Magical MUBI, an alternative to Netflix?
by Aedan Brennan
Netflix and Amazon Prime have changed the big screen and made its smaller alternative far more accessible to the everyday viewer like you and me. These commercial juggernauts have brought a lot of positives to the filmic landscape, as directors now have a wider range of opportunities to create original and entertaining spectacles that might not have brought a large enough audience to see the cinematic light of day. However, in turn, such streaming platforms have to cater to an ever-growing audience, hungry for the Hollywood experience to be brought to their living rooms, rather than a jam-packed cinema. Although some of these films may be more creative than your average big-budget thriller, they are increasingly morphing into a shape that fits a certain type of cookie-cutter mould. A mould that is starting to affect the universal streaming experience as a whole, what brings in the viewers and the most money gets advertised. This sounds rather bleak, doesn’t it? My answer to the current streaming boredom is MUBI.
MUBI is a relatively cheap alternative, costing around £3.99 per month with the applied student discount, adding a new film every day.
Courtesy: Mubi Webs via Wikimedia Commons.
With its focus on arthouse cinema, some may say this a suitably snobby and niche solution to a problem affecting the masses. However, MUBI may open your eyes to films you haven’t even heard of, directors making big, beautiful films that don’t quite fit the algorithm of popular streaming services. With this in mind, it’s the perfect solution, as it’s almost the antithesis of Netflix or Prime. It’s open and vulnerable yet trusting. It offers films that don’t guarantee a dedicated audience yet trusts the viewer to find a picture that might make them laugh or cry, or even change the way they think. I came to this verdict after viewing two very different films on the platform, Michael Mann’s Heat and Aurel’s Josep.
Heat screams 90s. Classy yet subdued, this utter masterpiece will have you glued from the word “go”. With a quite frankly outrageous cast boasting Al Pacino and Robert De Niro, Michael Mann’s cops and robbers film screams style yet offers a subdued melancholic vision of life in the balance.
The film pits Neil (De Niro), head of a crackpot group of highly sophisticated robbers, against Detective Vincent Hanna (Al Pacino), a cop possessed by the chase, whose one goal in life revolves around stopping attempted heists.
Courtesy: Warner Bros.
To understand why Heat is so good, one has to look no further than its modern counterpart Den of Thieves. A dull script is butchered by the cast who can’t get to grips with the attempted tone of the film. Heat’s cast nails this to a tea. The script isn’t masterful, yet the credentials of these actors manage to seamlessly travel through the sometimes cringey dialogue. The allure of the heist takes a backseat, and the lives of the renegades steal the show. MUBI isn’t pushing the boat out with this selection, and I wouldn’t be shocked if I saw Heat on Netflix or Amazon Prime. This enhances the viewing experience of the platform further, as if you’re looking to relax to a film that may take you by surprise, Heat is the film for you.
Contrastingly, if you want to cry MUBI can also cater for you. The French film Josep, directed by Aurel, is essentially one cartoonist displaying another’s in the utmost regard. The movie centres around the life of Josep Bartoli, an artist who led a fascinating and harrowing life. Aurel expertly crafts a deeply sensitive and thought-provoking narrative that discusses the wartime treatment of Spaniards fleeing Franco’s fascist coup. Refugees like Bartoli are crammed into hastily made concentration camps in France and treated like animals by their guards. However, one guard is an exception — Martin, who treats the ravaged Spanish prisoners with kindness. Voiced by Emmanuel Vottero, Martin drives the narrative forward and the viewer is brought with him through different time spans.
Courtesy: Sophie Dulac Distribution
The infusion of Bartoli’s haunting drawings of the concentration camps throughout the film adds a layer of real-life horror to the surreal atmosphere of a cartoon. Grounding the film in such a reality brings forth the notion that the situation Josep faced could happen to anyone.
The fact of the matter is that Josep is a must-see film, yet before I came across MUBI it was nowhere to be found. Heat is ready-made for Netflix, but its three-hour run time means that it’s not snappy enough to enter that platform. Cinema is meant to be diverse, yet the range of foreign films, short films and even cult classics is becoming quashed. I want to be engrossed, I want to scroll and be left mulling over too many options instead of scratching my head, choosing between The Matrix or The Matrix Reloaded. MUBI offers diversity, it gives a voice to directors who need to be heard, in fact, who need to be screaming out at unsuspecting viewers, grabbing their attention. I implore you to give MUBI a go.