Before the runaway success of Girls, Lena Dunham emerged as a major talent thanks to the exceptionally sharp comedy Tiny Furniture, one of the featured editions on the Criterion Channel on FilmStruck this week. The then twenty-four-year-old writer-director-actor stars as Aura, a recent college graduate who returns to New York and moves back in with her mother and sister (played by the filmmaker’s real-life mother and sister). Though Aura is gripped by stasis and confusion about her future, Dunham locates endless sources of refreshing humor in her plight, delivering an authentic, incisive portrait of a young woman at a crossroads. Watch the film on the Channel now with a conversation between Dunham and Nora Ephron, an interview with writer-director Paul Schrader, four of Dunham’s short films, and her first feature, Creative Nonfiction.
Also up this week: an illuminating new program on basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and his lifelong love affair with the movies, Criterion editions of essential films by Jean-Luc Godard and Nicolas Roeg, and a tabloid-themed double bill.
Adventures in Moviegoing with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
The leading scorer in NBA history traces the development of his cinephilia in the latest episode of our ongoing series Adventures in Moviegoing. In conversation with Oscar-nominated writer-director Philip Kaufman (The Right Stuff), Abdul-Jabbar delves into his obsession with samurai movies, which began when he saw his first Zatoichi movie as an undergraduate at UCLA. Alongside the interview, watch a series of all-time favorites handpicked by Abdul-Jabbar, including John Ford’s Stagecoach, Akira Kurosawa’s Yojimbo, and Masaki Kobayashi’s Harakiri.
A Woman Is a Woman: Criterion Collection Edition #238
Compulsively innovative director Jean-Luc Godard presents “a neorealist musical—that is, a contradiction in terms.” Featuring French superstars Anna Karina, Jean-Paul Belmondo, and Jean-Claude Brialy at the peak of their popularity, this sly, playful tribute to—and interrogation of—the American musical comedy tells the story of an exotic dancer (Karina) who attempts to have a child with her unwilling lover (Brialy), and in the process finds herself torn between him and his best friend (Belmondo). A dizzying mix of color, humor, and the music of renowned composer Michel Legrand, A Woman Is a Woman showcases young Godard at his warmest and most accessible. SUPPLEMENTAL FEATURES: All the Boys Are Called Patrick, a 1957 short film by Godard with Jean-Claude Brialy, written by Eric Rohmer; excerpts from a 1966 French television interview with Karina, Brialy, and Serge Gainsbourg; the original trailer; and an audio promotional recording for the film.
Friday Night Double Feature: Tabloid and Scandal
Reporting back on the exploitative world of the tabloid press, these two films ferret out the truth behind sensational headlines. Errol Morris’s spirited documentary Tabloid (2010) acquaints viewers with the eccentric woman at the center of the Mormon-sex-in-chains case, a story that lit up British papers in the seventies. Akira Kurosawa’s gripping courtroom drama Scandal (1950), starring Toshiro Mifune, follows a painter who files suit against a magazine for falsely reporting that he’s having an affair.
Insignificance: Criterion Collection Edition #566
Four unnamed people who look and sound a lot like Albert Einstein, Marilyn Monroe, Joe DiMaggio, and Joseph McCarthy converge in one New York City hotel room in this visually inventive adaptation of Terry Johnson’s play. With the help of magnetic performances by Michael Emil, Theresa Russell, Gary Busey, and Tony Curtis, director Nicolas Roeg creates a fun-house-mirror image of fifties America in order to reflect on the nature of celebrity and lingering cold-war nuclear nightmares. SUPPLEMENTAL FEATURES: video interviews with Roeg, producer Jeremy Thomas, and editor Tony Lawson; a short documentary shot on the set of the film; and the original theatrical trailer.