The Criterion Channel announces one-year anniversary lineup
To celebrate the one-year anniversary of the launch of The Criterion Channel, the network has unveiled its lineup of programming set to debut in April, which will include the 1978 animated adaptation of the Richard Adams novel Watership Down and an expansion of the Columbia Noir collection from the channel’s original launch!
Wednesday, April 1
Toshiro Mifune Turns 100
Featuring a new introduction by critic Imogen Sara Smith and the 2015 documentary Mifune: The Last Samurai. Akira Kurosawa once said, “The ordinary Japanese actor might need ten feet of film to get across an impression. Toshiro Mifune needed only three feet.” However, the filmmaker certainly gave Mifune—born on April 1, 1920—a lot of space: over the course of sixteen indelible collaborations, the actor and the director created some of the most dynamic characters ever put on-screen, all marked by an explosive physicality, live-wire intensity, and surprising tenderness. Discovered by Kurosawa during an open audition at Toho Studios, Mifune would go on to inhabit a wide variety of roles—from gangsters to samurai to salarymen—in the director’s greatest films, masterpieces like Stray Dog, Rashomon, Seven Samurai, The Bad Sleep Well, and High and Low. Further cementing his status as an icon of Japanese cinema with his commanding turns in classics by Kenji Mizoguchi, Keisuke Kinoshita, and Hiroshi Inagaki, Mifune left behind a formidable legacy as one of the most electrifying performers of the twentieth century.
The full list of titles from the collection includes:
Wednesday, April 1
Europa Europa: Criterion Collection Edition #985
As World War II splits Europe, sixteen-year-old German Jew Salomon (Marco Hofschneider) is separated from his family after fleeing with them to Poland, and finds himself reluctantly assuming various ideological identities in order to hide the deadly secret of his Jewishness. He is bounced from a Soviet orphanage, where he plays a dutiful Stalinist, to the Russian front, where he hides in plain sight as an interpreter for the German army, and back to his home country, where he takes on his most dangerous role: a member of the Hitler Youth. Based on the real-life experiences of Salomon Perel, Agnieszka Holland’s wartime tour de force Europa Europa is a breathless survival story told with the verve of a comic adventure, an ironic refutation of the Nazi idea of racial purity, and a complex portrait of a young man caught up in shifting historical calamities and struggling to stay alive. SUPPLEMENTAL FEATURES: Audio commentary by Agnieszka Holland; interviews with Holland, Marco Hofschneider, and Salomon Perel; and a video essay by film scholar Annette Insdorf.
Thursday April 2
The first feature for which celebrated international auteur Yorgos Lanthimos received solo directorial credit, Kinetta takes place in a desolate Greek resort town where three tenuously connected people are linked by mysterious, unsettling impulses. A plainclothes cop pursues triple passions for cars, tape recorders, and Russian women; a lonely, lovesick clerk works as a part-time photographer; and a hotel maid aspires to be an actor through unconventional methods. Darkly comic and insinuatingly hypnotic, this tantalizingly cryptic puzzle film finds Lanthimos first working through the themes of power and control that he would explore to increasing renown in art-house sensations like Dogtooth, The Lobster, and The Favourite.
Thursday April 2
Three by Yorgos Lanthimos
Friday April 3
From the Archive: Raging Bull
With an archival laserdisc commentary featuring director Martin Scorsese and editor Thelma Schoonmaker. Arguably the definitive boxing movie and one of the most stunningly visceral films ever made, Martin Scorsese’s lacerating vision of self-destructive machismo stars an Academy Award–winning Robert De Niro in an intensely physical, career-best performance as Jake LaMotta, a fighter from the Bronx whose deep-seated anger and insecurities erupt in violence both in and out of the ring. The stunning monochrome cinematography, kinetic editing by Thelma Schoonmaker, and memorable supporting performances from Joe Pesci and Cathy Moriarty come together in an operatic tour de force of bruising beauty.
