Mala Noche (1986) by Gus van Sant - Gus van Sant's first feature is a little seen gem and early precursor to both the indepdendent films movement and the queer film movement of the 1990s. Not as wildly audacious as Drugstore Cowboy or My Own Private Idaho and not as formally rigid as Elephant or Last Days, but Mala Noche is an excellent low budget first feature from one of the most consistently interesting American filmmakers. Criterion released an excellent edition of this film on DVD. Available from Netflix and Facets.
Written on the Wind (1956) by Douglas Sirk - I don't know if people still watch Douglas Sirk films, but if they don't, they should, and this is one of his best works and a great introduction to the gaudy, soap opera melodramas Sirk became known for in the 1950s. Sirk was a master of mise en scene and managed to elevate the most melodramatic scripts to art and has remained an important influence for filmmakers as diverse as Kenneth Anger and Todd Haynes. Available on DVD from Netflix and Facets.
The Captive (2000) by Chantal Akerman - One of Chantal Akerman's more recent features is also a haunting, minimal, and beautiful film. This films proves Akerman still knows how to make interesting and daring cinema. Highly recommended. Available on DVD on Netflix and Facets.
Old Joy (2006) by Kelly Reichardt - If anyone missed Kelly Reichardt's subtle and lovely Old Joy a few years ago, I highly recommend checking this one out. This was her return (of sorts) to mainstream filmmaking and the limelight and from this film onward she has been making masterpieces. Available on DVD on Netflix and Facets.
Region Pick of the Week:
Take Care of Your Scarf, Tatiana (1994) by Aki Kaurismaki - One of Aki Kaurismaki's short, small, black and white films, Take Care of Your Scarf, Tatiana is pure Kaurismaki: deadpan, ironic, funny, hip, and filled with rock and roll. This and most of Kaurismaki's film are available in Region 2 DVD which can be rented from Facets.
Free Movie of the Week:
Gasman (1997) by Lynne Ramsay - A short film by Scottish filmmaker Lynne Ramsay made two years before he excellent first feature Ratcatcher. The 15 minute film can been seen on YouTube.
Download of the Week:
Death by Hanging (1968) by Nagisa Oshima - Oshima's most Bretchian and most formally inventive and absurd film, Death by Hanging is a masterpiece of 1960s political and art house cinema and one Oshima's best films. You can download from Pirate Bay.