Since social distancing effectively made the nation’s televisions essential workers in our households, the question of what to watch in our free time has never felt so crucial. Unsurprisingly this has seen demand for BFI Player skyrocket. For the uninitiated (or those thinking our proofing department should really know how to spell BBC Iplayer) it’s the British Film Institutions on demand streaming player.
Originally launched in 2013, BFI player has carved out a very different niche than Amazon Prime, Netflix et al. Very much aimed at cineastes and independent film fans, BFI Player’s art house happy selection is perfect for those feeling frustrated by the mainstream selection available on its competitors. There’s even a huge swathe of entirely free films, both professional and amateur, alongside a melange of academic productions, documentaries and international films that you can watch without even creating an account. It’s a truly unusual mix of curated material that promises an alarmingly deep rabbit hole for the terminally curious (or the terminally broke) to get lost in.
If you’re willing to pay the £4.99 subscription fee however, you unlock a truly unique selection of lesser known classics, from early 1900’s short films to curated collections assembled by cinemas which have seen their doors shuttered by the Coronavirus outbreak. Whilst the unusual selection can be rather intimidating for the uninitiated, there is a special service that sees critic Mark Kermode pick out and discuss some of the best hidden gems in the vast library. For KCW London’s part we’ve picked out some of the great works of cinema to be found on BFI Player to help get your started
Throne of Blood
Director: Akira Kurosawa
Perhaps the most famous cinematic adaptation of Macbeth ever put to screen (despite the fact it doesn’t contain a single line of Shakespeare), the great Akira Kurosawa combines samurai culture, traditional Japanese theatre and some of the most outrageous stunts ever filmed (to the point of shooting real arrows at leading man Toshiro Mifune). Kurosawa is often called one of the greatest directors of all time and Throne Of Blood helps explain why.
Director: Werner Herzog
It’s always hard to tell how much of Werner Herzog’s public persona is schtick and how much is legitimate madness. Going by Fitzcaraldo, 70-30% in favour of the madness seems to be a safe bet. Herzog cast the always magnetic Klaus Kinski in the central role of an opera obsessed fortune hunter, a man driven by a mad desire build a opera house in the middle of the Amazon rainforest. Fitzcaraldo is a searingly idiosyncratic look at obsession and the burden of dreams.
Director: Yorgos Lanthimos
The breakthrough movie of one of the most unique voices in contemporary cinema, Dogtooth shows the Greek director at his most unrestrained. Scary, unnerving and scabrously funny, Dogtooth’s twisted analysis of parent/child power dynamics has lost none of it’s power to shock or any of it’s subversive cool. Fans of The Favourite might find a new favourite of their own.