Product Review: Mubi.
Mubi is a boutique streaming service for hardcore cinephiles looking for obscure and classic art-house films.
In order to stream La Soledad for our review, I had to sign up for Mubi. As this was my first time using, or even hearing about Mubi, I decided to delve a little deeper and see exactly what the service has to offer. Having evolved several times since its founding in 2007 when it was known as The Auteurs, Mubi is currently an ultra-curated selection of 30 films, where one movie is added each day and one movie is removed. In addition to streaming content, the platform functions as a sort of repository for swanky films, where you can find articles about films, film makers, and film theory in an online zine called The Notebook. Mubi is laser focused on a very certain type of cinema lover, so your engagement with the product is likely to vary in proportion to how much you like art-house film, and how much you can put up with random offerings.
Starting life in 2007 as The Auteurs, Mubi is the brainchild of Efe Cakarel, a Turkish-born businessman. Envisioned as an online gathering hub for cinephiles, the project was initially an a la carte model of digital film distribution. As the service rebranded under the title Mubi, the focus began to shift to film curation. In 2012 the platform changed to a rotating selection of films: one new movie was added a day and that film would be available for 30 days before departing. In total, 30 films would be available to stream at any given time for a monthly price.
Mubi is available through several avenues. There is a Mubi app available on Sony products, including Sony Playstation game consoles (there is no analog for X-Box, but you can still get it by another route.) Mubi is also available as an additional subscription on Amazon Prime, and as an added feature on VRV if you subscribe to that service at their premium level. Finally, Mubi can be found at Mubi.com, where you get access to the 30 rotating films and curated sub-lists that focus on a director, school of film or theme (these will not always have every movie in them available, so it helps to be timely.) The website is also where you can access The Notebook and the database of past and upcoming films, and where you can even stream one handpicked movie for free using their Live feature.
What you want to pay for Mubi is going to vary quite a bit depending on what you want from it. At base, you get all of the content from Mubi.com for a monthly fee of 8.99 (US), though there is a one week free trial. If you don’t need all of the database content and simply want access to the 30 movies, you can subscribe to Mubi via Amazon Prime for 5.99, a slight discount. Finally, if you are already a premium member to VRV (9.99) then you have access to Mubi bundled in already. I signed up to all three versions in order to compare the experiences.
Mubi’s movies are niche, to say the least. While there are some broadly known offerings such as Oldboy, The Pianist, and other award winners, most of the films are more obscure. Mubi works with The Criterion Collection, World Cinema Foundation, and festivals such as Cannes and Human Rights Watch (among others). There’s no guarantee that any of the 30 films are going to be from any one source, so this is not your destination if you’re sad that the Criterion Collection is no longer bundled with Hulu. The breadth and depth of the selection is astounding, varying from modern American documentaries, contemporary German art films, and 1940’s French noir classics. Mubi also has dabbled into original content, working with filmmakers on past projects and obtaining exclusive streaming rights (La Soledad being one example of exclusive content.)
Mubi is a love letter to film…written in Esperanto. It is unabashedly niche and focused on obscure tastes. One thing I took away from looking at their library, articles, and site design is that Mubi is a veritable education in film turned into a streaming platform. Indeed, the service offers discounts to film students and academic programs. As such, I salute its intent…but I can’t say that I will be frequently making use of its product.
This is a channel that you would be best served by added or deleting from your Prime membership as the films that cycle in or out grab your fancy. The question is, how much babysitting of your video library do you want to do? Mubi is certainly far from the beaten path, so its going to be an effort on your part to determine when Mubi’s offerings match your needs. At 5.99-9.99, I can’t say that is an appealing prospect, no matter how salutatory Mubi’s ambitions as a repository for noteworthy cinema is.