Friday April 3
Double Feature: Deep, Dark Welles
The Stranger and The Lady from Shanghai
Once he had established a penchant for baroquely stylized compositions and striking chiaroscuro in Citizen Kane and The Magnificent Ambersons, it was only natural that Orson Welles should prove a master of film noir. The Stranger, his first foray into the genre (and only box-office success), suggests hidden menaces lurking beneath the veneer of all-American normalcy via the story of an infamous Nazi hiding undercover in a sleepy Connecticut town. A year later, Welles stepped into the shadows once again with The Lady from Shanghai, a fascinatingly fractured, visually dazzling puzzle box of a film that has been read as a deeply personal commentary on his own crumbling marriage to costar Rita Hayworth.
Saturday April 4
Saturday Matinee: Captains Courageous
Based on a novel by Rudyard Kipling, this beloved high-seas adventure stars Freddie Bartholomew as a young, spoiled-rotten brat who falls overboard an ocean liner and is rescued by passing fishermen Manuel (Spencer Tracy, in an Oscar-winning performance). Rather than return the boy home, Manuel and the crew whisk him along for an epic voyage full of excitement, danger, and hard-won life lessons. Directed by preeminent MGM craftsman Victor Fleming and featuring an all-star cast that includes Lionel Barrymore, Melvyn Douglas, Mickey Rooney, and John Carradine, Captains Courageous delivers white-knuckle thrills alongside a heartfelt coming-of-age tale.
Sunday April 5
’70s Style Icons
The full list of titles in the collection include:
Monday April 6
World Cinema Project: Pixote
Featuring a new introduction by filmmaker Mira Nair. With its bracing blend of unflinching realism and aching humanity, Héctor Babenco’s electrifying look at lost youth fighting to survive on the bottom rung of Brazilian society helped put the country’s cinema on the international map. Shot with documentary-like immediacy on the streets of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, Pixote follows the eponymous preteen runaway (the heartbreaking Fernando Ramos da Silva, whose own too-short life tragically mirrored that of his character) as he escapes a nightmarish juvenile detention center only to descend into a life of increasingly violent crime alongside a makeshift family of fellow outcasts. Balancing its shocking brutality with moments of tenderness, this stunning journey through Brazil’s underworld is an unforgettable cry from the lower depths that has influenced multiple generations of filmmakers, including Spike Lee, Harmony Korine, and the Safdie brothers.
Tuesday April 7
Short + Feature: Human Tides
8th Continent and Fire at Sea
These haunting, poetic meditations on the European refugee crisis speak eloquently and urgently to the harrowing human cost of a global tragedy. In Yorgos Zois’s eerily evocative short 8th Continent, the filmmaker’s camera silently surveys a desolate dump on the Greek island of Lesbos strewn with thousands of life jackets that have washed ashore—an almost otherworldly landscape that conveys more than words ever could. Then, on the Sicilian island of Lampedusa, director Gianfranco Rosi documents the quotidian rituals of life in a place where everyday reality unfolds against the backdrop of a mounting humanitarian disaster in his shattering documentary Fire at Sea.
Wednesday April 8
Featuring an introduction by film scholars Farran Smith Nehme and Imogen Sara Smith. One year ago, the Criterion Channel launched with a journey into the dark side of the Columbia Pictures catalog, and we’re pleased to bring it back with an expanded lineup of classic noir deep cuts. While rival studios like MGM and Paramount lavished money and top-tier production values on splashy musicals and prestige literary adaptations, the notoriously budget-conscious Columbia was right at home in the gritty, slightly disreputable world of film noir. The Columbia lot was where auteurs like Fritz Lang, Nicholas Ray, and Orson Welles realized pulp-poetry perfection in masterpieces like The Big Heat, In a Lonely Place, and The Lady from Shanghai. It was also where resourceful genre specialists could overcome budgetary constraints through sinister, stylized atmosphere and directorial vision in killer Bs like the gothic mystery My Name Is Julia Ross, the minimalist-cool hitman thriller Murder by Contract, and the lurid taboo-buster The Crimson Kimono. Starring genre icons like Humphrey Bogart, Rita Hayworth, Gloria Grahame, and Glenn Ford, these shadowy gems epitomize the hard-boiled essence of noir.
