrator who fights against Franco’s regime.
Wake in Fright
A schoolteacher, stuck in a teaching post in an arid backwater, stops off in a mining town on his way home for Christmas. Discovering a local gambling craze that may grant him the money to move back to Sydney for good, he embarks on a five-day nightmarish odyssey of drinking, gambling, and hunting. This 70s “Ozploitation” thriller is an oppressive descent to the heart of darkness that follows no rules but its own.
In Northern Yucatán, sinkholes constituted the sole water source for some Mayans. Cenotes were used for ritual sacrifices, and the Mayans believed that these holy springs connected this world to the afterlife. The past and present of those living around the cenotes coalesce in this mysterious place.
Meeting the Man: James Baldwin in Paris
A documentary portrait of James Baldwin, one of the towering figures of 20th-century American literature, Black culture and political thought, filmed in Paris. The iconic writer is captured in several symbolic locations in the city, where he was living at the time, including the Place de la Bastille
Rotterdam: For the Time Being
Larissa and her nine-year-old twins arrive from Germany at their father’s paternal home in the Spanish Sierra Morena mountains. Father’s flight was delayed, but the guests are welcomed by his mother and sister. As the scorching hot days go by, everyone tries to relate to each other.
Rotterdam: Birds (or How to Be One)
A film about how to become a bird, in nine steps. A man who doesn’t want to walk anymore, but to fly, states you can turn in any direction in the sky. “Gravity is mortality,” says another. In the meantime, the two men go in search of birdman Hoopoe.
Dea Kulumbegashvili’s striking debut feature, which played at Cannes, San Sebastian and Toronto, is an unflinching drama about a Jehovah’s Witness who undergoes a dramatic crisis of faith. Georgia’s official submission for the 2021 Academy Awards.
Successful oncologist Dr Michael Reynolds is taken hostage by one of his patients, a sixteen year-old half-Navajo boy called Brandon ‘Blue’ Monroe. Doctor and patient embark on a spiritual journey as the terminally ill youth is determined to find a mystical Navajo healing lake in the Arizona desert. Director Michael Cimino is one of American cinema’s singular talents, and his unique sense of landscape, colonial displacement, and male ennui is fully realised in his final feature.
In the Cut
After the body of a young woman is found in her neighbourhood, New York literature professor Frannie becomes entwined in an erotic affair with the police detective leading the investigation. As her attraction to him grows, so does her suspicion that he may be in some way connected to the murder.
MUBI begins a Carl Theodor Dreyer double-bill with this iconic silent horror. A traveller arrives at a countryside inn seemingly beckoned by haunted forces. His growing acquaintance with the family living there soon opens up a network of associations between the dead and the living, which pulls him into an unsettling mystery. At its core: the troubled, chaste daughter Gisèle.
Dreyer: The Passion of Joan of Arc
On trial for heresy as she claims she has spoken to God, Joan of Arc is imprisoned and subjected to inhumane treatment and scare tactics at the hands of church court officials, who attempt to bully her into changing her story. Her punishment will earn her perpetual martyrdom.
Khorshid, a young blind boy from Tajikistan, earns rent money for his family by tuning rare instruments but becomes enraptured by the sonorous music he hears on his way to work each day.
The Painted Bird
A young boy journeys through a Second World War landscape in Václav Marhoul’s harrowing odyssey.
About Some Meaningless Events
In Casablanca, a group of filmmakers conduct discussions with people about their expectations of, and aspirations for, the emerging Moroccan national cinema. When a disgruntled worker kills his superior accidentally, their inquest shifts focus, and they begin to probe the motives of the killing.
After playing at the Glasgow Film Festival in 2019, Sebastián Silva’s latest (currently available with Amazon Prime) gets a wider showcase. It follows Tyler, who joins a friend on a birthday weekend away with several people he doesn’t know. As soon as he gets there, it’s clear that he’s the only Black guy. Although welcomed, Tyler can’t help but feel uneasy. As the testosterone and alcohol gets out of hand, his precarious situation becomes nightmarish.
