LUCE (2019) Stream on Hulu. Rent on Amazon, Google Play, iTunes, Vudu and YouTube. This J.C. Lee and Julius Onah film, Ben Kenigsberg wrote in his review for The Times, “proceeds dialectically, with each scene adding a wrinkle to the characters’ motives.” This creates a confounding labyrinth when Luce’s hated teacher Harriet (Octavia Spencer) shares concerns with his parents (Naomi Watts and Tim Roth) about a recent assignment. In it, Luce may have expressed sympathy for the use of political violence. From there, the audience is pulled back and forth between sympathy for Luce and suspicion that he may be hiding a penchant for cruelty and deceit.
MISHIMA: A LIFE IN FOUR CHAPTERS (1985) Stream on the Criterion Channel. Rent on Amazon and iTunes. It’s rare that a great writer’s life matches, much less surpasses, the drama of their books. But in the case of Yukio Mishima, the Japanese author known for novels including “The Temple of the Golden Pavilion” who died by ritual hara-kiri suicide in 1970,these two dimensions are neck and neck. The director and writer Paul Schrader, who helped write “Taxi Driver” (1976) and “Raging Bull” (1980), balances both in this biopic by combining dramatizations of some of Mishima’s works with episodes from his life. Though it received a mixed critical reception when it was first released, the film is now recognized as a classic.
THE IMAGE BOOK (2019) Stream on Mubi. Rent on iTunes, Google Play, Vudu and YouTube. This Jean-Luc Godard’ feature has sometimes been referred to as a cinematic essay rather than a film because it largely lacks the hallmarks of a traditional movie. But for this French New Wave contrarian, the true identity of cinema has yet to be discovered, much less fulfilled. The film, which won a Special Palme d’Or at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival, focuses on the ways in which he thinks the Middle East has been insufficiently depicted in film and the media. If the form in which Godard conducts his investigation (a multidimensional assemblage of film clips, video, quotations and complex soundscapes) is baffling, this only reinforces his central point: We have much more to learn about what it means to see.
What’s on TV
THE NOTEBOOK (2004) 8 p.m. on Freeform. By now this melodrama starring Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams is as much a cultural symbol as anything else. For better or worse, it has spawned a bevy of memes, informed millennial romantic sensibilities and its main characters have attained archetypical familiarity. These characters, Noah (Gosling) and Allie (McAdams), are not quite star-crossed lovers. They face obstacles, including a meddling mother and World War II, but it’s always clear that they’ll end up together in the end. Their ultimate fate, relayed by the portions of the movie set in the present day, adds a layer of more nuanced pathos.