M. C. Escher, Hannah Arendt, Hieronymus Bosch, Hilma af Kint, Stanley Kubrick: if you’re a regular reader of Open Culture, you’re no doubt fascinated some or all of these figures. Now, thanks to film distributor Kino Lorber, you can watch entire films about them on Youtube. Having evidently put a good deal of energy toward expanding their Youtube channel in recent months, Kino Lorber has uploaded such documentaries as M. C. Escher: Journey to Infinity, Vita Activa: The Spirit of Hannah Arendt, Hieronymous Bosch: Touched by the Devil, Beyond the Visible: Hilma af Kint, and Filmworker (about Kubrick’s right-hand man, the late Leon Vitali) — all of them free to watch.
So far, Kino Lorber’s playlist of free documentaries contains 80 films, a number that may vary depending on your location. Some popular selections focus on music: that of Elvis Presley, that of Levon Helm and The Band, that of Greenwich Village in the nineteen-sixties and seventies.
But the documentary is a versatile form, able in the right directorial hands to contain a wide range of real-life subjects, from art (Louise Bourgeois: The Spider the Mistress and the Tangerine, The Jeff Koons Show) to food (Sushi: Global Catch, El Bulli: Cooking in Progress) to nature (More than Honey, The Woman Who Loves Giraffes) to religion (Brilliant Moon: Glimpses of Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, The Last Dalai Lama?), to cinema itself (Captured on Films: The True Story of Marion Davies, Blank City).
All this gives only a hint of the sheer aesthetic, intellectual, and cultural variety of Kino Lorber-distributed documentaries. To get a fuller sense, you’ll have to explore the playlist itself, down to its most recent additions like Finding Fela, Nollywood Babylon, and Lina Wertmüller: Behind the White Glasses. Like all documentaries worth watching, these don’t just address subjects of interest, but leave their viewers with newly open avenues of curiosity to follow. Your journey may begin with films about Glenn Gould, Charlotte Rampling, Johnny Cash, or Maya Deren, but to what realm it will take you — that of the Ballets Russes, of Mexican lucha libre wrestling, of the female Buddhists of the Kathmandu Valley — cannot be foretold.
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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.