12-year-old James Gillespie lives on a Glasgow housing estate during the 1973 refuse collectors’ strike. After James’ friend falls into a canal and drowns, James becomes increasingly withdrawn. As bags of rubbish pile up and rats move in, James starts to spend time with Kenny and Margaret Anne.
Michael Fassbender delivers an unflinching performance in Steve McQueen’s powerful debut about a hunger strike in a Northern Irish prison.
Ham on Rye
A bizarre rite of passage at the local deli determines the fate of a generation of teenagers, leading some to escape their suburban town and dooming others to remain.
Under the Tree
Agnes throws Atli out and does not want him to see their daughter Ása anymore. He moves in with his parents, who are involved in a bitter dispute over their tree that casts a shadow on the neighbours’ deck. As Atli fights for the right to see his daughter, the clash with the neighbours intensifies.
This Is Not a Burial, It’s a Resurrection
Amongst the mountains of Lesotho, an 80-year-old widow winds up her affairs and makes arrangements for her burial. But when her village is threatened with resettlement due to the construction of a reservoir, she finds a new will to live and ignites a spirit of resistance within her community.
Fantastic Mr Fox
Combining the cast’s charisma with a fondness for his furry tale, Wes Anderson’s stop-motion take on Roald Dahl’s fox is a charming vulpes vulpes the whole family can love.
Toshio’s ordinary life takes an ominous turn when Yasaka, an old acquaintance, is released from prison and in need of help. Toshio gives him a job and takes him in to live with his family. He soon regrets this decision, as Yasaka gradually disrupts the family before causing irreparable damage.
A socialist trailblazer, Lina Wertmüller began her career as assistant to Fellini, whose influence permeates her neorealist debut. Scored by Ennio Morricone and shot by the DP of 8½ , this drama delves into the trials of small-town Italian life.
Whit Stillman burst onto the American cinema scene with this ferociously funny look at the “urban haute bourgeoisie” in New York.
Roy Andersson’s supposed swan song is a greatest hits remix of absurd humanist melancholy.
The Small Town
This stunning exploration of the life of a rural family marks Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s highly personal debut feature. Shot in poignant black-and-white cinematography, and starring members of his own family, The Small Town is a low-budget, minimalist ode to the slow rhythms of life in the countryside.
My Sister’s Good Fortune
With her I Was at Home, But… helmed as one of last year’s best arthouse movies, we look back at German auteur Angela Schanelec’s first leap into feature filmmaking. An unusual take on desire and its ambiguous nature, this ethereal drama is filled with powerful, skilfully-crafted observation.
August 32nd on Earth
Prior to making some of the biggest sci-fi blockbusters of the 21st century, Denis Villeneuve directed this French New Wave-influenced drama.
All is Forgiven
Debuting at the Quinzaine in 2007, Mia Hansen-Løve’s debut announces what we have come to appreciate in her cathartic cinema. All is Forgiven ambitiously embeds in its structure (and in this way, successfully grasps) all that is lost, gained, and transmitted through the persistent passage of time.
It’s Only The End of the World
After 12 years of estrangement, a writer returns to his hometown, planning on announcing his impending death to his family in Xavier Dolan’s heated ensemble drama.
The Long Goodbye
Philip Marlowe is a private eye with an outmoded code of honour at odds with the mores of early 70s Los Angeles. A visit by an old friend in the night sets in train a series of events in which he’s hired to search for a missing novelist, and finds himself on the wrong side of vicious gangsters, in Robert Altman’s masterpiece.
All the Vermeers in New York
Anna, a French actress studying in New York, crosses paths with a successful stock-broker, Mark, standing before a Vermeer portrait at the Metropolitan. They engage in a peculiar romance of missed meanings and connections, as both are wrapped up in their blindered worlds.
You Only Live Once
Joan, the secretary to the public defender in a large city, is in love with a career criminal named Eddie. She believes that he is a basically good person who just had some tough breaks. After she uses her influence to get him released early, they get married and he attempts to go straight.
A gleefully dark satire on marriage, media and the stories that are told in each.
