It’s time once again to delve into the Netflix goody bag for a selection of some the colourful content available.
We’re dividing our picks into different categories designed to accommodate the diverse choices available, old and new. Happy streaming.
Pick of the new releases
Though you’d be forgiven for initially thinking that ‘Travis Bickle: The Post-College Life’ was playing out in front of you (with a healthy dose of Gaspar Noé thrown in), Antonio Campos’ film soon settles into a unique and riveting psychological thriller.
Simon (Brady Corbet) is a college graduate backpacking around Europe and nursing a broken heart after a recent split. Staying at the uninhibited home of a family friend in Paris, his growing melancholy and loneliness causes him to wander aimlessly around the city, until it eventually leads him to an awkward sexual encounter in an underground brothel. The prostitute Simon procures (Constance Rousseau) takes pity on him when he arrives back the following night – having been robbed after a scuffle in the streets – and agrees to let him stay with her for a few days.
It’s not long, however, before he has insinuated himself into her life, suggesting a money-making scheme for the both of them and showing a different side to the vulnerable young man she previously encountered.
With the superb Simon Killer, Campos shows the same icy precision and formalist approach which made his feature-length debut Afterschool so memorable, offering up an isolated and alienated atmosphere within the film’s setting, even extending as far as to the central character himself. Completely immersing himself in the titular role, Corbet is something of a revelation here.
Having dipped his toe in the indie world for a number of years, with parts in well-received films such as Mysterious Skin and Martha Marcy May Marlene, this is the kind of meaty role which should see his stock rise considerably. It’s a fearless performance, with his doughy, unkempt exterior slowly giving way to a cold-eyed sociopath bubbling underneath.
If the film ends on an irritatingly ambiguous note – which is more frustrating than contemplative – it’s a minor blip in a piece which reaffirms the arrival of a confident and thoughtful visual artist, who is a film or two away from genuine greatness.
Netflix Top Five: Unconventional Romances
Here’s a top five list for those who aren’t necessarily concerned if the boy ends up getting the girl, or indeed, if any romantic entanglements play out in a traditional manner.
Cast your memory back to that time when director Kevin Smith made witty and insightful little indie comedies (a long time ago, I know). Chasing Amy is unapologetically coarse (something that mainstream Hollywood comedies have since adapted) but really rather sweet and poignant, tackling the subject matter with a sensitivity and comedic sharpness. The voice of lead actress Joey Lauren Adams does tend to grate at times, but that’s a minor quibble in an otherwise memorable romcom.
Best bit: The realisation sinking in when Banky (the eternally underrated Jason Lee) realises what kind of club him and his best buddy (Ben Affleck) have been invited to.
Love Is All You need
A Mediterranean locale plays hosts to the upcoming nuptials of a young, good-looking couple in a film which stars Pierce Brosnan as one of the fathers of the duo. Rest assured, this isn’t some kind of cynical Mamma Mia sequel.
From Danish director Susanne Bier, Love is All You Need is a heady and irresistible look at the obstacles encountered through love, featuring a career-best turn from the aforementioned ex-Bond and a spirited central performance from actress Trine Dyrholm.
Best bit: Dyrholm catching her unfaithful husband (Pusher’s Kim Bodnia) in a compromising position.
Kiss of the Damned
Well-received at the 2013’s SXSW festival, Xan (daughter of John) Cassavetes sprinkles this vampire yarn with some fun 70s Euro-stylings. It may be a little too in love with its own aesthetic at times, but there’s enough moments of dark eroticism and genuinely unnerving scenes of bloodlust to really get your teeth into.
Male lead Milo Ventimiglia is no match for the enticing otherworldly gaze of co-star Joséphine de La Baume who delivers a truly star-in-the-making turn here.
Best bit: When the troublemaker sister of de La Baume’s character goes a little too far with one kill.
Safety Not Guaranteed
Admittedly, a “time-travelling indie romantic comedy” may not be the most appealing concept upon first glance, but much like the characters in this charmingly offbeat yarn, initial perceptions differ from what is eventually achieved.
Successfully straddling the line between those ostensibly mismatched genres, Safety Not Guaranteed is the kind of sweet low budget American feature which could well revive your jaded heart and leave a grin plastered across your face.
Best bit: The first encounter between crackpot supermarket employee-cum inventor Kenneth (Mark Duplass) and the reporter on his trail (Aubrey Plaza).
Damsels In Distress
A welcome return for director Whit Stillman (Metropolitan, Barcelona, The Last Days of Disco) after a 13 year big-screen absence. Like this earlier work, it’s a film populated with the same kind preppy, erudite characters with a yearning for love.
With its surreal and spontaneous Astaire/Rogers-aping dance numbers and innocent, quasi-fairly-tale feel, this is very much the definition of marmite cinema. However, if your twee threshold is high, you’ll adore what’s on offer here.
Best bit: The moment when Thor, the burly colour-blind male love interest, is sent into a tailspin by a rainbow.
More romantic alternatives:
Bitter Moon – A daft but fun bit of 90s Polanski sexcapades starring a pre-Four Weddings Hugh Grant Secretary – Office affairs take a kinky turn in this oddball comedy starring Maggie Gyllenhaal and James Spader. Harold and Maude – The ultimate odd couple May-December romance from the legendary Hal Ashby.
Click Next for our picks on what to Binge on…, what to Revisit and what to Discover this week…