Alternative Viewing Options for These Times 

With theaters currently shuttered due to the coronavirus crisis, avid moviegoers may feel like they’ve been sentenced to life in an artistic gulag. That’s especially true for those who like to keep current with the latest releases. And, given the uncertainty about what lies ahead, there’s no telling when theater doors will be open once again.

However, all is not lost. While many films scheduled for theatrical engagements have been moved back to later release dates (some as much as a year or more), a number of studios and distributors have made new offerings available for viewing on demand now. This includes pictures that were scheduled for release in the time since theaters have been closed, as well as some that had brief openings in movie houses before they were shut down. It also includes accelerated distribution dates for movies that had been originally scheduled for later release on streaming sites and through various home media channels. This includes offerings from such major studios and distributors as Disney, Universal, Paramount, Sony Pictures, Dreamworks, Warner Bros. and Focus Features, as well as specialty outlets as Lionsgate, Searchlight, Kino Lorber and Vertigo Releasing.

Admittedly, the new releases available through these options may not be the cream of the crop from these sources. Given that the first three months of the year typically serve as a time for these organizations to release lower quality and less promising titles, the pictures coming out through these new distribution channels may not be on the same level as what viewers would see during the summer or awards season. But, for those who crave new material, these offerings represent something rather than nothing.

To help compensate for that, however, some of the specialty film houses are releasing titles for virtual viewing on the internet. For example, Kino Lorber has established Kino Marquee to stream titles that were originally booked into theaters that are now closed. Viewers can screen several Kino titles by logging in to the web sites of those theaters and purchasing tickets for streaming these films. Kino’s  initial releases include the Portuguese offering “Bacurau,” 2019 Cannes Film Festival Jury Prize winner about a series of mysterious incidents that occur in a small Brazilian village after the death of the town’s matriarch (web site, trailer), and “Sorry We Missed You,” director Ken Loach’s 2019 release about a working class UK family struggling to survive in the new labor economy (web site, trailer). Visit the films’ web sites for information on theaters that are participating in this program and how to purchase tickets for home viewing.

The death of the matriarch of a remote Brazilian village is followed by a series of unusual events, a concern for the locals, in the new Portuguese offering, “Bacurau,” available for streaming online. Photo by Victor Jucá, courtesy of Kino Lorber.

In a similar vein, Chicago’s Gene Siskel Film Center is offering Film Center from Your Sofa, an ongoing program of streaming options featuring recent releases and cinematic classics, including “Corpus Christi” (Boże Cialo) (web site, trailer), the recent Oscar nominee for best foreign film from Poland about a juvenile parolee who gets a chance to fulfill his long-cherished dream of becoming a priest when he stumbles upon an opportunity to fill in for an ailing cleric, his impersonator status notwithstanding. For details about the Center’s screenings, visit its web site. And, for a complete review of the picture, click here.

It will be interesting to see what comes from this experiment in film releasing. Studios and distributors have been playing with different options for some time, though they have never moved forward quite as aggressively as they are at the moment (the efforts of Netflix notwithstanding). It’s possible that this could be a game changer where the movie distribution business is concerned, especially if film fans embrace it. It’s something that has theater owners concerned, and justifiably so. Personally, I prefer the theatrical experience for screening films, and I hope that it won’t become a thing of the past. I’m hopeful that won’t happen, but it could change in ways that are as yet unforeseen.

In the meantime, given what’s going on in the wider world, we have to make due with making lemonade at the moment. Thankfully, the film industry seems to be taking steps to address that, and that’s something movie fans should be grateful for under these trying times. So make sure your pantry is stocked with microwave popcorn, and enjoy the show!

Would-be priest Daniel (Bartosz Bielenia) seeks divine guidance to retain his “post” when faced with challenges threatening to expose his imposter status in director Jan Komasa’s latest offering, “Corpus Christi” (“Boże Cialo”). Photo courtesy of Film Movement.

Some of My Favorites


…And just in case you run through all of the new releases online, take comfort in knowing that there are countless offerings of cinematic classics available for viewing via DVD, Blu-ray or online streaming. It’s with that in mind that I’ll be discussing some of my favorites on the next Cinema Scribe segment on Bring Me 2 Life radio, available by clicking here. My selections will be drawn from the titles reviewed in my three books, Get the Picture?!: Conscious Creation Goes to the MoviesConsciously Created Cinema: The Movie Lover’s Guide to the Law of Attraction and Third Real: Conscious Creation Goes Back to the Movies.

The Cinema Scribe airs Tuesday April 7 at 2 pm ET and is available for on-demand listening thereafter on Spreaker and various other audio services. Check it out, and happy viewing!

Confronting the Seemingly Impossible

It can be easy to get stuck. And it can be even easier to allow ourselves to stay stuck. Indeed, in such situations, we can readily convince ourselves that we’re trapped by conditions that can’t be changed, irretrievably ensnared by what cannot be altered. But is that really true? It may be possible to shift our circumstances, but it can take some effort to do so, as a mourning father and son find out in the new Bulgarian dark comedy-drama, “The Father” (“Bashtata”) (web site, trailer).

