This week’s lineup on the Criterion Channel on FilmStruck is led by one of American cinema’s most intimate documentary portraits of an artist. Terry Zwigoff’s 1995 Crumb draws on the filmmaker’s long friendship with underground-comix legend Robert Crumb, delving into the eccentric illustrator’s controversial work—much of it charged with sexual and racial provocation—as well as his troubled family history. Tapping into the vein of offbeat alienation that Zwigoff would go on to explore in his fiction films (Ghost World, Art School Confidential), the movie streams on the Channel with the supplemental features from our edition, including two audio commentaries and more than fifty minutes of unused footage.
Also up this week: a pair of wickedly dark comedies, a landmark western by John Ford, a close examination of Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s inimitable aesthetic, and a Kon Ichikawa double bill.
Tuesday’s Short + Feature: Teeth and How to Get Ahead in Advertising
Richard E. Grant lets loose his sneering gift for menace and loathsomeness in these two black comedies. In the unnerving animated short that opens the program, he relates the story of a lifelong fascination with teeth—an obsession that leads to some bizarre experimentation. And in How to Get Ahead in Advertising, he reteams with director Bruce Robinson, with whom he made the 1986 cult sensation Withnail and I, for a caustic satire about an ad executive who develops an evil, talking boil on his shoulder.
Stagecoach: Criterion Collection Edition #516
A pioneering achievement that proved, once and for all, that the western genre was more than just B-movie territory, this tale of a group of strangers who go out west for a second chance on life marked two important milestones for John Ford: the beginning of his collaboration with John Wayne, as well as his first movie shot in Monument Valley, which would serve as the backdrop of many of the director’s subsequent films. SUPPLEMENTAL FEATURES: Bucking Broadway, an early silent directed by Ford; video pieces about the film’s style, its significance, and the story behind its making; an extensive 1968 video interview with Ford; and more.
Observations on Film Art No. 10: The Stripped-Down Style of Ali: Fear Eats the Soul
In our Channel-exclusive series Observations on Film Art, renowned scholars David Bordwell, Kristin Thompson, and Jeff Smith (the authors of Film Art: An Introduction) bring you bite-sized pieces of film school, detailing the nuts and bolts of the medium through the lens of history’s greatest auteurs. This month’s episode features Smith examining the distinctive style of Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s Ali: Fear Eats the Soul, a film whose spare compositional and blocking strategies brilliantly underscore its themes of social division. Watch an excerpt from the episode here.
Friday Night Double Feature: Odd Obsession and An Actor’s Revenge
Spotlighting the eclectic talent of Japanese master Kon Ichikawa, this week’s double bill features two of the director’s wildest tales: Odd Obsession (1959), which won a jury prize at Cannes as well as a foreign-film Golden Globe, is a pitch-black comedy about erectile dysfunction, manipulation, and homemade porn, starring Machiko Kyo (Ugetsu) and Tatsuya Nakadai (The Human Condition), while the stylish tour de force An Actor’s Revenge(1963) follows a kabuki performer as he seeks to avenge his parents’ death.