Five great films for cinephiles hidden away on Amazon Prime
We are diving into streaming platforms in search of cinematic jewels. On this second voyage, we find great directors such as Joseph Losey and Agnès Varda
Every streaming platform that has movies projects the image that it wants to of itself. However, hidden away on these services there are always films that lie on the margins of this image, and for some viewers are even more interesting than the mainstream fare. In the case of Amazon Prime, there is something strange going on: there appears to be no attempt to create any image at all. There are legendary titles mixed with some that are almost unknown, not to mention seemingly endless bargain-basement fare. That said, if only by virtue of the sheer volume of content, there are some good things to choose from.
The ordering is also not exactly the strong point of Amazon, and even less so given that the search option only works with specific names of directors and actors. If you try typing in something like “1950s films” or “Oscar winners,” you won’t find what you’re looking for. So, after our first installment in the series about Netflix, this week we’re back with a list of recommendations from Amazon’s bottom drawer.
Adua and Her Friends (1960, dir. Antonio Pietrangeli).
The impossibility of escaping the mark that society has left on a woman – in the case of this film, a prostitute. When the Merlin law is passed in 1950s Italy, making brothels illegal, the consequence was that sex workers had to get out onto the cold and rainy streets in order to still make a living. Director Antonio Pietrangeli tells the story here of four woman who try to rebuild their lives by running a restaurant, with plans to offer sexual services in the rooms upstairs. But as the film shows, the system, the one run by men, always ends up grinding them down.
Accident (1967, dir. Joseph Losey).
Among the three powerful scripts that Harold Pinter wrote for director Joseph Losey – The Servant (1963), Modesty Blaise (1966) and The Go-Between (1971) – the second is perhaps the most abstract and complex. The story of four young students at Oxford and two university professors is captured by Losey as if it were intellectual, alcoholic and sexual combat, with moments that are practically experimental in terms of narration, mise-en-scène and editing. The print that is available on Amazon was restored by the British Film Institute.
Cléo from 5 to 7 (1962, dir. Agnès Varda).
The film portrays the painful uncertainty of a woman who is awaiting medical tests that could confirm terminal cancer. Two hours of existence – 90 minutes, in the real time of the film – in which the loneliness of the protagonist – despite her always being surrounded by people – is exposed with a unique fusion of the profound and the light-hearted. Varda shows the viewer the characters vertigo, both physical and psychological, via a movie that is in perpetual movement, with two sentences that encapsulate her spirit: “Everyone takes care of me, but nobody loves me;” and: “It seems that I no longer am afraid, it seems I am happy.” From suffering to hope.
The Grissom Gang (1971, dir. Robert Aldrich).
During the Great Depression, and in the midst of Prohibition, a band of criminals made up by a matriarch and her four children kidnap the daughter of a millionaire with the aim of demanding a ransom and then killing her. But the youngest falls in love with the girl, something that becomes at once a problem for the family and a lifeline for the victim. The director of Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? made this movie in his own studio, but the amorality and ambiguity of the end result were too much for the general public.
Playtime (1967, dir. Jacques Tati).
At the end of the 1960s, with his subtle and muted humor, Jacques Tati was a cineaste before his time. In Playtime, his character Monsieur Hulot comes face to face with the technology of civilization. With the exception of Jerry Lewis, no one else could have made such dazzling comedy out of something so mundane as a person sitting in a modern chair in an office building.