Losing a parent can be traumatic enough in itself, but, when the circumstances are compounded by additional complexities, the situation can become that much worse. So it is for Pavel (Ivan Barnev), a successful, middle-aged Bulgarian advertising photographer who travels from his home in Sofia to the remote countryside where he grew up to be with his aging eccentric father, Vasil (Ivan Savov), when his mother, Valentina, dies unexpectedly from a minor operation. However, his gesture of familial support and goodwill quickly becomes more than the dutiful son bargained for.

Vasil, of course, is the challenge that Pavel must contend with. The two have never gotten along well, in large part because of the differences in their temperaments. As a mild-mannered, responsible businessman, Pavel pragmatically takes care of what needs to be done without much grumbling or fanfare, getting things done in a reasoned, methodical manner. By contrast, Vasil, a flamboyant artist known for making grandiose speeches, is prone to impulsive, emotional, sometimes-irrational acts, often intentionally seeking to make himself the center of attention. That’s especially true when he wants to get his way – or when he purposely seeks to humiliate his son, an apparently lifelong practice and one of the reasons Pavel has kept his distance for so long.

When these personalities clash under the trying conditions present here, it’s easy for matters to quickly get out of hand. This becomes apparent right from the outset, when Vasil commands Pavel to take photos of his mother’s corpse in her open casket before she’s laid to rest in the ground, a demand he unsuccessfully tries to resist. The fact that this takes place in the presence of an Orthodox priest delivering a death sermon among a crowd of grieving mourners makes Pavel even more uncomfortable, but Vasil is insistent, concerned only that he be obeyed and not caring about the feelings of others, including his own son.

Grieving husband Vasil (Ivan Savov, right) and son Pavel (Ivan Barnev, left) mourn the loss of their wife and mother Valentina in the touching Bulgarian charmer, “The Father” (“Bashtata”). Photo courtesy of Abraxas Film.

But it only gets weirder from there. Not long after the funeral, Valentina’s sister, Lyubka (Tanya Shahova), reveals that she received a voicemail message from her not long before she died. It seems that Valentina had something to tell Vasil but was unable to reach him and that she wanted Lyubka to pass along that information to him – but without specifying the nature of the message. Once Vasil learns that, he becomes obsessed with the notion of finding out what she wanted to tell him. He even begins to believe that she’s trying to contact him from beyond the grave, a belief that makes him ever more fixated on trying to make contact with her. And so, with a burst of personal zeal, he decides to pursue that goal in earnest.

Meanwhile, as Pavel watches his father become increasingly untethered, he grows unsure what to do. He needs to get back to Sofia to attend to a major project for one of his clients. He also needs to return to care for his very pregnant wife, Kalina (Margita Gosheva), who phones him frequently and goes through an array of mood swings in his absence. At the same time, though, he feels obligated to keep Vasil from going off the deep end, a prospect that looms ever larger as he grows more preoccupied with making contact with Valentina. And, when Vasil announces his plans to seek the assistance of a charlatan guru whose sanctuary is housed in a former military museum (complete with a model fighter jet atop its roof), Pavel knows it’s time to step in, despite his obligations back at home.

It’s at this point when things go from strange to crazy. The guru’s recommendations send Vasil off on a quest that initiates a cross-country chase between father and son, one that jeopardizes Vasil’s physical well-being, gets Pavel in trouble with the law, prompts Kalina to falsely question her husband’s fidelity when he fails to return home, and, oddly enough, leads to an ongoing search to acquire a supply of homemade quince jam. The raucously funny insanity keeps growing ever more intense and absurd, making it difficult for an increasingly put-upon Pavel to keep up. But, given everything Pavel and Vasil go through, the escapades also serve to soften the strain between them. After all, everything that’s transpiring is related to the loss of a woman they both loved, a ludicrous, arduous and stressful odyssey that begins to bring about developments neither of them expect.

Vasil (Ivan Savov), an aging eccentric father on the run from his pragmatic son in an effort to establish contact with his late wife, resorts to any means to fulfill his quest in the heartwarming and zany Bulgarian comedy-drama, “The Father” (“Bashtata”). Photo courtesy of Abraxas Film.

From a purely superficial standpoint, the lunacy of this tale would seem to make little sense. However, on closer inspection, it becomes apparent that all of these supposedly disparate events link together and lead to a resolution that might have been considered wholly improbable from where things began. That naturally begs the question, “How does something like this happen?”

To answer that, one needs to look beneath the surface of what’s transpiring. Father and son have long been estranged, a situation that neither of them probably likes but one that they would also hope to rectify. However, given the protracted stand-off that has existed between them, getting past that hurdle is more than a little difficult. They’re each dug in and undoubtedly believe that a reconciliation is impossible, one whose existence is stubbornly being perpetuated, a situation made all the worse by the protagonists’ steadfast belief in their own stubbornness. Is it any wonder that Pavel and Vasil are unable to make any progress toward their hoped-for (but unexpressed) goal?

