Presented as “hand-picked cinema”, the platform previously had only 30 films on the site at one time, with one new film replacing an old one every day.
On the new platform, MUBI will make some of its films — as well as curatorial retrospectives, specials, and themed series — permanently available for those with a subscription, although availability may depend country to country.
At The Calvert Journal, we have made a selection of the greatest avant-garde films from Eastern Europe, Russia, the Balkans, and Central Asia, now available to stream on MUBI.
Labeled as the most controversial film to ever receive the prestigious Golden Bear at the Berlinale, Touch Me Not offers an empathetic insight into the journey of a filmmaker and her characters as they embark on a personal project about intimacy. Fearlessly, Adina Pintilie’s investigation of sexuality draws the audience into a visceral journey that will radically change your perceptions of your own body, and how it relates to those of others.
Anna, a young nun in 1960s Poland, discovers a dark family secret dating back to the period of Nazi occupation. Before taking her vows, she decides to embark on a journey of transgression and self-exploration. In his first film made in Poland, director Pawel Pawlikowski crafts a complex, black-and-white character study that is both a controversial look of the notion of a homeland, and an exploration of ideology and subversion in socialist Poland.
With its over-the-shoulder, and at times disorientating, cinematography, Son of Saul depicts the atrocities of Auschwitz in 1944 through the story of Saul, a Jewish prisoner forced to help with the disposal of gas chamber victims — such as his own son. Unusual, poignant, and heartbreaking, the film stole the attention at international festivals, and took home both the Grand Prize of the Jury at Cannes Film Festival in 2015, and the Best Foreign Language Film of the Year award at the Oscars in 2016.
A spirited requiem for a lost past, Leto is a black and white rendition of the life of Viktor Tsoi, the singer-songwriter from popular Soviet band Kino, and a pioneer of Russia’s underground rock scene of the early 1980s. With the hazy atmosphere of a late summer evening, Leto follows the dramatic stories of camaraderie, romance, and rebellion amongst a group of passionate connoisseurs of Western rock. Set in the backdrop of late Soviet Leningrad, the film playfully jumps between reality and dream-like fiction as the protagonists find refuge in forbidden music by Beatles, Bob Dylan, Sex Pistols, the Clash, and Blondie.
Two people who work in a slaughterhouse unintentionally discover that they share the same dream every night. As they begin to accept and unravel this strange coincidence, hints of romance start to emerge out of their bizarre encounters. Praised at the Berlinale and the Oscars, On Body and Soul is an unusual love story that elegantly jumps between dream and reality, and also lingers in the mellow space in-between.
During the First World War, a teenage soldier from a Russian village gets blinded during his first battle. Obstinately dreaming of fame and medals, he takes on a new job intercepting enemy planes by listening to the air through metal funnels. Through grainy images of trenches, artillery strikes, and field hospitals, Zolotukhin’s directorial flair is two-fold. In A Russian Youth, he masterfully manages to both evoke the horror and destruction of another era, and pioneer an unusually humane and individual-centric depiction of war.
As a child of Bosnian emigrés raised in the Netherlands, Alma faces both the challenges of being a ‘third-culture kid’ and a teenager in the uncomfortable gap in-between childhood and adult life. The news that her father is admitted to a Bosnian hospital, spurs her to visit her homeland for the first time in her adult life. Back in the Balkans, alongside her cousin and his best friend, Alma embarks in an unexpected coming-of-age roadtrip where the teenagers navigate self-discovery and East-West power structures with tints of pastel-colour melancholy and Balkan humour.
Poignant and penetrating, this film depicts the daring life of Olga Hepnarová, the last woman to be publicly executed in Czechoslovakia. A haunting black-and-white story about an unloving family, crime, and the burden of social and gender conventions, the film was introduced at the Berlin International Film Festival with the bold question: is Olga a monster, or a victim of the world’s monstrosity?
Low-budget, avant-garde, and audaciously effective, the entire set up of this film is the director and his father watching a 1988 football match, which the father refereed. The commentary accompanies the original television images in real time, and, as the conversation progresses, what is apparently mundane reveals the social and political complexities of Romania in the late 80s.
The second film from Kazakh director Emir Baigazin interweaves four stories of teenagers growing up in a small town in Kazakhstan in the early 90s. Through this loosely connected anthology, Baigazin portrays the challenges of adolescents coming-of-age against the backdrop of the complex transition from Soviet rule to independence. With scenes depicting both cruelty and understated innocence, The Wounded Angel paints a picture of a society where, for young men, there is no space for contemplation and doubt.
In the collection Poetry of the Everyday, MUBI compiles a selection of three films by the iconic Lithuanian emigré filmmaker Jonas Mekas. Lauded as “the godfather of American avant-garde cinema”, the films of Mekas often portray memories of his native Lithuania, his struggle to find a sense of home in Brooklyn, and the feeling of trauma and longing for a homeland that he, ultimately and perennially, found in cinema.
Known for his ability to blend archival footage and self-shot material, the films of prolific Ukrainian director Sergei Loznitsa often scrutinise the past and contextualise the present. In the collection Film is a Theorem, MUBI compiles a selection of his avant-garde documentaries that, often wordlessly, portray the hidden worlds and realities of contemporary Russia.
Born in Poland but internationally renown, Polish filmmaker Walerian Borowzcyk has been described by film critics as a “genius who also happened to be a pornographer”. In an appropriately named series called The Many Sins of Walerian Borowczyk, the MUBI library has now made available a selection of animated shorts that briefly reveal the surreal, provoking, and boundary-pushing world of the Polish filmmaker.