"The movie business is macabre. Grotesque.
It is a combination of a football game
and a brothel."
-- Federico Fellini
Jan 072018
Includes Adventures in Moviegoing with Mary Karr: No Country for Old Men,
a double bill of Cat People and Curse of the Cat People,
and Orson Welles’s Mr. Arkadin!
Monday, January 1
Anatomy of a Murder*: Edition #600

A virtuoso James Stewart plays a small-town Michigan lawyer who takes on a difficult case: the defense of a young army lieutenant (Ben Gazzara) accused of murdering a local tavern owner who he believes raped his wife (Lee Remick). Featuring an outstanding supporting cast-with a young George C. Scott as a fiery prosecutor and the legendary attorney Joseph N. Welch as the judge – and an influential score by Duke Ellington, this gripping envelope-pusher was groundbreaking for the frankness of its discussion of sex. But more than anything else, it is a striking depiction of the power of words. SUPPLEMENTAL FEATURES: an interview with Otto Preminger biographer Foster Hirsch; critic Gary Giddins explores Duke Ellington’s score in a new interview; a look at the relationship between graphic designer Saul Bass and Preminger with Bass biographer Pat Kirkham; and more.
*Premiering on the Channel this month.
Monday, January 1
Adventures in Moviegoing with Mary Karr: No Country for Old Men*

Earlier this year, award-winning memoirist and poet Mary Karr joined Rome Film Festival artistic director Antonio Monda to talk about her personal journey through cinema. Among the favorite films she discussed was Joel and Ethan Coen’s 2007 Cormac McCarthy adaptation No Country for Old Men, which we’re bringing to the Channel this month for a limited engagement, along with a new introduction by Karr. In this bloody, moody neowestern set in rural Texas, Javier Bardem delivers an Oscar-winning performance as a psychopathic hit man on the trail of a Vietnam veteran who has taken a stash of two million dollars from a crime scene.
*Premiering on the Channel this month.
Tuesday, January 2
Tuesday’s Short + Feature: An Exercise in Discipline: Peel and Sweetie

Early in her career, Jane Campion brought a visually audacious style to the exploration of volatile family dynamics. Her Palme d’Or-winning short film An Exercise in Discipline: Peel (1982) finds a brother and sister at each other’s throats on an afternoon excursion, with a disobedient child in tow. Campion continued her collaboration with cinematographer Sally Bongers for her first feature, Sweetie (1989), an idiosyncratic look at two very different sisters – the buttoned-down, superstitious Kay and the rampaging, devil-may-care Sweetie – and their profoundly messed-up family.
Wednesday, January 3
To Be or Not to Be: Edition #670

As nervy as it is hilarious, this screwball masterpiece from Ernst Lubitsch stars Jack Benny and, in her final screen appearance, Carole Lombard as husband-and-wife thespians in Nazi-occupied Warsaw who become caught up in a dangerous spy plot. To Be or Not to Be (1942) is a Hollywood film of the boldest black humor, which went into production soon after the U.S. entered World War II. Lubitsch manages to brilliantly balance political satire, romance, slapstick, and urgent wartime suspense in a comic high-wire act that has never been equaled. SUPPLEMENTAL FEATURES: an audio commentary featuring film historian David Kalat; Pinkus’s Shoe Palace, a 1916 German silent short directed by and starring Ernst Lubitsch, with a new piano score by Donald Sosin; and more.
Friday, January 5
Friday Night Double Feature: I’m All Right Jack and The Organizer

Comedic filmmakers take to the picket lines in this double feature, wringing humor and pathos from the struggles of organized labor. I’m All Right Jack (1959) is perhaps the most scathing satire by Brit-comedy legends the Boulting brothers (director John and producer Roy), taking aim at such fixtures of English industry as the upper-crust twit, the scheming capitalist, the idle worker, and-memorably embodied here by Peter Sellers – the Lenin-loving trade unionist. Mario Monicelli, pioneer of commedia all’italiana, takes a more populist approach in The Organizer (1963), a historical drama set in Turin at the end of the nineteenth century. Marcello Mastroianni dims his usual glamour and widens his expressive range to play an itinerant professor and activist who guides a textile factory’s exploited workers through their first full-scale strike, in this clear-eyed ode to the power of the people.
Monday, January 8
Cinéastes de Notre Temps: Robert Bresson

