The Vice Guide to Film: great TV for movie appreciation

Viceland's resurrected series offers a deep dive into contemporary cinema. You should check it out.

A few years ago, Vice magazine launched The Vice Guide To Film, a six-episode web series dedicated to world cinema that could be best described as niche: North Korean propaganda films, underground filmmaking in Russia and Uganda the work of filmmakers in Palestine and Iran, and the symbiotic relationships of directors and criminal gangs in Mexico and Japan.

Last week, the Viceland cable channel resurrected the show, but the 2016 edition of The Vice Guide To Film is a very different animal: a thoughtful, intelligent documentary series that dedicates each episode to the life and work of a filmmaker likely to resonate with Viceland’s presumably hip, connected audience.

(Full disclosure: I know a number of the people who make The Vice Guide To Film, which is what happens when a Canadian cable channel starts a television show about moviemaking and hires film critics to work on it.)

The show airs Fridays at 6:30 pm on Viceland, but the episodes are also available online. The premiere, which tackles Werner Herzog, set a great tone for the show. Not only is Herzog one of cinema’s great idiosyncratic visionaries, but his career spans half a century, which lets us see how director and series producer Lewis Cohen and his co-writers Adam Nayman and Andrew Tracy winnow down all of the available material for a half-hour time slot.

It’s a remarkably comprehensive overview, interweaving excerpts from Herzog’s films with archival footage and new interviews with Herzog collaborators Harmony Korine (Julien Donkey-Boy), James Franco (Queen Of The Desert), Zak Penn (Incident At Loch Ness), friend Errol Morris and admirer Ana Lily Amirpour.

If you only know Herzog as a pop-culture punchline, this will put him in the proper context – and leave you with a gnawing urge to go check out Grizzly Man or Stroszek at the first available opportunity.

The next episode focuses on Todd Haynes, writer/director of Safe, Far From Heaven and most recently Carol. Beloved by critics and his peers, he’s not nearly as famous or clickbait-friendly as someone like Herzog – and that’s why I’m so happy to see him featured here. It tells me that this new Vice Guide To Film is interested in truly exploring cinema rather than just chasing someone’s perception of cool.

Watch this show, and when it’s over you’ll have discovered new movies to see (or revisit), and a better appreciation for the people who make them. What more could you want from your television?

Want more television recommendations? Check out 25 shows to binge-watch now. | @normwilner

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