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A Robot Romance on Amazon, American Indies and a ‘Taxi Driver’ Commentary

Category: Art & Culture,Arts

The series kicked off on July 5 with 2013’s “Sun Don’t Shine,” the feature directing debut of Amy Seimetz. Ms. Seimetz has gone on to prominence as an actor (she can be seen in “Alien: Covenant,” the second season of “Stranger Things,” and will appear in the upcoming remake of “Pet Sematary”) and the co-director of the Starz series “The Girlfriend Experience.” (Which is based on the 2009 film in which I appeared as an actor; I have no affiliation with the show but am cordially acquainted with Ms. Seimetz and others who work on the series.) On July 12 came 2016’s “For the Plasma,” which the critic Mike D’Angelo called “the right kind of awful, if such a thing can exist.”

On July 19, the audacious “MA,” directed by and starring Celia Rowlson-Hall debuts. Its updated virgin birth story is told entirely in dance, with Ms. Rowlson-Hall doing the heaviest lifting, particularly in a motel room scene in which her character splits genders (you have to see it to really get it). The collection is rounded out by “Christmas Again,” starring Kentucker Audley, debuting on July 26, and “Two Gates of Sleep,” debuting on Aug. 2. Each of the films will stay on Filmatique for a year.

I don’t doubt, if you’re a film enthusiast, that you’ve seen the upsetting 1976 film “Taxi Driver,” perhaps even more than once. So it’s not necessarily big news that the movie is now available to stream via FilmStruck’s Criterion Channel. However, this streaming version of the movie has a special attraction: an audio commentary recorded in 1986 by the director Martin Scorsese and the screenwriter Paul Schrader.

This frank and informative commentary was attached to the Criterion Collection laser disc of the movie. Once that edition went out of print, and the video licensing rights to the movie went back to Sony, which owns Columbia, the studio that produced the film, the commentary stayed with Criterion. (Subsequent video versions have been issued by Sony, with different supplements.) It’s a great listen, in part because it was recorded only a decade after the movie was made.

“It sprang from my head like an animal,” Mr. Schrader recalls of the script, which he wrote in less than two weeks. Later, he notes of the collaboration between himself, Mr. Scorsese, and the lead actor Robert De Niro, that it was a case of “three people coming together at a certain point in their lives all needing to say the same thing.” Mr. Scorsese talks about his influences and his desire to make the viewer perceive things as he himself perceives them, with a certain speed and intensity.

In the years since the making of the film and the recording of the commentary, Mr. Scorsese’s style has evolved and expanded; contrast the very fast 2013 “Wolf of Wall Street” with the contemplative, grieving 2016 “Silence.” This commentary retains considerable value whether you’re a film studies or film production maven, and offers some diverting anecdotes as well.


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