NOTE: Neither Before The Cyborgs or the author have any affiliation with Filmstruck, TCM or Criterion (though we’d like to). We just love movies and wish to spread access to all movie lovers.
The Netflix of Classic / Indie Cinema Is Here And You Should Subscribe
We often get the question along the lines of “How Do I Get into Movies Beyond Blockbusters?” or “How Can I Gain a Deeper Understanding of Film?”. The easiest answer is to watch more movies and take an introductory film studies class. But there are two problems here:
University / College classes are incredibly expensive, require a set time commitment and in some locations are unavailable even if you had the time and money to take a class
Classic films are difficult to locate. We know that Netflix has large gaps in their streaming libraries when it comes to classic films. There are ways of obtaining these films via the internet but often the quality is subpar at best.
Then came a solution by way of streaming service Filmstruck. Launched last year, the service provides online streaming access to the Criterion Channel – home to over 1000 films in the famed Criterion Collection as well as a number of indie and foreign films.
It should be noted that every film in the Criterion vault is made available on the service but the library is still pretty vast and is continually refreshed each month as new titles replace others (not unlike what Netflix currently does with their libraries).
What you will find though (especially for the burgeoning or developing cinephile) is that the library contains many of the all-time great films from many of the finest filmmakers in history. These include noted classics from Kurosawa ( Seven Samurai, Rashomon, Yojimbo), Bergman (Persona, Seventh Seal), Fellini ( 8 1/2, Amacord) and many many more.
For the more experienced film lovers who may have already seen some of the more famous films, Filmstruck offers deep cuts and lesser-known films from a director’s catalog as well. Here you can find the extended episodic cut of Scenes From A Marriage and the debut features of many notable filmmakers like Guillermo Del Toro (Cronos), The Coens (Blood Simple), Ridley Scott (The Duellists). In this regard Filmstruck is effective at filling in some of the gaps in your movie knowledge whether that be East Asian films (Ozu, Kar-Wai, Yang), European (Tarkovsky, Kaurismaki, Tati) or otherwise. No matter what stage you are currently at in your exploration of film, Filmstruck offers a diverse selection for you to further that journey.
In addition to the expansive library, your subscription also includes access to special features like bonus scenes, commentary from the cast and crew and video essays from renowned scholars like David Bordwell and Tony Zhou (of Youtube’s Every Frame a Painting). These serve to deepen your knowledge of the cinematic language and its process as well as provide insight into the depths of the art form – an invaluable resource of developing filmmakers, scholars and enthusiasts alike.
This is Great…But What’s The Catch?
Unfortunately, Filmstruck is only available to people in the United States. Though they promise to have a version out for international markets soon, I imagine the intricacies of media rights in various territories will prove to be a major hindrance to this effort. Of course, there are methods of bypassing this restriction but we won’t mention that here.
Filmstruck is also marred by a terrible interface that makes sorting and locating specific films difficult and it has been reported to be buggy on platforms outside of the web browser (it is currently available on Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV and Chromecast with more platforms being promised for future release. I personally have no experience with the service outside of the web browser but have found my experience to be mostly pleasant. To mitigate the sorting issue, I’d recommend viewing all the available films by release date or alphabetical order then placing the ones you are interested in on your watchlist. It is a primitive approach in the modern era of streaming but until they update the general interface, Filmstruck will fall just short of perfection.
That being said, What Filmstruck currently offers is truly one of a kind on the streaming market. Where other streaming services have set aside the classics and the Indies in favor of exciting new original content, Filmstruck gives film lovers access to some of the greatest films in the history of cinema. In terms of affordability, I think there is no better way to learn about film than Filmstruck. As a cinephile, it is truly heaven on earth and for everyone else? Well, it’s a gateway to loving film as much as I do.