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VOD Recommendations: a rock-doc and a sex epic

VOD Recommendations: a rock-doc and a sex epic

VOD Recommendations: a rock-doc and a sex epic
March 25
01:34 2014

Preston Barta // Film Critic

There was a time when the only way to experience a movie was to physically travel to the nearest cinema multiplex. But now, thanks to streaming and downloading platforms such as Netflix, Video On Demand and iTunes, students have greater access to the acclaimed movies we have been hearing about that are not yet available on the big screen.

But for now, while we wait for the blockbuster season to roll around with next week’s “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” here are two films that are available on various video-on-demand programs that are worthwhile viewing.

“Mistaken for Strangers” looks into The National and family struggles

Mistaken for Strangers,” which opened the 2013 Tribeca Film Festival, follows Tom Berninger, an idler and aspiring horror filmmaker whose older brother, Matt, is the lead singer of one of the most notable indie rock bands—The National.

When Matt hires Tom as a roadie for the band’s 2010 High Violet world tour, Tom takes his camera to film the entire experience, pushing aside his job responsibilities in the process. But what follows is more than just your standard “about a band” doc.

While “Mistaken for Strangers” does lead us inside The National, it’s also an entertaining and affecting tale that explores the often unspoken dynamics of family.

Matt and Tom are two men who would most likely have nothing to do with one another if they were not related, but it’s their opposite personalities and frequent disputes that really makes this a mesmerizing film. Their relationship is filled with complications of all sorts of highs and lows, such as clashes of desires, compassion and love.

Though many will first rush to their DVRs or iTunes accounts to watch the flick because it has become recognized as “that one documentary about The National,” what lies underneath is something much more appealing and complex. It’s a band profile, but it’s also a story of one man’s struggling ambition to be seen.

The film is essential viewing not only for fans of The National, but non-fans and those who are dealing with their own life battles.

“Mistaken for Strangers” will be available on iTunes and VOD on Friday.

Rating: 4/5

uma_thurman_nymphomaniac“Nymphomaniac: Vol. I” and “Vol. II” goes more than skin deep

Though sex on the big screen existed long before controversial filmmaker Lars von Trier (“Antichrist,” 2009) stepped onto the scene, the Danish writer and director is undoubtedly one of the art’s great and most unabashed provocateurs.

In 1998, he started a trend, featuring unsimulated sex with his actors in “The Idiots,” a concept many international filmmakers ran with. Today, von Trier still embraces this idea and carries it over into his two-part exploration of sexuality, “Nymphomaniac.”

“Nymphomaniac” is a classic frame narrative, in which a sex-obsessed woman named Joe (Charlotte Gainsbourg) tells her life story to Seligman (Stellan Skarsgård), a man who found her in a back alley beat to a pulp. Their conversation is the backbone of the film, with Joe’s sex adventures and Seligman’s life interests divided into chapters.

Those who’ve stomached the work of von Trier know his films are not the type of movies you want to watch right before you go to sleep, or eat, or before anything, really. He’s unapologetically confident in his artistry and is not afraid to test new waters, as well as audiences’ limitations. But despite how often his films make us toss and turn in our sleep, von Trier is so inventive and full of cinematographic exuberance that it’s hard not to be impressed by his work.

“Nymphomaniac” epitomizes his talents as a bold filmmaker. In the film he often uses animation, split screens, black-and-white and sometimes a fast succession of snapshots. These film styles make for a surprisingly quirky movie, which most audiences will be thankful for, given the subject material.

So much attention is being paid to the amount of male and female gentalia shown in the picture, and yes, it very much earns its NC-17 rating. One wouldn’t recommend taking someone out on a first date to it. But like “Mistaken for Strangers” is more than just a documentary about a band, “Nymphomaniac” is more than just a film about sex. It’s a vehicle that analyzes the role and influence of obsession in human relationships.

In one key scene in “Vol. I” we see Seligman compare Joe’s complicated love life to his favorite piece of polyphonic organ music, which may seem a bit odd on paper, but on screen unfolds in a very comical and interesting way. In the scene, Joe takes this idea and shares how her lovers compare to three melodic tunes in the music. But what makes the film even more riveting is the way von Trier chose to visualize it. He uses a three-way split screen to show cross cuttings of the organ and Joe’s lovers— a bizarre metaphor, nonetheless, but an engaging way to view relationships.

While “Vol. II” lacks the playfulness of “Vol. I,” as a whole, “Nymphomaniac” is one of the most unique narratives put on the screen in the past few years. If you can look further than mainstream cinema and get past the graphic nature of the film, this is a great and dramatic story to get lost in.

“Nymphomaniac: Vol. I” and “Vol. II” are currently available on iTunes and Video on Demand, and will get a limited release on April 4 and The Magnolia Theater in Dallas.

Rating: 3.5/5

Feature photo: Tom and Matt Berninger star in the rock-doc “Mistaken for Strangers.” Photo courtesy of Starz Digital Media and Falco Ink.
Center Photo: Stacy Martin plays the young Joe and the scene-stealing Uma Thurman portrays Mrs. H. Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.

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