Legendary French filmmaker Robert Bresson gave his first on-camera interview well into his career for Robert Bresson: Without a Trace, a 1965 episode of the French television series Cinéastes de notre temps, filmed during the production of Au hasard Balthazar. In a wide-ranging conversation with Cahiers du cinéma critic François Weyergans, Bresson sheds light on his personal philosophy of filmmaking – and his fondness for Goldfinger. Other episodes of Cinéastes on the Channel include profiles of John Cassavetes and Max Ophuls.
Tuesday, January 9
Tuesday’s Short + Feature: Uncle Yanco and Together*

Two warm, colorful portraits of life in the counterculture: in Agnès Varda’s short documentary Uncle Yanco (1967), the first of several freewheeling films she made in California, the French New Wave doyenne meets, for the first time, an eccentric relative who lives on a houseboat in Sausalito; in the bittersweet and lived-in comedy Together (2000), Swedish director Lukas Moodysson sets up camp amid a particularly dysfunctional Stockholm commune in the 1970s.
*Premiering on the Channel this month.
Wednesday, January 10
The Complete Mr. Arkadin*: Edition #322

Orson Welles’s Mr. Arkadin (a.k.a. Confidential Report) tells the story of an elusive billionaire who hires an American smuggler to investigate his past, leading to a dizzying descent into a cold-war European landscape. The film’s history is also marked by this vertigo. There are at least eight Mr. Arkadins: three radio plays, a novel, several long-lost cuts, and the controversial European release known as Confidential Report. This landmark edition gathers all of these elements, at last unraveling one of cinema’s great mysteries. SUPPLEMENTAL FEATURES: three half-hour episodes of the radio program The Lives of Harry Lime, upon which the film is based, and an interview with producer Harry Alan Towers; an interview with Welles biographer Simon Callow, featuring his audio interview with star Robert Arden; and more.
*Premiering on the Channel this month.
Friday, January 12
Friday Night Double Feature: Gimme Shelter and This Is Spinal Tap

One of the all-time great rock documentaries takes the stage alongside the quintessential rock mockumentary. Albert and David Maysles’s Direct Cinema landmark Gimme Shelter (1970) captures the Rolling Stones near the end of their 1969 U.S. tour, at a free outdoor concert in San Francisco that suddenly turned violent. Rob Reiner’s uproarious This Is Spinal Tap (1984) tags along with a much more hapless band on the road (brought to life by Christopher Guest, Michael McKean, and Harry Shearer), all the while skewering the excesses and absurdities of heavy metal.
Saturday, January 13
Split Screen Season Ten

A priceless time capsule of movie-loving culture at the turn of the millennium, John Pierson’s groundbreaking series Split Screen premiered on IFC twenty years ago. Over the past several months, we’ve been celebrating the show’s anniversary, and now we’ve finally reached its tenth and final season. Among the highlights: a quest to unearth a long-buried Cecil B. DeMille set, and a trip to a remote Fijian cinema that would go on to inspire Steve James’s 2005 documentary Reel Paradise.
*Premiering on the Channel this month.
Tuesday, January 16
Tuesday’s Short + Feature: Yours Faithfully Edna Welthorpe (Mrs)* and Prick Up Your Ears

English playwright Joe Orton made his mark on modern theater with a string of brilliantly subversive and shocking black comedies. This program shines a spotlight on his life. Chris Shepherd’s playful animated short Yours Faithfully Edna Welthorpe (Mrs) (2017) marks the fiftieth anniversary of the writer’s death by bringing to life a pseudonym he used in a series of hilarious prank letters, and Stephen Frears’s biopic Prick Up Your Ears (1987) dramatizes the tragic romance Orton (Gary Oldman) shared with his mentor, Kenneth Halliwell (Alfred Molina).
*Premiering on the Channel this month.
Wednesday, January 17
The Piano Teacher: Edition #894

