In the selections for this week’s festival of free Criterion films on Hulu, architecture plays as important a role as any character. In some cases, the cityscape is the only main character, as in Hiroshi Teshigahara’s Antonio Gaudí, a meditation on the Catalan architect, and Jacques Tati’s behemoth comedy Playtime, for which the visionary director built his own metropolis. In other featured films—such as Tati’s Mon oncle, Michelangelo Antonioni’s L’eclisse, Louis Malle’s Zazie dans le métro, Jules Dassin’s The Naked City, and Francesco Rosi’s Hands over the City—the urban environment plays more of a supporting role, providing elegant visual commentary on the small people swarming through its streets.
One of these films goes so far as to envision future cities: William Cameron Menzies’s Things to Come, based on the classic sci-fi book by H. G. Wells (who was an on-set adviser), takes place over the course of 100 years, in a war-ravaged, increasingly technocratic Britain. This Alexander Korda production—with remarkable art direction by Korda’s brother Vincent—was enormously costly, and though it didn’t make back its budget at the box office, today it’s considered a landmark of design. Watch it for free in its entirety below or at Hulu. And remember that for just $7.99 a month, you can sign up for Hulu Plus and see hundreds of other Criterion films, including many unavailable on DVD or Blu-ray.