Critic’s Choice: Christian Petzold’s ‘Barbara,’ ‘Phoenix’ streaming on MUBI

Nina Hoss in Christian Petzold's 2012 movie "Barbara."
(Adopt Films)
Film Critic

The beautifully crafted thriller “Transit,” still playing in theaters, is the latest movie written and directed by German filmmaker Christian Petzold, one of the most gifted cinematic chroniclers of his nation’s tempestuous past and present. For audiences unfamiliar with his earlier work, the streaming service MUBI is presently showing his two superb previous films, “Barbara” (2012) and “Phoenix” (2014), as part of its “What Is an Auteur?” series.

“Barbara,” a tense tale of love and resistance, centers on a doctor who has been banished to a remote outpost in 1980s East Germany. “Phoenix,” an aching riff on “Vertigo,” follows a Holocaust survivor lost amid the rubble of a bombed-out Berlin. Each film is built around an exquisite performance by Petzold’s frequent on-screen collaborator, Nina Hoss; together, they’ve built one of the most impressive and sustained actor-director collaborations in recent movies.