Unstreamable is a weekly column that finds films and TV shows you can't watch on major streaming services in the United States.*
USA, 1979, 125 min, Dir. Mark Rydell
Bette Midler's breakout performance actually happened in NYC's gay bathhouses sometime in the early 1970s (earning her the nickname "Bathhouse Betty"), but I guess it officially happened in her film debut, The Rose, when she played
Janis Joplin a "self-destructive rock star in the late 1960s" who seemed a lot like Janis Joplin. The Academy Award-nominated film is worth its runtime mostly because of Midler's career-defining rock scenes, and also, of course, her rendition of the song "The Rose," which won her a Grammy and lives on as a karaoke anthem.
But newbies be warned: The Rose's melodrama is famously thick. Midler's character is constantly misused and abused by her male companions, whether they be her manager or boyfriend or dealer. There are barely any female characters in the film; Midler is essentially the only woman, minus an underdeveloped queer woman whose purpose is just to tempt Midler. There are more drag queens than women in this. (Notably, Sylvester plays one of those queens.)
One part I always love is the script's inverted nod to Midler's bathhouse roots, a sequence where Midler bolts through a jade-colored bathhouse full of straight men, pushing past their pudgy bodies and cackling at their dicks. The film is usually too sappy for me, but that scene hits. CHASE BURNS
USA, 1971, 114 min, Dir. John Cassavetes
The film follows the cantankerous and mustached Seymour Moskowitz (longtime Cassavetes collaborator Seymour Cassel) as he relocates from New York to Los Angeles, begrudgingly becoming a parking attendant. Across town is Minnie (the luminous Gena Rowlands), a depressed museum curator who gets dumped by her married boyfriend and is deeply dissatisfied with love. They meet and start a fitful, impassioned courtship.
Minnie is so in her head about what love should look like and how it should come to her. She spends what feels like half the movie wearing giant glamorous sunglasses, balancing a cigarette between her manicured fingers. Moskowitz, on the other hand, is gruff and firm-footed in his love for her. He exclaims bizarre things at her like, "I think about you so much, I forget to go to the bathroom!" He gets into fight after fight. But in this universe, they are the perfect pair. Minnie and Moskowitz is a tender window into the world of two oddballs in love. JASMYNE KEIMIG
USA, premiered 1958, 60 min episodes
Out of all our Unstreamable recommendations—over 280 so far!! that's a big-ass book!!—Leonard Bernstein's Young People's Concerts ranks among my top five. I didn't expect to be so enamored and relaxed by Bernstein's life-affirming concert series with the New York Philharmonic, which started in 1958 and ran for fourteen years, with a total of fifty-three concerts, but I was, and I feel it's now my job to do missionary work for the Emmy-winning series. (Fran Lebowitz feels similarly; she spoke highly of it on her recent Netflix show, Pretend It's a City.)
During each concert, Bernstein masterfully breaks down complex musical ideas for the masses—explaining, for instance, how music is movement, or how music can describe the way we feel better than words, or how music-makers can blur the outlines of sounds to make music impressionistic like a painting. I'm told that the concerts, aimed at children but great for adults, profoundly impacted the '60s. CBS initially aired the live broadcasts on Saturday mornings, but they soon became so popular they were presented at prime time, 7:30 PM, for three years.
This is reductive, but you could think of the series as a School House Rock for classical music. CHASE BURNS
France, 2002, 93 min, Dir. Marina de Van
In Dans ma peau, Esther (Marina de Van) almost lovingly flays tiny bits of her skin off her legs and arms, nibbling on pieces of her flesh. It starts as self-harm after an accident leaves her with a gruesome leg wound, and it quickly becomes an obsession. Esther steals away during work and in her apartment, digging a knife into her skin and chewing on her appendages, licking up her blood. As the demands of her social life and job ratchet up, so does her thirst for her skin. She gets caught in a spiral of alienation and sensual fascination with her body that culminates in a bloody finale.
Throughout the film, Esther's boyfriend, friends, and doctors question whether she can really feel what's going on with her body. As if her legs and arms and knees and stomach aren't hers. Her violent obsession with her skin and wounds seem to answer that question: they are hers. JASMYNE KEIMIG
I couldn't find any trailers in English, so here's this semi-music video clip from the film.
*Unstreamable means we couldn't find it on Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, or any of the other 300+ streaming services available in the United States. We also couldn't find it available for rent or purchase through platforms like Prime Video or iTunes. Yes, we know you can find many things online illegally, but we don't consider user-generated videos, like unauthorized YouTube uploads, to be streamable.