Last year, award-winning memoirist and poet Mary Karr joined Rome Film Festival artistic director Antonio Monda to talk about her personal journey through cinema for our series Adventures in Moviegoing. Among the favorite films she discussed was Joel and Ethan Coen’s 2007 Cormac McCarthy adaptation No Country for Old Men, which we’ve brought to the Criterion Channel on FilmStruck this week for a limited engagement, along with a new introduction by Karr. In this bloody, moody neowestern set in rural Texas, Javier Bardem delivers an Oscar-winning performance as a psychopathic hit man on the trail of a Vietnam veteran who has taken a stash of two million dollars from a crime scene.
Also up this week: a riveting courtroom drama from Otto Preminger, two films by Jane Campion, one of the most daring Hollywood satires of all time, and a double bill that takes a look at organized labor.
Anatomy of a Murder: Edition #600
A virtuoso James Stewart plays a small-town Michigan lawyer who takes on a difficult case: the defense of a young army lieutenant (Ben Gazzara) accused of murdering a local tavern owner who he believes raped his wife (Lee Remick). Featuring an outstanding supporting cast—with a young George C. Scott as a fiery prosecutor and the legendary attorney Joseph N. Welch as the judge—and an influential score by Duke Ellington, this gripping envelope-pusher was groundbreaking for the frankness of its discussion of sex. But more than anything else, it is a striking depiction of the power of words. SUPPLEMENTAL FEATURES: an interview with Otto Preminger biographer Foster Hirsch; critic Gary Giddins explores Duke Ellington’s score in a new interview; a look at the relationship between graphic designer Saul Bass and Preminger with Bass biographer Pat Kirkham; and more.
Early in her career, Jane Campion brought a visually audacious style to the exploration of volatile family dynamics. Her Palme d’Or-winning short film An Exercise in Discipline: Peel (1982) finds a brother and sister at each other’s throats on an afternoon excursion, with a disobedient child in tow. Campion continued her collaboration with cinematographer Sally Bongers for her first feature, Sweetie (1989), an idiosyncratic look at two very different sisters—the buttoned-down, superstitious Kay and the rampaging, devil-may-care Sweetie—and their profoundly messed-up family.
As nervy as it is hilarious, this screwball masterpiece from Ernst Lubitsch stars Jack Benny and, in her final screen appearance, Carole Lombard as husband-and-wife thespians in Nazi-occupied Warsaw who become caught up in a dangerous spy plot. To Be or Not to Be (1942) is a Hollywood film of the boldest black humor, which went into production soon after the U.S. entered World War II. Lubitsch manages to brilliantly balance political satire, romance, slapstick, and urgent wartime suspense in a comic high-wire act that has never been equaled. SUPPLEMENTAL FEATURES: an audio commentary featuring film historian David Kalat; Pinkus’s Shoe Palace, a 1916 German silent short directed by and starring Ernst Lubitsch, with a new piano score by Donald Sosin; and more.
Comedic filmmakers take to the picket lines in this double feature, wringing humor and pathos from the struggles of organized labor. I’m All Right Jack (1959) is perhaps the most scathing satire by Brit-comedy legends the Boulting brothers (director John and producer Roy), taking aim at such fixtures of English industry as the upper-crust twit, the scheming capitalist, the idle worker, and-memorably embodied here by Peter Sellers—the Lenin-loving trade unionist. Mario Monicelli, pioneer of commedia all’italiana, takes a more populist approach in The Organizer (1963), a historical drama set in Turin at the end of the nineteenth century. Marcello Mastroianni dims his usual glamour and widens his expressive range to play an itinerant professor and activist who guides a textile factory’s exploited workers through their first full-scale strike, in this clear-eyed ode to the power of the people.