What to Stream This Weekend: Five Cinematic Worlds in Twenty-Two Minutes or Less

Each week, Richard Brody picks a classic film, a modern film, an
independent film, a foreign film, and a documentary for online viewing.

As wonderful as most of Alexander Payne’s films have been (and his new
feature, “Downsizing,” is coming out this December), the greatest thing
he has made is a short film, the final one in the twenty-film
compilation “Paris, I Love You” (Amazon, Hulu, Google Play, and
other services), from 2006. The six-minute film, called “14th
Arrondissement,” set in that part of Paris (which includes much of
Montparnasse), stars Margo Martindale as an American tourist who visits
some of its notable and less notable sites. To say much more is to spoil
the comedic—and the cosmic—delight, but there’s a line from Donald
Barthelme’s story “The King of Jazz” that cites a performance’s “real
epiphanic glow,” and that’s what Payne and Martindale achieve together.
(Also, note Payne’s use and non-use of music, and of the prime
Hitchcockian device: the point-of-view shot.) It’s six minutes; it’s a
world. (The other films in the collection range from pretty good to why
bother. Payne’s film is at 1:43:38.)

This Sunday, Film Forum launches a brief but significant retrospective
of films by Lois Weber, a contemporary of D. W. Griffith, and her
directorial career, ranging from 1911 to 1934, had roughly the same
span. Her short film
Suspense” (YouTube), from 1913,
delivers on the promise of its title, and does so with a visual and
narrative inventiveness that would do a twenty-first-century filmmaker
proud. It’s the story of a young woman at home with her infant child who
becomes aware of an intruder. (The image where he peeps at the window
behind her made me literally jump.) Weber was a primordial master of
point-of-view shots, which she deploys among other highly inflected
angles to infuse the action with psychological torment. To film the
technology of the telephone, Weber finds a sharp new technique,…

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