The full list of titles in the collection includes:
Wednesday April 8
I Am Not a Witch
Featuring Listen, a 2014 short film co-directed by Rungano Nyoni. The acclaimed debut feature from Rungano Nyoni is a daring, sharply satiric feminist fairy tale set in present-day Zambia. When nine-year-old orphan Shula (Margaret Mulubwa) is accused of witchcraft, she is exiled to a witch camp run by a corrupt and inept government official. Tied to the ground and told that she will turn into a goat if she tries to escape, Shula becomes a star tourist attraction exploited by those around her for financial gain. Soon she is forced to make a difficult decision: resign herself to life at the camp, or risk everything for freedom. Winner of a BAFTA award for outstanding debut, I Am Not a Witch is a visually imaginative, socially incisive commentary on the clash between tradition and modernity from one of contemporary cinema’s most exciting new voices.
Thursday April 9
The Two of Us: Criterion Collection Edition #388
A young Jewish boy living in Nazi-occupied Paris is sent by his parents to the countryside to live with an elderly Catholic couple until France’s liberation. Forced to hide his identity, the eight-year-old, Claude (played delicately by first-time actor Alain Cohen), bonds with the irascible, staunchly anti-Semitic Grampa (Michel Simon), who improbably becomes his friend and confidant. Poignant and lighthearted, The Two of Us was acclaimed director Claude Berri’s debut feature, based on own childhood experiences, and gave the legendary Simon one of his most memorable roles in the twilight of his career. SUPPLEMENTAL FEATURES: Claude Berri’s Oscar-winning short Le poulet; interviews with Berri and stars Michel Simon and Alain Cohen; a 1975 French talk show featuring Berri and the woman who helped secure his family’s safety during World War II; and more.
Friday April 10
Double Feature: Dark Desires
Stranger by the Lake and Staying Vertical
One of contemporary French cinema’s most fearless and endlessly fascinating provocateurs, Alain Guiraudie had been realizing his spellbinding, boldly transgressive, and unapologetically queer visions for more than two decades when he came to mainstream attention with his mesmerizing erotic thriller Stranger by the Lake. Making no concessions to commercial success, his brilliantly outré follow-up, Staying Vertical, is a surreal, continuously surprising sexual odyssey that, like its predecessor, probes the dark side of human desire.
Saturday April 11
Saturday Matinee: Watership Down
With this passion project, screenwriter-producer-director Martin Rosen brilliantly achieved what had been thought nearly impossible: a faithful big-screen adaptation of Richard Adams’s classic British dystopian novel about a community of rabbits under terrible threat from modern forces. With its naturalistic hand-drawn animation, dreamily expressionistic touches, gorgeously bucolic background design, and elegant voice work from such superb English actors as John Hurt, Ralph Richardson, Richard Briers, and Denholm Elliott, Watership Down is an emotionally arresting, dark-toned allegory about freedom amid political turmoil.
Sunday April 12
Starring Gary Cooper
The full list of titles in the collection includes:
Monday April 13
Three by Otto Preminger
Renowned for his coolly objective style, daringly ambiguous moral complexity, and willingness to tackle taboo themes, classic Hollywood titan (or tyrant, to many of those who worked under him) Otto Preminger pushed the boundaries of the Production Code to create some of the most sophisticated and provocative films of the studio era. This selection of three of his finest—the luxuriantly bittersweet melodrama Bonjour tristesse, the gripping James Stewart crime procedural Anatomy of a Murder, and the menacing existential mystery Bunny Lake Is Missing—showcases both his range and the singular, relentlessly probing sensibility that unifies his work.
Bonjour tristesse, 1958
Tuesday April 14
Short + Feature: Blowups
Neighbours and Dr. Strangelove
Featuring an introduction by Criterion Channel programmer Penelope Bartlett. Norman McLaren and Stanley Kubrick take aim at the appalling carnage of the twentieth century in these visually inspired satires. McLaren’s riotously inventive, Oscar-winning short Neighbours combines live-action photography and stop-motion animation to illustrate the mindlessness of war through the story of two neighbors who come to blows over a flower growing between their houses. Pablo Picasso, no doubt smitten with McLaren’s ingenious technique as well as the urgency of his message, called it the greatest film ever made. Kubrick’s deadly black comedy Dr. Strangelove, starring an iconic Peter Sellers in three roles, tracks a group of military goons, bureaucrats, and politicians hurtling headlong toward global annihilation, in a vision of nuclear politics as terrifying as it is hilarious.
