Unstreamable is a weekly column that recommends films you can't find on major streaming services in the United States. This week: To Live and Die in L.A., An American Hippie in Israel, Strange Days, and The Best of Bruno Bozzetto. Read our other recommendations here.
USA, 1985, 116 min, Dir. William Friedkin
I caught To Live and Die in L.A. for the first time last summer, all curled up in a Grand Illusion seat. I wanted to see it because I’d heard about it in one of my favorite guest features by Frank Ocean, on Earl Sweatshirt’s “Sunday”: You know I can’t live in any place that I visit/To live and die in L.A. I eventually realized this is a reference to that Tupac song, but the point is I was inspired to go to the CiNeMa.
To Live and Die in L.A. is one of my favorite entries in the neo-noir genre. It has all the elements—a reckless cop (William Petersen) with nothing left to lose; counterfeit money the government wants to get its hands on; tense lovers; not one, but TWO chase sequences (one in LAX, the other on the highway) that made me forget to breathe; a great score courtesy of Wang Chung; an intense sense of place; gorgeous, moody shots; and—of course—an excellent, weirdly sexy villain played by Willem Dafoe.* Put this film in the National Film Registry, you chumps! JASMYNE KEIMIG
*DAFOE IS FOREVER MY GREEN GOBLIN.
Israel, 1972, 95 min, Dir. Amos Sefer
I should begin this blurb by admitting that this is "probably the worst Israeli movie ever made." I'm just kicking off my adventure through Israeli film, and I picked this movie because the worst is a great place to start. John Waters wrote in his book Shock Value: "Bad taste is what entertainment is all about. If someone vomits while watching one of my films, it's like getting a standing ovation. But one must remember that there is such a thing as good bad taste and bad bad taste." An American Hippie in Israel is a clear example of good bad taste.
Its first half follows the actors as they trip on acid and ride through rural Israel, slapping each other's asses, wagging their tongues at the sky. It's the inverse of the bad bad acid trip in Easy Rider, where a group of terrible straight dudes go to New Orleans for Mardi Gras and somehow spend the entire holiday tripping and crying together in a graveyard. Those guys didn't know how to have fun. These whackos in An American Hippie in Israel definitely do. Unfortunately, the second half of the film is literally just a bunch of burnt-ass hippies punching each other endlessly on a desert island. What starts out as a blissed-out trip quickly turns into a cultish experimental theater. CHASE BURNS
USA, 1995, 145 min, Dir. Kathryn Bigelow
Strange Days feels eerily resonant today, despite its ballooned and overambitious script and runtime (it all made sense once the credits rolled and I saw "Screenplay by James Cameron"). Set in Los Angeles during the final days of the last century, Ralph Fiennes plays Lenny Nero, an ex-cop who deals illegal "SQUID" recordings, a futuristic technology that can record the memories and feelings of its wearer for later playback. Lenny gets tangled up in some messy shit when someone slips him a disk containing a memory of a violent sexual assault and murder. He ends up dragging his hot friend Mace (Angela Bassett) into the fray as the world counts down to the big and scary 2-0-0-0.
Shot in 1995, four years before the events of the film were meant to happen, this pseudo-future reflects the issues of year it was made: the platform of politically conscious rappers, police brutality, the explosive growth in tech. It's a great watch with some outstanding extensive POV shots. Heads up: there's a brutal scene of sexual assault about a third of the way through. JASMYNE KEIMIG
Italy, 1997, 81 min, Dir. Bruno Bozzetto
Like most people familiar with Italian animator and director Bruno Bozzetto, I became a fan after watching his trippy and masterful Fantasia spoof Allegro Non Troppo. Similar to Fantasia, Allegro Non Troppo is a live-action animated film set to classical music. There's Vivaldi and Stravinsky—and one sequence, with a grieving cat on acid, that I can't forget.
Beyond Allegro, Bozzetto has a substantial collection of other work from the '60s and '70s: West and Soda, VIP My Brother Superman, all his Mr. Rossi movies. But his short films really stand out. I'm always surprised by how deftly his scenes flip from crude to profound and back again. It makes me want to go to the symphony.
The Best of Bruno Bozzetto contains a good amount of his best shorts, intermixed with funny shots of Bozzetto lounging on the grass and musing about his success. In the interview, he says that A Life in a Tin is one of his favorite shorts he ever made. It's also available on his YouTube channel. I've embedded it below. CHASE BURNS