With Pavel and Vasil stuck in their thoughts, they’re unable to move forward. But, if they truly harbor a secret desire for change, they might try to bring it into being in ways that might not appear obvious, since a conscious awareness of such an initiative could allow their intractable attitudes to kick in and squelch any efforts aimed at reconciliation. By implementing this process through means that aren’t quite so obvious, they might be able to attain their goal and reach that grand “a ha!” moment while allowing them to save face.

This is where this story’s craziness comes into play. The strange incidents that lead Pavel and Vasil from one unexpected development to another manage to take them down a path toward potential reconciliation. The individual events may seem like they’re coming out of left field, but, upon closer scrutiny, they also appear to have an inherent meaningfulness to them. These synchronicities possess a seemingly tailor-made quality about them, one purposely designed to get our attention; they’re by no means random chance coincidences. And, if we indeed recognize the significance of those incidents, they make it possible for us to consider possibilities that may not have been on our radar, especially those that are intended to bring about important change in our lives, the kind that Pavel and Vasil would probably like to invoke but are too obstinate to admit.

Pavel (Ivan Barnev), a no-nonsense middle-aged businessman, goes in pursuit of his runaway dad, who’s on a mission to make contact with his deceased wife in the heartwarming and zany Bulgarian comedy-drama, “The Father” (“Bashtata”). Photo courtesy of Abraxas Film.

The synchronicities that father and son experience occur frequently. When a synchronicity happens once, it might be easy to dismiss as a fluke. But, when they pop up repeatedly, they become hard to ignore. This happens with increasing frequency during their adventure and in a variety of ways. For example, the story line is rife with missed phone calls, something that might seem a nuisance at first but that eventually serves as a symbolic expression of the rampant miscommunication going on between everyone concerned. If those missed calls occur often enough, at some point, someone just might pick up on the significance behind them and seek to address the message they’re designed to impart. Similarly, quince jam may not seem like something of significance in the greater scheme of things, yet references to it keep appearing during the story, prompting realizations whose significance may have otherwise been easily overlooked. Paying attention to the repetition of these seemingly obscure occurrences may lead to meaningful realizations.

Some of the synchronicities that occur during this story involve elements that might be considered supernatural or paranormal, qualities that the more “rational” among us may be easily tempted to dismiss out of hand. However, is it really impossible for such developments to occur across the dimensions? In light of that, then, does after-death communication with Valentina really seem all that far-fetched? Admittedly, the form it takes may be more symbolic and less conventional than what we associate with more typical means of communication, but the transmission is nevertheless legitimate. And, based on the potential goal being sought here, it’s completely plausible that developments such as these can occur in the pursuit of an objective like this.

The foregoing considerations are especially important when we seek to invoke change in our lives. By adjusting our beliefs and keeping the aforementioned notions in mind, we can bring about sought-after results by thoughtfully altering our intentions, even if they don’t necessarily end up taking the form we expect. In these instances, the outcomes can genuinely surprise us when we realize that what we have hoped for has indeed materialized. The impact can be tremendous, even moving mountains that we may have thought were permanently stationary.

Dutiful son Pavel (Ivan Barnev, left) goes to great lengths, including engaging the services of a hearse driver, to find his runaway aging and eccentric dad in the heartwarming and zany Bulgarian comedy-drama, “The Father” (“Bashtata”). Photo courtesy of Abraxas Film.

One particularly important area where this can be employed is in matters of redemption. This is something that Pavel and Vasil can speak volumes about, especially when it comes to how long it has seemingly eluded them. For years, each of them believed that the other had little to offer – and that it was a situation that would never change. However, through this experience, they have a potential opportunity to discover otherwise. It may not come about in an expected way, but, in the end, does it really matter how it gets there? What’s most important is that the underlying intent is in place, holding the promise for initiating a new beginning. Talk about something truly miraculous.

This touching charmer, inspired by actual events, examines how a father and son deal with loss while simultaneously sorting out long-simmering differences between them. But don’t let this weighty, reflective premise fool you; while the film has its share of dramatic and emotional moments, it’s also a wildly zany saga that skillfully combines the ridiculous and the sublime. Barnev and Savov play well off of one another in this unlikely road trip/buddy flick, delivering an array of uproarious, contentious and heartwarming moments together. Directors Kristina Grozeva and Petar Valchanov deftly fuse comedy and drama, weaving a captivating tale, one with both raw emotion and ample laugh-out-loud humor. This unexpected gem has primarily been playing the film festival circuit, but it’s well worth catching if you have the opportunity.

When we’re faced with conditions that we feel can’t be altered, we really need to take a look at what’s preventing that from happening. Sometimes it may be as simple as getting out of our own way, analyzing and changing the beliefs that are keeping us locked in place. The process may not be an easy one, and it could raise some personally uncomfortable issues, but, if we do so, we may find the rewards are well worth the effort. It may help us to see and appreciate the treasures in our lives that we have long overlooked. And, if we do it right, we might even get a little quince jam thrown in for good measure.

A complete review is available by clicking here. 

Copyright © 2019-20, by Brent Marchant. All rights reserved.