Wednesday April 15
With an audio commentary featuring director Anna Rose Holmer, writer-producer Lisa Kierulff and writer-editor Saela Davis. Eleven-year-old tomboy Toni (a showstopping Royalty Hightower) is bewitched by the tight-knit dance team she sees practicing in the same Cincinnati gymnasium where she boxes. Enamored by the power and confidence of the strong community of girls, Toni spends less and less time boxing with her older brother, and instead eagerly absorbs the dance routines and masters drills from a distance, even piercing her own ears in an effort to fit in. But when a mysterious outbreak of fainting spells plagues the team, Toni’s desire for acceptance becomes more complicated. A wash of stunningly visceral images set to a mesmerizing score, the tour-de-force feature debut from Anna Rose Holmer is a transfixing sensory experience and a potent portrait of adolescent turmoil.
Thursday April 16
45 Years: Criterion Collection Edition #861
In this exquisitely calibrated film, Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay perform a subtly off-kilter pas de deux as Kate and Geoff, an English couple who, on the eve of an anniversary celebration, find their long marriage shaken by the arrival of a letter to Geoff that unceremoniously collapses his past into their shared present. Director Andrew Haigh carries the tradition of British realist cinema to artful new heights in 45 Years, weaving the momentous into the mundane as the pair go about their daily lives, while the evocatively flat, wintry Norfolk landscape frames their struggle to maintain an increasingly untenable status quo. Loosely adapting a short story by David Constantine, Haigh shifts the focus from the slightly erratic Geoff to Kate, eliciting a remarkable, nuanced portrayal by Rampling of a woman’s gradual metamorphosis from unflappable wife to woman undone. SUPPLEMENTAL FEATURES: An audio commentary featuring Haigh and producer Tristan Goligher; a making-of documentary featuring interviews with the cast and crew; and more.
Friday April 17
Double Feature: Great Heavens!
Here Comes Mr. Jordan and Down to Earth
One of the most marvelously inventive comedies of the 1940s, the irresistible romantic fantasy Here Comes Mr. Jordan stars Robert Montgomery as a boxer who, when he is mistakenly sent to heaven before his time, is given a second chance on Earth—with a catch. Its enduring popularity spawned multiple remakes (including the 1978 Warren Beatty vehicle Heaven Can Wait) as well as the delightfully escapist musical pseudosequel Down to Earth, starring Rita Hayworth at her most divine as a Greek muse who descends to Earth and charms her way onto the Broadway stage. It, in turn, inspired its own remake decades later: the infamous cult favorite Xanadu.
Saturday April 18
Saturday Matinee: Little Lord Fauntleroy
The definitive screen adaptation of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s classic, oft-filmed rags-to-riches tale follows the fortunes of the young Ceddie (the delightful Freddie Bartholomew), a precocious boy being raised by his single mother (Delores Costello) in late-nineteenth-century Brooklyn. When he discovers that he is the heir of a British earl and is sent to England to live with his aristocratic grandfather (C. Aubrey Smith)—who despises the boy’s common mother—Ceddie must win over the old man in order to unite his family. Produced with characteristic meticulousness by the legendary David O. Selznick and costarring a young Mickey Rooney, Little Lord Fauntleroy is a heartwarming childhood fantasy.
Sunday April 19
Directed by Maurice Pialat
“What I mean by realism goes beyond reality,” declared French master Maurice Pialat, whose at once raw and rigorous films capture all the intensity, vivid humanity, brutality, and tenderness of life itself. Though he was a contemporary of the nouvelle vague, Pialat stood apart from the movement, pursuing an uncompromising personal vision that had more in common with his artistic forebear Jean Renoir. In masterpieces like We Won’t Grow Old Together, The Mouth Agape, À nos amours, and Van Gogh, Pialat refined a hard-hitting, elliptical style in which searing emotional realism and cutting human truth are prized above all else. Though he may not be as well known internationally as many of his contemporaries, Pialat’s cinema has had an incalculable effect on a generation of post-New Wave directors like Catherine Breillat, Leos Carax, Philippe Garrel, and Arnaud Desplechin, who has said, “The filmmaker whose influence has been the strongest and most constant on the young French cinema isn’t Jean-Luc Godard but Maurice Pialat.”
