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Your Week in Streaming: O Canada! Fandor Heads North, and a Guide to Great Canuck Films on VOD

Photo of Ryan Lattanzio By Ryan Lattanzio | TOH! September 10, 2013 at 11:24AM

The SF-based streaming site Fandor has just launched a VOD service in Canada and in celebration, here's a guide to some of the best Canadian films you can currently stream in the US, from Sarah Polley's "Stories We Tell" to the films of Guy Maddin.
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Maddin's 'Coward Bends the Knee'
Maddin's 'Coward Bends the Knee'

Also streaming on Fandor are many works by Canadian iconoclast Guy Maddin, whose precious oeuvre of often silent, black-and-white and totally whacked-out films brandish one of the most brazenly unconventional talents working today. 

You can catch a ton of Maddin films on Fandor, from his early morbid fantasies "Tales from the Gimli Hospital" (1988) and "Careful" (1992) to the later, just as experimental but perhaps more accessible films "Dracula: Pages from a Virgin's Diary" (2002), "Coward Bends the Knee" (2003) and "Keyhole" (2011). Both "Coward" and "Dracula" are pure genius, giddily defiling the rules of cinema -- "Dracula" is a ballet! -- while also riffing on its roots. Maddin has sure seen a hell of a lot of German expressionist cinema because its severe arches, Escher-like distortion of visual space and painterly lighting run rampant in these films. 

Maddin's 2007 pseudo-documentary "My Winnipeg" -- my favorite film that year -- used to be available on Netflix, but now you have to shell out $2.99 to catch it on Amazon. It's sort of like "Stories We Tell" in that Madden examines his own childhood and family through a very personal lens. But "Winnipeg" is, also, nothing like that film or anything else you've seen for that matter.

Melissa Leo in "Francine"
Melissa Leo in "Francine"

A must-see is 2012 minimalist verite drama "Francine," up on Fandor, directed by American documentary filmmaker Brian M. Cassidy and Canadian Melanie Shatzky. Cementing her status as the premier portrayer of working-class, salt-of-the-earth broads, Melissa Leo plays an ex-con whose introverted behavior and almost pathological loneliness lead to animal hoarding and a string of empty encounters. I'm not really selling it here, but this bizarre and beautiful film brings to mind Kelly Reichardt's rural portraits of blue-collar despair and even Errol Morris' funny-sad pet cemetery doc "Gates of Heaven."

Finally, just to pack in some of those derogatory Canadian remarks right here, head over to SnagFilms to watch Albert Nerenberg and Rob Spence's satirical documentary "Let's All Hate Toronto" (2007). The filmmakers explore the nation's animosity toward the city of Toronto -- something like the way Manhattanites, say, shit on Times Square and Brooklyn or how Parisians scoff at the mere mention of the Eiffel Tower -- along the way meeting "recovering Torontonians" as well as denizens who've vowed never to set foot in the city.

Go North, young cinephiles!

This article is related to: Fandor, VOD, New On VOD, Your Week In Streaming, Sarah Polley, Sarah Polley, Stories We Tell, Guy Maddin, Francine, Melissa Leo, Features


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.