Staff Picks: ‘How to Survive a Plague,’ ‘Branded to Kill,’ Perfume Genius’ “Can’t Help Falling in Love” Cover


Need a great book to read, album to listen to, or TV show to get hooked on? The Flavorwire team is here to help: in this weekly feature, our editorial staffers recommend the cultural object or experience they’ve enjoyed most in the past seven days. Scroll through for our picks below.

The Sicilian Clan on Blu-ray

About a third of the way in to this 1969 French caper flick (new on Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics), there’s a great scene of two old pros casing the display, clocking the security, testing the alarms. It’s a wonderful sequence that also gets at the overarching pleasure of the movie: we are in the hands of professionals who know exactly what they’re doing. It is, after all, a movie headlined by three legends of French crime cinema: Alain Delon (Le Samurai), Jean Gabin (Touchez Pas au Grisbi) and Lino Ventura (Le Deuxieme Souffle), and their moves are accompanied by a wonderfully whistle-and-boiiiinnnnng-filled Ennio Morricone score. Director Jacques E. Strauss works in a light, ultra-cool style, augmenting his big set pieces (like the taut opening escape from a prison transport vehicle, and the patiently uncorked airline heist) with terrific little touches. The Sicilian Clan isn’t as well known as its marquee stars’ greatest hits, but it’s absolutely worth seeking out. — Jason Bailey, Film Editor

How to Survive a Plague

This 2012 documentary about the AIDS crisis tells the shamefully under-acknowledged story of the activists who “turned AIDS from a death sentence into a manageable condition.” In the 1980s and early 1990s, ordinary men and women organized a movement that pressured the government to fund research and approve drugs before even more of their friends died of this then-little-known disease. How to Survive a Plague — directed by journalist David France, who dedicated the film to his partner, Doug Gould, who died in 1992 — makes excellent use of archival footage from protests, conferences, and meetings of the advocacy groups ACT UP and TAG.

The story of these people who spent many years fighting for a cure while the people they loved died around them is particularly inspiring in light of the protests and grassroots organizing that have blossomed in the months following the election. The leaders of the movement to stop the AIDS epidemic should be as familiar to us as the leaders of the civil rights and women’s rights movements. Get acquainted via this excellent documentary, which is streaming on Netflix. — Lara Zarum, TV Editor

Branded to Kill

I was sad to learn about the passing of Japanese auteur Seijun Suzuki. Immediately, I turned on his mesmerizing 1967 pop-noir film Branded to Kill, which is one of his most influential movies (mentioned in several lists here on Flavorwire). John Woo, Jim Jarmusch, and Tarantino loved it. There’s even a nod to the film in John Wick 2, which is currently in theaters. Suzuki has an impressive filmography and made great works well into old age, but Branded to Kill is special. It cost Suzuki ten years of his filmmaking career as he was blacklisted after a legal tussle with studio Nikkatsu, who were expecting your typical gangster flick and called the movie incomprehensible. Suzuki’s anarchic approach, strange humor, striking visuals, and brutal violence make Branded to Kill impossible to define — but there’s no mistaking the movie’s pure poetry and raw appeal. — Alison Nastasi, Weekend Editor

Perfume Genius’ “Can’t Help Falling in Love”

Somehow I missed this when it came out last September, and I’m glad I did, because its original Prada ad context perhaps might have encroached on the sheer joy of listening to the, well, sheer menace of this rendition of Elvis’ melancholy classic. Dovetailing off evil-minimalist soundscape of Too Bright, the song similarly features a Mike Hadreas’s crooning fenced in by menacing, affectless instrumentation. It’s up there with Portishead’s equally creepy rendition of Abba’s “S.O.S.” Moze Halperin, Senior Editor