Unstreamable is a weekly column that recommends films and TV shows you can't find on major streaming services in the United States. This week: Take a vacation to Treasure Town in Tekkonkinkreet; horny writers pontificate and bang in Henry & June; a young Christopher Walken is devilish in Next Stop, Greenwich Village; and a Black Vietnam vet suffers PTSD in Ashes and Embers. Find over 120 more unstreamable films and recommendations here.
Stuck at home? Scarecrow is testing out a trial rental-by-mail program. More here.
Japan, 2006, 111 min, Dir. Michael Arias
The film is set in a florid megacity called Treasure Town, a neverending location with angled towers and crisscrossing trains. Buildings are weathered but gaudy. Streets change every second. VIZ, the distributor of the original Tekkonkinkreet manga, describes Treasure Town's "mean streets" as "punk rock meets fine art." There's a lot to say about it.
While Treasure Town is the body and spirit of the film, its plot follows two orphaned lost boys: White and Black. They fight to survive, navigating yakuza and crooked cops and supernatural headhunters. But despite the town's meanness, it's as playful as the film's orphans. Like a wet Hello Kitty with a pistol.
Treasure Town is where I always find my imagination going during hard winters—or pandemics. CHASE BURNS
USA | France, 1990, 136 min, Dir. Philip Kaufman
Henry and June was one of the first NC-17 films in existence. Though, after watching the two hour film, I had a hard time determining why. Sure there’s (somewhat graphic) scenes of lesbian sex and a shot of Hokusai’s "The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife," but I finished the film feeling a little disappointed there was no explicit banging.
It's shame because I love the rawness of Anaïs Nin’s Henry and June. Published in 1986, the book is an unexpurgated diary detailing the Cuban-French writer’s sexual awakening as well as her erotic obsession with June Miller and her husband, writer Henry Miller. Taking place while Henry was writing his seminal Tropic of Cancer, the two have an intensely passionate and raunchy love affair while both are still married to other people. It’s a pre-WWII bisexual mess written in Nin’s rich and candid prose. And while there’s a great deal of fucking and monologuing about art and desire in director Philip Kaufman’s film, I think it lacks the lustful and analytical heart that makes Nin’s writing so horny. I will say that both Maria de Medeiros and Fred Ward do an excellent job channeling Anaïs and Henry. JASMYNE KEIMIG
USA, 1976, 111 min, Dir. Paul Mazursky
This column has a sour relationship with director Paul Mazursky. We didn't love two of his unstreamable films, Harry & Tonto and Faithful. My complaints mostly hang on Mazursky’s writing style. He has a tendency to sound like low-rent Arthur Miller. Things get maudlin. But Mazursky is hit or miss! Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice is one of my favorite movies. So, I keep giving him chances…
Fortunately, Next Stop, Greenwich Village is able to climb out of a cliched script—guy leaves home cuz he's decided he's important and influential, works hard to be an actor, befriends a crew of eccentrics and queers in Greenwich Village, has a lot of girl problems and treats women poorly—mostly due to its solid ensemble: Shelley Winters plays the tearful mother, Christopher Walken plays a pretty jerk, Jeff Goldblum makes a pompous cameo. They all nut over Greenwich Village. But one scene, a dramatic moment later in the film where something tragic happens to one of their friends, is directed in a way that is so multi-faceted that I forgot Mazursky ever wrote a schmaltzy line of dialogue in his life.
Well, for a moment. CHASE BURNS
USA, 1982, 120 min, Dir. Haile Gerima
“I don’t know where to go. Sometimes it feels like I just got back,” says Ned Charles (John Anderson) to his friend about halfway through the film. “I ain’t over that war yet man. And ain’t no one here helping me get over it. All I want me is some peace.” But peace is perhaps the furthest thing from the Black Vietnam vet’s reality. The past and present are mixed up for Ned, who can hardly make heads or tails of it. He’s jittery and moody, walking around with a distinct look of panic in his eyes, suffering from his experiences in the war. The film reflects this frenetic and rambling quality, jumping between Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, and Vietnam, using archival footage and sound to unseat the viewer. Exploring Black identity and PTSD, the film's esoteric quality can be confusing, but it's an exceptional look inside the alienation of a Black veteran. Outside of festival circuits and select screening, Ashes and Embers was widely unseen until Ava DuVernay’s film distribution network Array rereleased it through their company. JASMYNE KEIMIG