Oscar-winning Hollywood icon Joan Crawford shows off the versatility of her inimitable persona in the two fan favorites we’ve paired as this week’s Friday Night Double Feature, now streaming on the Criterion Channel on FilmStruck. In Otto Preminger’s romantic melodrama Daisy Kenyon, she is restrained and vulnerable as an artist entangled in a fateful love triangle with a married man (Dana Andrews) and a widowed veteran (Henry Fonda). In the gripping noir Sudden Fear, she brings a feverish intensity to the role of an heiress-cum-playwright who becomes the victim of her scheming new husband (Jack Palance) and his suspicious ex-flame (Gloria Grahame).
Also up this week: a genre-straddling gem from the late Jonathan Demme, two animated oddities, one of the most successful music documentaries of the 1990s, and a landmark work of Italian neorealism.
Something Wild: Criterion Collection Edition #563
No film embodies the ebullient spirit of Jonathan Demme more than this cult hit, a showcase for the late director’s infectious sense of humor and brilliant use of music. This tonally intricate hybrid of comedy, romance, and action follows a mild-mannered yuppie (Jeff Daniels) as he takes a walk on the wild side with a free-spirited woman (Melanie Griffith) and her loose-cannon ex (an unforgettably menacing Ray Liotta, in a career-defining role). The soundtrack is packed with gems by New Order, Jimmy Cliff, and Fine Young Cannibals, and the Feelies can be seen in an on-screen appearance. SUPPLEMENTAL FEATURES: new video interviews with Demme and writer E. Max Frye, and the original theatrical trailer.
Tuesday’s Short + Feature: Six Men Getting Sick and Fantastic Planet
This double dose of head-spinning animation kicks off with the 1966 short that marked David Lynch’s leap from painting to filmmaking and continues with René Laloux’s sci-fi opus, a psychedelic allegory set on a planet where human beings are enslaved by blue giants. Winner of a special award at the 1973 Cannes Film Festival, Fantastic Planet is a one-of-a-kind voyage to another world, featuring striking cutout animation and a hallucinatory score by Alain Goraguer.
Buena Vista Social Club: Criterion Collection Edition #866
In this exuberant documentary, Wim Wenders followed an ensemble of legendary Cuban instrumentalists and vocalists brought together by Ry Cooder to introduce a long-dormant musical tradition to the world. Traveling from the streets of Havana to the stage of Carnegie Hall, Wenders’s hit film captures performances and conversations with these captivating musicians. SUPPLEMENTAL FEATURES: audio commentary with Wim Wenders; interviews with the director and performers Ibrahim Ferrer, Compay Segundo, Rubén González, Eliades Ochoa, and Omara Portuondo; and additional scenes.
Bicycle Thieves: Criterion Collection Edition #374
Vittorio De Sica’s Oscar-winning masterpiece is one of the ultimate touchstones of Italian neorealism, a movement that turned a compassionate gaze on the everyday struggles of real people. Set in postwar Rome, this classic of world cinema is both a powerful look at the toll of economic desperation and a deeply moving depiction of the relationship between a father and a son. SUPPLEMENTAL FEATURES: a program on the history of Italian neorealism; a 2003 documentary about screenwriter and longtime De Sica collaborator Cesare Zavattini; and a collection of interviews with screenwriter Suso Cecchi d’Amico, actor Enzo Staiola, and film scholar Callisto Cosulich.