Rocco and his Brothers
Joining the exodus of millions from Italy’s impoverished south, a matriarch and her sons move to Milan in search of a better life in the industrial north. But, as they inch up the social ladder, family bonds are shredded, and saintly Rocco’s love for a sex worker drives his brutish brother to crime.
The Woman Who Ran
While her husband is on a business trip, Gamhee meets three of her friends. She visits the first two at their homes, and the third she encounters by chance at a theater. While they make friendly conversation, as always, several currents flow independently above and below the surface.
Un Film Dramatique
For four years Éric Baudelaire regularly met with students from the film group at Dora Maar middle school in Saint-Denis. Time for them to grow together, time to find the form of a film in which they would be the true subjects: its characters, its authors and its promise.
Stuffed with stars and surreal beats, Iñárritu’s satirical comedy is self-indulgent, amusing and enjoyably unpredictable.
On the distant planet Ygam, enslaved humans called Oms are the playthings of giant blue native inhabitants, the Draags. Terr, kept as a pet since infancy, escapes from his gigantic child captor and is swept up by a band of radical fellow Oms, who are resisting the Draags’ oppression and violence.
The Spanish Apartment – 13th February
An emblem of the Erasmus programme for a whole generation of students, Cédric Klapisch’s transnational, whimsical comedy on the beauty of cultural difference stars Romain Duris and Audrey Tautou.
The African Queen – 14th February
After the death of her brother, Rose Sayer must flee German East Africa and finds the only safe conveyance left: a dilapidated river steamboat. The ship is run by the grumpy and usually drunk Charlie, who goes toe to toe with the imperious, straight-laced Rose throughout their perilous journey.
Matt Dillon stars in Yorgos Lanthimos’ new short film, which follows an encounter between a professional cellist and family man with a stranger on the subway that has unexpected and far-reaching consequences on his life.
My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend
Blanche and Lea meet and become friends in Éric Rohmer’s 1987 romantic comedy. Lea is thinking of leaving her boyfriend Fabien, and Blanche falls for Lea’s dashing, witty friend Alexandre, but is tongue-tied with him. Lea goes on holiday, and Blanche, still smitten with Alexandre, begins to get to know Fabien.
In the Philippines, women get deployed abroad to work as domestic workers or nannies. In one of the many training centers dedicated to domestic work, a group of trainees are getting ready to face both homesickness and the possible abuses lying ahead during a series of role-playing exercises.
After a devastating earthquake, Nga, an old elephant and probably the last of its species, and Sanra, his mahout, are about to embark on a journey to find the mythical elephant’s graveyard. The group of poachers following them will die one after the other under mysterious circumstances and spells.
Queen of Hearts
Successful lawyer Anne lives happily with her two daughters and her husband Peter. Yet when Gustav, Peter’s troubled teenage son from another relationship, comes to live with them, Anne forms an intimate bond with Gustav that jeopardises her perfect life, one that will have devastating consequences. Winner of the Audience Award at Sundance in 2019, this provocative domestic drama echoes the self-reflexive nature of a Douglas Sirk melodrama and the slow-burn tension of a Hitchcockian thriller.
1938. While Lithuania celebrates its Independence Day, war looms on the horizon. A young geographer pitches to the Prime Minister the idea of creating a backup state overseas, where the country’s inhabitants could move in case of danger. An odd yet heartfelt friendship arises between the two men.
What We Do in the Shadows
Taiki Waititi’s vampire comedy is moving, clever and mercilessly quick, but most of all, it’s bleeding funny.
Eames: The Architect and the Painter
The legendary and prolific Eames couple revolutionised the realms of design, architecture, and the arts with their wildly inventive pieces and jovial attitude towards life and work. Narrated by James Franco, this documentary gives insight into the spellbinding world of this wholly inspiring duo.
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Last chance to stream: Titles leaving MUBI soon
Ingrid Bergman in Her Own Words
Available until: 20th February
Available until: 24th February
Robinson Crusoe (1954)
Available until: 24th February
The Trip to Bountiful
Available until: 24th February
Available until: 24th February
Available until: 24th February
Available until: 25th February
Available until: 27th February
Available until: 27th February
Seven Years in May
Available until: 27th February
Available until: 28th February
Available until: 28th February