Home Movies Kino Film Collection, a Streaming Alternative to Netflix and Hulu FilmyMeet

Kino Film Collection, a Streaming Alternative to Netflix and Hulu FilmyMeet

by Arun Kumar
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Even those who swear by Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu and their ilk must admit that the platforms leave something to be desired when it comes to art house titles.

Netflix is perpetually chasing nostalgia or algorithmic trends. Prime is going for crowd-pleasers and classics. And Hulu can devote only so much energy to its film selection when most people still think of it as a TV service. So streaming consumers seeking independent films, foreign cinema and documentaries (other than true crime) may have to look elsewhere. We previously highlighted Mubi as one option; the new Kino Film Collection service is another.

Like Shout! TV, Kino is tied to a brand beloved by cinephiles: Kino Lorber began as a film distributor in the late 1970s, and it is one of the most reliably high-quality home video labels, with particular emphasis on classic American cinema. It took some time to find the right formula for its streaming service, starting first, in 2019, with the à la carte Kino Now (an “arthouse iTunes”) before introducing Kino Film Collection late last year. Initially only available as an Amazon Prime Video channel, it became a stand-alone service in May, with its own app on Roku, Apple TV, Fire TV and Android TV.

So what does it offer? Well, foremost and unsurprisingly, there are Kino Lorber’s own theatrical and home video titles, an impressive array of contemporary indies that includes “Martin Eden,” “Bacurau,” “Close to Vermeer,” “La Syndicaliste,” “Desperate Souls, Dark City and the Legend of ‘Midnight Cowboy’” and the Oscar-nominated “Four Daughters.” Several of these are found in a selection highlighting Critic’s Picks from these very pages, a wise organizing principle if there ever was one.

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Other sections are similarly well curated. As has (thankfully) become de rigueur for the streamers, a selection of “LGBTQ+ Stories” highlights queer cinema, past and present, for Pride Month. The Cannes Film Festival concluded a few weeks back, but the “Cannes Favorites” sidebar is still up, and well worth exploring. “Thought-Provoking Documentaries” includes explorations of everything from jazz music to the hedonism of Studio 54 to the history of the Great White Way. But the highlight may well be the robust selection of “Classics,” which runs the gamut from German Expressionism to nunsploitation.

The Kino Film Collection interface is easy to use, and the image is excellent, with streams (of new releases in particular) frequently Blu-ray quality. The price is similarly nice: A monthly subscription is only $5.99 per month, or $59.99 annually, and a current promotion offers 20 percent off that annual rate. The service’s total number of available films is smaller than that of its art house streaming competitors Mubi and the Criterion Channel, but the price point is proportionately lower. (Mubi is currently $14.99 monthly, while Criterion charges $10.99 per month.)

Here are a few recommendations:

France’: Bruno Dumont’s provocative 2021 drama stars Léa Seydoux as the title character, France de Meurs, a vapid French TV news anchor and correspondent who seems to have it all: wealth, beauty, professional success, a novelist husband and a cute child. But it’s all a house of cards, and in a second, it begins to tumble. Shifting from superstar to pariah, France tries desperately to recapture her fame and relevance, and Dumont chronicles it all as both a lacerating social satire and a merciless psychological drama. His writing is razor-sharp and the supporting characters are superbly crafted (Blanche Gardin is dazzlingly funny as a comically sycophantic producer and sounding board), but it’s all in the service of Seydoux, whose performance is a thunderbolt of movie-star charisma and barely contained anguish.

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The Conformist’: Quite simply one of the greatest films ever made (and one of the most beautiful, thanks to Vittorio Storaro’s gobsmacking cinematography), Bernardo Bertolucci’s adaptation of the novel by Alberto Moravia, from 1970, deftly intermingles the genres of political thriller, historical drama and character study. Austere yet decadent, lucid yet enigmatic, disciplined yet playful, its matter-of-fact interrogation of the nature of good and evil, and the capacity for both to coexist within the human heart and head, grows only more poignant and pointed with the passage of time.

Variety’: One of the key films of the “No Wave” New York downtown art scene of the late 1970s and early 1980s, this candid and sometimes painful drama from the director Bette Gordon centers on an aimless young Manhattanite named Christine (Sandy McLeod, tortured and terrific). She takes a job as a ticket-taker in a porn theater out of financial desperation, but finds herself increasingly fascinated by the acts unfolding on the screen inside, and the sexual freedom of those who perform them. At the time, “Variety” was a forceful product of a vibrant scene; now, it’s something like anthropology, a scrappy snapshot of a New York we’ll most likely never see again.

The Raft’: In the summer of 1973, the anthropologist Santiago Genovés began an experiment: He put 11 young, attractive people on a small raft and set sail across the Atlantic, filming and observing their interactions in an attempt to better understand the human capacity for conflict. As with other controversial social experiments of the era, he ended up saying more about himself than his subjects. In “The Raft,” released in 2019, the director Marcus Lindeen ingeniously interweaves that archival footage and contemporaneous (and salacious) news coverage with new interviews with several of the participants. They gather on a replica of the raft and reflect on their experience — and the would-be Svengali who instigated it — with the benefit of a half-century’s hindsight.

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Goodbye, Dragon Inn’: Tsai Ming-liang’s 2003 drama unfolds in something like real time, set entirely inside a decaying movie palace in central Taipei, as it unspools its final feature before closing its doors: the 1967 wuxia classic “Dragon Inn.” That film is an epic — a swashbuckling, sword-spinning martial arts extravaganza. The film that unfolds around it is a quiet masterpiece of minimalist observation, as the theater’s employees and regular patrons go about their typical cinematic business one last time, creating a sublime meditation on cinema as both an art and an activity.

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