Unstreamable is a column that finds films and TV shows you can't watch on major streaming services in the United States.*
This week, we're highlighting films identified by the Missing Movies project, a group recently formed in response to the hundreds of quality movies that are widely unavailable to watch on streaming services. Their stated goal is to get filmmakers, distributors, and others "to locate lost materials, clear rights, and advocate for policies and laws to make the full range of our cinema history available to all." And what's sick is that the working group is composed of directors like Mary Harron and Nancy Savoca, who have appeared in our column before.
You can check out the full list of their films here, but below are four we watched this week.
USA, 1993, 124 minutes, Dir. Nancy Savoca
This early '90s indie film from director Nancy Savoca follows three generations of Italian American women (Judith Malina, Tracey Ullman, and Lili Taylor) as they navigate Catholicism and what to do about one family member (Taylor) who gets a little too into having a mystical union with Christ. At its surface, it's often a by-the-book story of an Italian American family. The men sell meat, the women make meatballs, everyone's a little sweaty. But when you pull its plot at its edges, you start to unravel a carefully made satire that is, at moments, laugh-out-loud funny.
The film begins in boorish beige tones, but as its parents (Ullman and Vincent D'Onofrio) struggle to successfully have a child, mystical touches poke through. Like a good Catholic, the film is obsessed with their daughter Teresa's journey from the moment of her conception—as her parents first try to conceive, the room explodes with angelic bubbles. From there, the divine undertones don't quit. When Teresa grows up and decides to become a nun, bright colors appear in unexpected places. When she breaks celibacy to have sex (with Michael Imperioli!), a TV-screen blue radiates across the bed. And when she finally gets her lifelong wish—of seeing Christ IRL—red and white checkered shirts wrap around her home. The film has a vivid and ironic way of expressing religious visions, one that's funny and also very sad. You have to be in pretty deep to think that getting stigmata, that waking up and seeing God bore holes into your body, would be a type of delightful ecstasy. This definitely isn't Rupert Wainwright's Stigmata. CHASE BURNS
USA, 2003, 116 minutes, Dir. Nathaniel Kahn
Nathaniel Kahn's My Architect is a poignant documentary about Nathaniel's journey to make sense of his late father, influential architect Louis Kahn. The architect had three different families that did not know each other—one child with his wife and two "illegitimate" children (including the director) with two women he worked with. Nathaniel only saw his father once a week and was 11 years old when the architect died penniless and alone at Penn Station at the age of 73. My Architect is a document of Nathaniel trying to get to know his dad, a man who had an outsized influence on the world.
He travels to his father's buildings in Philadelphia, La Jolla, New Haven, Fort Worth, and Dhaka. He also interviews some of the most famous architects at the time for their perspective on his father's work—Louis's rival Edmund Bacon screamed that the late architect would have ruined downtown Philadelphia with his buildings; Philip Johnson called him "the most beloved architect of our time." The director even interviewed his mother, architect Harriet Pattinson, about the false promises Louis made and whether or not she believed them.
Each person tries to impart some piece of this mysterious man onto Nathaniel, cobbling together a shadowy outline of him. But perhaps the best insight into Louis's mind and history is through the buildings themselves. How bodies are meant to circulate through them, how light enters and exits each room—the type of materials that compose them reveal more about Louis than words could. It's exciting to go on this journey with Nathaniel. JAS KEIMIG
USA | UK, 1995, 116 minutes, Dir. Philip Haas
I'm still unpacking how I feel about this one, so bear with me, thx. This Academy Award-nominated film (for Best Costume Design) follows a big Victorian-era nerd (Mark Rylance) as he moves in with his rich-ass benefactor (Jeremy Kemp) after losing all his possessions in a shipwreck. He's a bug expert, and he's here to teach his benefactor's family about the natural world. And they, lavishly dressed and repugnantly behaved, are here to teach him about the civilized world. Or rather their civilized world, which is populated with anxiety and rage and rape and incest. Yes! Incest! Call this film Incest and Insects—I didn't see any angels.
To be fair, there are some exquisitely staged scenes, and Mark Rylance is in nearly every one of them, so that means they're all incisively acted. In one scene, the ingenue (Patsy Kensit) twirls in a Victorian gown while butterflies soar around her. In another, she hyperventilates while moths attack her boobs. It's a trip. But while some of these scenes are world-class, others deserve to be in the trash. Mainly, the opening sequence, which features Rylance's character surrounded by Indigenous dancers — and nearly all of them appear to be white people in not only blackface but full-on blackbody. Why? In 1995? And this scene is only a few minutes long. Cut it. CHASE BURNS
USA, 1980, 87 minutes, Dir. Marcus Reichert
I'll give it to you straight: I didn't like Union City. The movie is based off a short story about a miserable guy, Harlan (Dennis Lipscomb), who is letting his hot wife, Lillian (Deborah Harry), waste away under his unhappiness. He goes ballistic trying to find the thief swiping his milk bottles and one day he accidentally murders the poor dude. Harlan hides the body and starts to spiral into madness while Lillian is gettin' freaky with the building manager Larry (Everett McGill). The premise is...interesting, but the movie is mostly composed of stiffly acted, one-note performances, hard-to-see interiors, and it's dreadfully boring. But Union City is notable because it was Harry's first film role. She would star in David Cronenberg's creepy Videodrome a few years later. Apparently the David Lynch-famous Everett McGill once said, "Before Twin Peaks, there was Union City,” in praise of the film. I didn't like either of them! But I'd still like to see the latter restored. JAS KEIMIG
*Unstreamable means we couldn't find it on Netflix, Hulu, Shudder, 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.