If the Thanksgiving break still has you in a gluttonous mood, head to the Criterion Channel on FilmStruck this weekend and indulge in one of the ultimate food films. Gabriel Axel’s Oscar-winning Babette’s Feast adapts a lovingly layered tale by Isak Dinesen, showing what happens when a mysterious French housekeeper brings quiet revolution in the form of one exquisite meal to a circle of starkly pious villagers. Set in nineteenth-century Denmark, this cinematic feast combines earthiness and reverence in an indescribably moving depiction of sensual pleasure that goes to your head like fine champagne. Watch it in its complete edition on the Channel, with interviews, a 1995 documentary about Dinesen, a visual essay by filmmaker Michael Almereyda, and more.
Also up this week: a double dose of vampiric gems, a meditative look at mortality from multimedia artist Laurie Anderson, a conversation with Oscar winner Barry Jenkins, and a journey through the seedy world of 1980s New York.
Tuesday’s Short + Feature: The Vampire and Nosferatu
The vampire as we know it is unimaginable without F. W. Murnau’s groundbreaking horror film, an unauthorized adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula that brought the creature to the screen with the wildly expressive powers of German expressionism. Jean Painlevé, France’s brilliant scientist of the surreal, spotted the kinship between this iconic monster and the Brazilian vampire bat. His short The Vampire, soundtracked by Duke Ellington, explores this nocturnal creature’s feeding rituals, making for an unusually spooky entry in the filmmaker’s series of imaginative wildlife portraits.
Heart of a Dog: Criterion Collection Edition #846
Multimedia artist Laurie Anderson meditates on death and other forms of absence in her first feature in thirty years. This haunting essay film seamlessly weaves together thoughts on Tibetan Buddhism, reincarnation, the modern surveillance state, and the artistic lives of dogs, with an elegy for the filmmaker’s beloved rat terrier, Lolabelle, at its heart. Narrated by Anderson with her characteristic wry wit, and featuring a plaintive, free-form score by the filmmaker, the tender and provocative Heart of a Dog continues Anderson’s four-and-a-half-decade career of imbuing the everyday with a sense of dreamlike wonder. SUPPLEMENTAL FEATURES: a conversation between Anderson and coproducer Jake Perlin; footage of Anderson’s 2016 Concert for Dogs; deleted scenes; Lolabelle’s video Christmas card; and a trailer.
Adventures in Moviegoing with Barry Jenkins
The director of Moonlight, the exquisite coming-of-age drama that took home this year’s best picture Oscar, recounts some of his own formative experiences as a cinephile in this month’s episode of our guest programmer series Adventures in Moviegoing. In conversation with Criterion’s Peter Becker, Jenkins talks about how he fell in love with the art of storytelling, his “rude awakening” at film school, and his experience programming at the Telluride Film Festival. To go alongside the interview, Jenkins has also curated a selection of personal favorites, an eclectic group of films that includes Krzysztof Kieślowski’s Three Colors trilogy (1993–94), Lucrecia Martel’s La Ciénega (2001), and a number of titles by indie trailblazer John Cassavetes. Watch a clip from the episode here.
Friday Night Double Feature: Smithereens and Permanent Vacation
These idiosyncratic first features capture a hardscrabble New York at the dawn of the eighties, tagging along with protagonists who are struggling to find a foothold in the city that never sleeps. A drifter confronts his own state of estrangement, and a number of distinctive characters besides, in Jim Jarmusch’s characteristically droll Permanent Vacation (1980); a striver tries in vain to make a name for herself in the punk scene in Susan Seidelman’s blistering breakout Smithereens (1982).