To celebrate the newly kindled partnership between Fontana Regional Library and the video streaming service Kanopy, let’s explore a few of the classics that we now have access to. But first, what is Kanopy?
Kanopy started as a DVD rental company in Australia in 2008 that distributed to national school libraries. As technology advanced and streaming grew in popularity, Kanopy became what it is today. Kanopy has now teamed up with public libraries and over 3,000 campus libraries globally! Basically, if you have a library card, you can now create a Kanopy account and watch anything from the award-winning animated short The Cow Who Wanted to Be a Hamburger to the Fellini mockumentary The Clowns whenever you want.
They offer most genres (foreign films, true crime, cult classics, documentaries, educational films, the Great Courses, a staggering number of cannibal-themed movies, etc.). Filmmakers can even submit their own work and (if accepted) earn royalties.
It works like Audible; you get a certain number of credits each month (10), plenty for having an intense movie marathon on your computer, tablet, Roku, apple TV, Chromecast, etc. You can navigate the user-friendly interface to stream at high quality (the automatic setting) or change to the basic option to save bandwidth. Kanopy offers over 26,000 titles, including films from the extensive Criterion Collection. Here are three gems:
Let’s start with the most emotionally and physically taxing of the three…Dead Ringers (David Cronenberg, 1988, Rated R)
I have an ongoing battle with this particular film; this marked the fourth time I’ve seen it, and each time I have mentally prepared and muttered some mantra to myself about how I know what happens and it can’t get to me again (Spoiler Alert: Dead Ringers-4, Kasey-0). The problem is that it isn’t a gore or insects type of scary, it isn’t Cronenberg’s other notable horror The Fly, it’s an acute and deliberate type of terrifying that makes your skin crawl and your knuckles whiten, partly because it is loosely based on a bizarre true story.
Dead Ringers is about established twin gynecologists Beverly and Elliott Mantle (Jeremy Irons, the voice of Scar in The Lion King!!!) who trick their clients into having affairs with both of them by pretending to be one person. Elliott is a Casanova while his twin Beverly is the subdued one who gets his leftovers (not literally, this is not one of the aforementioned cannibal films). When one of their celebrity clientele, a barbiturate-addicted actress named Claire Niveau (Geneviève Bujold, Coma) enters their clinic for a consultation, Beverly falls in love and upsets the intimately fragile dynamic of the twins’ relationship. I can’t delve much further into the plot without ruining everything, but things do go profoundly wrong.
Now, this isn’t an evil twin movie; in fact a case can be made against either twin even being inherently nefarious, wholly omitting Dead Ringers from the sub-genre. Jeremy Irons is so convincing as each twin individually without any exaggerated ticks or looming physical differences, employing only the subtlest of nuances to denote which Mantle you are watching (or which twin is impersonating the other), that it can at times be impossible to remember he’s only one actor.
Despite my off-putting intro, this is one of the best psychological thrillers out there and Irons was robbed of an Oscar nomination. I give Dead Ringers 8 out of 10 stars, for even though it does start out slow, it is well worth the wait and achieves what it sets out to do with stupefying gusto.
Time to bring it down a notch with…Black Orpheus a.k.a Orfeu Negro (Marcel Camus, 1959, Rated PG)
Black Orpheus is the visionary, award winning retelling of the classic Greek myth re-imagined in a favela in the prismal city of Rio de Janeiro during Carnaval. Eurydice (Marpessa Dawn, The Woman Eater) is running away from a stalker masquerading as a skeletal Death (Ademar Da Silva) while Orpheus (Breno Mello, Prisoner of Rio) struggles to lose his garish fiancee Mira (Lourdes de Oliveira, The Pioneers). Orfeo is oozing with boyish charm and charisma while Eurydice is beautiful and poignant; they are enticing characters that are easy to champion as star crossed lovers. Granted, the real leading role has to be the city itself, as director and writer Marcel Camus has sculpted Orfeo Negro into the best advertisement for Rio tourism to date. Hermes (Alexandro Constantino) says it best with “No one can resist the madness.” The soundtrack is a melodic masterpiece that is single-handedly responsible for putting Bossa Nova and Samba back on the map.
Alas, anyone who knows the myth is aware of the inevitable ascension into darkness, but I won’t cheapen it for you by divulging the details. You will smile, you will laugh and you will cry, for this film is a revelation. Black Orpheus gets a solid 9 out of 10 stars and more than earns its niche as a legitimate paragon of world cinema.
Finally, let’s jump back a couple of years to…The Seventh Seal a.k.a Det Sjunde Inseglet (Ingmar Bergman, 1957, Not Rated)
Thus we have entered the tried and true classic of the three. Steve Erickson (writer/director, Zeroville) said it best when he wrote “Even if you haven’t seen The Seventh Seal, you’ve seen it. The influence is so vast and insidious, every image of a black-robed, white-faced Death is a rip or parody of The Seventh Seal.”
The Swedish masterpiece is unmistakably in the veins of almost every motion picture since its release (including Black Orpheus). This is the tale of Antonius Block (Max Von Sydow, The Exorcist), a medieval knight who when faced with Death (Bengt Ekerot, The Magician), challenges him to a symbolic chess match. This iconic film might be deemed a cliche if it hadn’t inaugurated the ‘Death as a character’ trope. The acting is superb (it is widely considered one of the greatest movies ever made). One of the very few issues, and believe me I’m nitpicking, is that the secondary characters don’t serve much of a purpose other than to deviate from the two central characters (which, speaking for myself anyway, the audience doesn’t particularly want or need that departure).
All in all The Seventh Seal cements its place in cinematic history and earns 9 out of 10 stars from me, wrapping up this trilogy of movies. I am curious what those who have also viewed these particular films have to say, please share your takes on them in the comments, and remember to check out Kanopy!