The full list of films in the collection includes:
Monday April 20
Salesman: Criterion Collection Edition #122
This radically influential portrait of American dreams and disillusionment from Direct Cinema pioneers David Maysles, Albert Maysles, and Charlotte Zwerin captures, with indelible humanity, the worlds of four dogged door-to-door Bible salesmen as they travel from Boston to Florida on a seemingly futile quest to sell luxury editions of the Good Book to working-class Catholics. A vivid evocation of midcentury malaise that unfolds against a backdrop of cheap motels, smoky diners, and suburban living rooms, Salesman assumes poignant dimensions as it uncovers the way its subjects’ fast-talking bravado masks frustration, disappointment, and despair. Revolutionizing the art of nonfiction storytelling with its nonjudgmental, observational style, this landmark documentary is one of the most penetrating films ever made about how deeply embedded consumerism is in America’s sense of its own values. SUPPLEMENTAL FEATURES: An audio commentary by the directors, a 1968 television interview with David and Albert Maysles, and more.
Tuesday April 21
Short + Feature: Hair Pieces
The Short and Curlies and Shampoo
From blue-collar Britain to jet-set Beverly Hills, hair salons provide the colorful backdrops to these trenchantly funny social studies. Mike Leigh’s dryly hilarious early short The Short and Curlies—featuring his regular collaborators Alison Steadman and David Thewlis—offers a window into everyday life in Thatcher-era England as it teases out the relationships between a garrulous hairdresser, her sullen teenage daughter, and a regular client with a new ’do for every day of the week. Then, Hal Ashby crafts a wickedly satirical take on late-sixties sexual politics in his zeitgeist-defining Shampoo, starring Warren Beatty as a swinging Hollywood hair stylist who offers his clients more than just a trim.
Wednesday April 22
Mikey and Nicky: Criterion Collection Edition #957
Elaine May crafted a gangster film like no other in the nocturnal odyssey Mikey and Nicky, capitalizing on the chemistry between frequent collaborators John Cassavetes and Peter Falk by casting them together as small-time mobsters whose lifelong relationship has turned sour. Set over the course of one night, this restless drama finds Nicky (Cassavetes) holed up in a hotel after the boss he stole money from puts a hit out on him. Terrified, he calls on Mikey (Falk), the one person he thinks can save him. Scripted to match the live-wire energy of its stars—alongside supporting players Ned Beatty, Joyce Van Patten, and Carol Grace—and inspired by real-life characters from May’s own childhood, this unbridled portrait of male friendship turned tragic is an unsung masterpiece of American cinema. SUPPLEMENTAL FEATURES: A program on the making oft he film, interviews with critics Richard Brody and Carrie Rickey, and more.
Thursday April 23
Early Douglas Sirk
Before he became known as the king of the subversive, lavishly overwrought 1950s melodrama, German émigré director Douglas Sirk made his mark in Hollywood with a string of historical dramas, film noirs, comedies, and musicals. Displaying his sophistication, cutting intelligence, and visual flair, these unsung 1940s works—the sparkling caper A Scandal in Paris, the offbeat show-business satire Slightly French, and the perversely fascinating noirs Lured and Shockproof—paint a fuller picture of one of the studio era’s most intriguing and endlessly analyzed auteurs.
A Scandal in Paris, 1946
Friday April 24
Double Feature: C’est Seberg
Bonjour tristesse and Breathless
Otto Preminger’s sublimely melancholic masterpiece Bonjour tristesse is built around the arresting, one-of-a-kind screen presence of Jean Seberg, who brings a startling freshness and piercing emotional honesty to her portrayal of a possessive, hedonistic teenager determined to keep her playboy father to herself while on a doomed idyll on the French Riviera. According to Jean-Luc Godard, who cast Seberg opposite Jean-Paul Belmondo in his French New Wave landmark Breathless, the character she plays in his film was conceived as a continuation of her role in Bonjour tristesse. As Godard himself put it, “I could have taken the last shot of Preminger’s film and started after dissolving to a title: ‘Three years later.’”