In this riveting study of the dynamics of control, Academy Award-winning director Michael Haneke takes on Nobel laureate Elfriede Jelinek’s controversial 1983 novel about perverse female sexuality and the world of classical music. Haneke finds his match in Isabelle Huppert, who delivers an icy but quietly seething performance as Erika, a piano professor at a Viennese conservatory who lives with her mother in a claustrophobically codepen­dent relation­ship. Severely repressed, she satisfies her mas­ochistic urges only voyeuristically until she meets Walter (Benoît Magimel), a student whose desire for Erika leads to a destructive infatuation that upsets the careful equilibrium of her life. A critical breakthrough for Haneke, The Piano Teacher – which won the Grand Prix as well as dual acting awards for its stars at Cannes – is a formalist masterwork that remains a shocking sensation. SUPPLEMENTAL FEATURES: interviews with Haneke and Huppert, a selected-scene commentary, and more.
Thursday, January 18
The Lure*: Edition #896

This genre-defying horror-musical mash-up – the bold debut of Polish director Agnieszka Smoczyńska – follows a pair of carnivorous mermaid sisters drawn ashore to explore life on land in an alternate 1980s Poland. Their tantalizing siren songs and otherworldly auras make them overnight sensations as nightclub singers in the half-glam, half-decrepit world of Smoczyńska’s imagining. The director gives fierce teeth to her viscerally sensual, darkly feminist twist on Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Little Mermaid,” in which the girls’ bond is tested and their survival threatened after one sister falls for a human. A coming-of-age fairy tale with a catchy synth-fueled soundtrack, outrageous song-and-dance numbers, and lavishly grimy sets, The Lure explores its themes of emerging female sexuality, exploitation, and the compromises of adulthood with savage energy and originality. SUPPLEMENTAL FEATURES: a program about the making of the film, deleted scenes; Aria Diva (2007) and Viva Maria! (2010), two short films by Smoczyńska; and more.
Friday, January 19
Friday Night Double Feature: Cat People and The Curse of the Cat People

During his remarkable run at RKO in the 1940s, producer Val Lewton created a new breed of creature feature, one that was all the more terrifying for what it left to the imagination. With Cat People (1942), director Jacques Tourneur used shadowy noir aesthetics to tell the tale of a woman (Simone Simon) cursed to turn into a fearsome feline every time she finds herself in the heat of passion. The film’s sequel, The Curse of the Cat People (1944), which marked Robert Wise’s first directing credit and also starred Simon and Kent Smith in the same roles, strays into fairy-tale territory by focusing on a lonely young girl’s fantasy life.
Tuesday, January 23
Tuesday’s Short + Feature: And the Whole Sky Fit in the Dead Cow’s Eye* and La Ciénaga

Take a trip into the intoxicating worlds of two female filmmakers from Latin America. In the 2016 short And the Whole Sky Fit in the Dead Cow’s Eye, which won the award for best international narrative short at Sundance, Francisca Alegria captures the life of an eighty-five year old woman who believes a ghost has come to take her to the afterlife. With the 2001 film La Ciénaga, Lucrecia Martel became one of contemporary cinema’s most exciting new voices. A work of tactile beauty and richly sensuous detail, the film observes how political and societal frustrations arise in the life of a bourgeois extended family.
*Premiering on the Channel this month.
Wednesday, January 24
Rififi: Edition #115

