Marrying elements of classic genre filmmaking with his own individualistic flair and do-it-yourself attitude, the great French director Jean-Pierre Melville produced a body of work suffused with a quiet existential brooding. Today, celebrate his centennial on the Criterion Channel on FilmStruck, where you’ll find packed editions of five of his masterpieces: his feature debut, Le silence de la mer (Criterion Collection Edition #755), a quietly eloquent look at life during the Nazi occupation of France; the elegant crime thrillers Le cercle rouge (#218), Le samouraï (#306), and Le deuxième souffle (#448); and Les enfants terribles (#398), a collaboration with Jean Cocteau that delves into the wholly unholy relationship between a brother and sister.
Also up this week: Todd Solondz’s companion piece to his 1998 dark comedy Happiness, two Swedish films that explore the porousness of identity, a conversation with Oscar-nominated writer-director Philip Kaufman, and a double bill of crafty crime movies.
Life During Wartime: Criterion Collection Edition #574
With his customary dry humor and queasy precision, Todd Solondz explores contemporary American existence and the nature of forgiveness in this distorted mirror image of Happiness. That film’s emotionally stunted characters are now groping for the possibility of change in a post-9/11 world and, in a daring twist, are embodied by a different ensemble cast, including Shirley Henderson, Allison Janney, Ally Sheedy, and Ciarán Hinds. SUPPLEMENTAL FEATURES: a documentary featuring interviews with the cast and on-set footage, an interview with cinematographer Ed Lachman, and more.
Tuesday’s Short + Feature: Tord and Tord and Persona
The psychology of self steps to the fore in these two existential Swedish films. Niki Lindroth von Bahr’s clever animated fable Tord and Tord (2010) employs handsome stop motion and deadpan narration to tell the story of a fox who finds his individuality thrown into doubt by the arrival of a new rabbit neighbor with the same name. Ingmar Bergman’s masterpiece Persona (1966) depicts the turbulent relationship and merging identities of a troubled actress (Liv Ullmann) and her nurse (Bibi Andersson) during their stay on a remote island.
Adventures in Moviegoing with Philip Kaufman
In the latest episode of the Channel-exclusive series Adventures in Moviegoing, writer-director Philip Kaufman (The Right Stuff, The Unbearable Lightness of Being), one of the most accomplished and eclectic of all American filmmakers, reveals a cinephilic appetite as wide-ranging as his filmography. Among the memories he recounts: his childhood love for the eye-popping colors in Disney’s Bambi and Fantasia, and his later encounters with the works of American mavericks like Don Siegel, John Cassavetes, and Shirley Clarke. Alongside the interview (excerpted here), check out a selection of Kaufman’s favorites, including John Huston’s The Asphalt Jungle, Pietro Germi’s Divorce Italian Style, and François Truffaut’s Jules and Jim.
Friday Night Double Feature: Le samouraï and The Usual Suspects
Enigmatic outlaws take the spotlight in these two films, both of which feature iconic police-lineup scenes: a knockout sequence in the taut minimalist thriller Le samouraï follows Alain Delon’s contract killer as he attempts to elude identification; the tricky The Usual Suspects (1995), a neonoir featuring an Oscar-winning performance for the ages by Kevin Spacey, revolves around a team of criminals who meet when they're all hauled into the same New York precinct.