Saturday April 25
Saturday Matinee: Paper Moon
Peter Bogdanovich revisits the lyrical strain of bittersweet nostalgia he tapped into in The Last Picture Show in this 1930s-set comedy about the unlikely partnership that develops between a smooth-talking Kansas con man (Ryan O’Neal) and a young girl (Tatum O’Neal) who may or may not be his daughter. The evocative monochrome cinematography by László Kovács and scene-stealing performance by Tatum O’Neal—who became the youngest person ever to win an Academy Award for her memorable turn opposite her real-life father—are among the pleasures of this sweetly unsentimental slice of dust-bowl Americana.
Sunday April 26
Starring Jean Arthur
Though she came up through the silent era, Jean Arthur was truly made for talkies. With her wonderfully expressive voice, offbeat delivery, and impeccable comic timing, she quickly emerged as one of the greatest stars of the screwball genre and a particular favorite of director Frank Capra, who cast her as the plucky working-girl heroines of his classics Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, You Can’t Take It with You, and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. Throughout the late 1930s and early ’40s, Arthur delivered memorable performances in comedies and dramas alike for top directors like Frank Borzage (History Is Made at Night), Howard Hawks (Only Angels Have Wings), and George Stevens (The More the Merrier) before abruptly retiring in 1944, after which she made only a handful of screen appearances. A famously private figure who shunned the spotlight throughout her career, Arthur endures as one of the most beloved and enigmatic personalities of Hollywood’s Golden Age, a singular star whose eccentric charm was the very essence of screwball.
The full list of titles in the collection includes:
Monday April 27
Observations on Film Art No. 36: Musical Motifs in The Battle of Algiers
Ennio Morricone is perhaps the preeminent film composer of the last half century, an enormously influential artist whose iconic melodies and imaginative orchestrations grace some of the greatest films ever made. In this edition of Observations on Film Art, Professor Jeff Smith analyzes Morricone’s masterful score for Gillo Pontecorvo’s revolutionary bombshell The Battle of Algiers, an explosive portrait of the Algerian struggle for independence from France. Exploring Morricone’s use of two distinct themes—one representing the French fighters, the other the Algerian resistance—Smith illuminates how the latter’s perpetually unresolved harmonics come to mirror the unending nature of the war itself.
Tuesday April 28
Short + Feature: Lost Highways
The Strange Ones and Paris, Texas
Lost souls embark on haunting journeys through the run-down motels and blinking neon of middle-American mythology in these evocative reimaginings of the classic road movie. Lauren Wolkstein and Christopher Radcliff’s acclaimed short The Strange Ones follows two brothers—or are they?—on a mysterious trek that only grows more enigmatic and unsettling with each twist and turn. It sets the mood for Wim Wenders’ Palme d’Or–winning contemporary western Paris, Texas, in which a mute drifter’s odyssey in search of his estranged wife becomes a sublime meditation on the very idea of America.
Wednesday April 29
The first feature film shot entirely in Saudi Arabia and the first made by a female Saudi director, Haifaa al-Mansour’s landmark narrative debut is a work of defiant humanism. Channeling the spirit of Italian neorealism, Wadjda follows the coming-of-age journey of a ten-year-old girl (Waad Mohammed) as she mounts a subtle rebellion against the social forces that constrain women, testing—and at times bumping up against—the limits of her freedom in a quest to obtain a bicycle. Balancing clear-eyed realism with an uplifting message of hope, Al-Mansour crafts a bittersweet, ultimately empowering vision of resistance in a patriarchal world.
Thursday April 30
Three by Jafar Panahi
The brilliant, fearless Iranian auteur Jafar Panahi has been under house arrest and banned from filmmaking since 2010 on the grounds of political dissent, but that has not stopped him from producing some of the most vital, urgent, and slyly perceptive works of the last decade. Shot under clandestine circumstances—and, in the case of This Is Not a Film, almost entirely in the director’s own apartment—these three films are by turns witty and cuttingly incisive commentaries on contemporary Iranian society that speak to the defiance and persistence of a courageous artist who has refused to be silenced.