After making noir classics in America (Brute Force, The Naked City) and England (Night and the City), the blacklisted director Jules Dassin went to Paris and embarked on his masterpiece: a twisting, turning tale of four ex-cons who hatch one last glorious robbery in the City of Light. Rififi is the ultimate heist movie, a mélange of suspense, brutality, and dark humor that was an international hit, earned Dassin the best director prize at the Cannes Film Festival, and has proven wildly influential on the decades of heist thrillers that have come in its wake. SUPPLEMENTAL FEATURES: an interview with Dassin, a trailer, and more.
*Premiering on the Channel this month.
Friday, January 26
Friday Night Double Feature: I See a Dark Stranger and Black Narcissus

In the late 1940s, Deborah Kerr was on the cusp of international stardom. This double bill features two magnificent breakthrough performances from the decade, for which she won the 1947 best actress award from the New York Film Critics Circle. In Frank Launder’s seriocomic wartime thriller I See a Dark Stranger (1946), she plays a young Irish woman whose anti-British sentiment leads her down the path to becoming a Nazi spy. In Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s sumptuous Technicolor masterpiece Black Narcissus (1947), she stars as the Sister Superior of a group of Anglican nuns spiraling into madness in the Himalayas.
Monday, January 29
Observations on Film Art No. 15: Genre Play in The Player

Throughout his storied career, Robert Altman experimented with genre conventions, always finding new ways to put his idiosyncratic spin on everything from the western (McCabe & Mrs. Miller) to the detective film (The Long Goodbye). His 1992 Hollywood comeback, The Player, was no exception. A bitingly satirical crime drama that is also a film within a film, The Player centers on a Hollywood studio executive (Tim Robbins) who becomes the subject of a murder investigation. In this month’s episode of Observations on Film Art, a Channel-exclusive series that takes a look at how great filmmakers use cinematic devices and techniques, scholar Jeff Smith delves into the genre elements at play in Altman’s film and what they reveal about the director’s complex attitude toward commercial cinema.
Tuesday, January 30
Tuesday’s Short + Feature: (nostalgia) and Blow-Up

For this pairing, we’re zooming in on two films that investigate the unreliable nature of photography and the limits of perception. In Hollis Frampton’s 1976 short (nostalgia), artist Michael Snow narrates as a series of black-and-white photographs from early in Frampton’s career catch fire on a hot plate. The film’s final sequence has been interpreted as a retelling of Michelangelo Antonioni’s Blow-Up, a countercultural classic that brings the Italian auteur’s signature theme of existential anguish to swinging sixties London, where a photographer inadvertently captures a death on film.
*Premiering on the Channel this month.
Wednesday, January 31
His Girl Friday: Edition #849

One of the fastest, funniest, and most quotable films ever made, His Girl Friday stars Rosalind Russell as reporter Hildy Johnson, a standout among cinema’s powerful women. Hildy is matched in force only by her conniving but charismatic editor and ex-husband, Walter Burns (played by the peerless Cary Grant), who dangles the chance for her to scoop her fellow news writers with the story of an impending execution in order to keep her from hopping the train that’s supposed to take her to Albany and a new life as a housewife. When adapting Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur’s smash hit play The Front Page, director Howard Hawks had the inspired idea of turning star reporter Hildy Johnson into a woman, and the result is an immortal mix of hard-boiled newsroom setting with ebullient remarriage comedy. Also presented here is a restoration of the 1931 film The Front Page, Lewis Milestone’s famous pre-Code adaptation of the same material. SUPPLEMENTAL FEATURES: an interview with film scholar David Bordwell, archival interviews with Howard Hawks, and more.

Complete list of films premiering on the Criterion Channel this month:

January 1
Anatomy of a Murder, Otto Preminger, 1959
No Country for Old Men, Joel and Ethan Coen, 2007
January 9
Together, Lukas Moodysson, 2000
January 10
The Complete Mr. Arkadin, Orson Welles, 1955
January 16
Yours Faithfully Edna Welthorpe (Mrs), Chris Shepherd, 2017
January 18
January 23
And the Whole Sky Fit in the Dead Cow’s Eye, Francisca Alegria, 2016
 Posted by on January 7, 2018  Add comments

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