SBS On Demand's vast library of world movies gets better and better. In a previous post I highlighted seven must-sees, but recent additions have seen yet more contemporary classics added to the service. From a black and white Polish modern masterpiece to a dark and mysterious thriller from South Korea, here are five more great films to stream right now on SBS On Demand.
Polish director Pawel Pawlikowski's 2018 film is astonishingly beautiful. Told over 15 years and set in Poland, Paris and Berlin, Cold War tells the love story of Zula (Joanna Kulig) and Wiktor (Tomasz Kot), two musicians who meet when Wiktor establishes a folk music troupe of peasants. Zula might not be from the countryside, and her past is shady, but Wiktor doesn't care - the performing group doesn't really interest him. He's more at home in smoky jazz clubs playing the piano, which he does after fleeing to Paris. It's the start of a series of long separations Wiktor and Zula are forced to endure before reuniting. Dazzling and moving, with stunning musical and dance sequences, Cold War is one of the finest films of recent years.
A scourge the world over, domestic violence is a problem particularly acute in France. In director Xavier Legrand's Custody, the issue is filtered through the eyes of 10-year-old Julien (Thomas Gloria) whose father Antoine (Denis Ménochet) is seeking joint custody of the boy from his mother Miriam (Lea Drucker). Julien has an older sister, but she's approaching 18 and doesn't want anything to do with Antoine. What makes the film so interesting is that for a long time we are left guessing about Antoine's true motives. But as time goes on Antoine becomes less stable and his towering physical presence and disturbed state take over the film's action; any pretence of being a caring parent is dissolved amid his hatred of Miriam. Custody isn't an easy watch, but it's an incredibly relevant one.
This Lebanese legal drama from 2017 is surprising and entertaining, examining prejudice and ingrained hatred. The trouble begins with a seemingly benign neighbourhood dispute. Tony (Adel Karam), a Christian car mechanic, installs a water drainage pipe from the balcony of his flat. This pipe happens to splash water onto Yasser (Kamel El Basha), a Palestinian construction crew chief working in Tony's neighbourhood. Yasser tells Tony to fix the pipe, and when he doesn't, Yasser fixes it himself. This enrages Tony who racially abuses Yasser, leading to an assault. All hell breaks loose and the seemingly minor dispute erupts into a nationwide scandal courtesy of lawyers and politicians. Animosities between Christians and Muslims lurk behind everything said in court as resolution between the parties appears impossible. The Insult is a riveting drama, about much more than a single insult.
A Spanish political thriller, The Realm follows the travails of provincial politician Manuel López Vidal (Antonio de la Torre) who sees his career as party vice secretary abruptly ended in a corruption scandal. But Manuel isn't going easily or quietly. He speeds into action, believing he's not going to be the only one taken down and as he goes about seeking retribution, questions as to Manuel's complicity begin to surface. A pulsing soundtrack accompanies Manuel's journey to uncover the truth and the film morphs from political drama to high-speed thriller. There are some stylish scenes, especially when Manuel has to talk and act fast to avoid the net drawing down upon him. The Realm is fast-moving fun.
From director Lee Chang-dong, Burning is a 2018 South Korean release about three directionless young people. It's equally about class divisions (as was Parasite, another lauded film from Korea, winner of best picture at last year's Oscars). Burning follows Jong-su (Yoo Ah-in), an aimless drifter who one day runs into Hae-mi (Jeon Jong-seo). The pair apparently grew up in the same neighbourhood, although Jong-su has trouble placing Hae-mi (plastic surgery is her vague explanation). The two start hanging out and soon fall for each other. The relationship is put on hold when Hae-mi goes on an overseas holiday. When she returns she's accompanied by Ben (Steven Yeun) a fellow traveller who despite no apparent occupation is absurdly wealthy. Jong-su's lust for Hae-mi becomes more complicated as Ben is added into the equation. Taut and twisty, Burning is exquisitely composed, with scenes you won't forget in a hurry.