This Week on the Criterion Channel

Inside Criterion / On the Channel — Jan 19, 2018

A pair of carnivorous mermaid sisters are drawn ashore to explore life on land in the genre-defying horror-musical mash-up The Lure, now streaming in its complete edition on the Criterion Channel on FilmStruck. Set in an alternate 1980s Poland, this bold debut feature from director Agnieszka Smoczyńska follows its heroines as their tantalizing siren songs and otherworldly auras make them overnight sensations at a nightclub in a half-glam, half-decrepit world. A coming-of-age fairy tale with a catchy synth-fueled soundtrack, outrageous song-and-dance numbers, and lavishly grimy sets, The Lure explores its themes of emerging female sexuality, exploitation, and the compromises of adulthood with savage energy and originality. Special features in this edition include a program about the making of the film, deleted scenes, and two short films by Smoczyńska.

Also up this week: a spotlight on British playwright Joe Orton, a harrowing exploration of masochism and desire from Michael Haneke, and a creature-feature double bill.

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Tuesday’s Short + Feature: Yours Faithfully Edna Welthorpe (Mrs) and Prick Up Your Ears

English playwright Joe Orton made his mark on modern theater with a string of brilliantly subversive and shocking black comedies. This program shines a light on his life. Chris Shepherd’s playful animated short Yours Faithfully Edna Welthorpe (Mrs) (2017) marks the fiftieth anniversary of the writer’s death by bringing to life a pseudonym he used in a series of hilarious prank letters, and Stephen Frears’s biopic Prick Up Your Ears (1987) dramatizes the tragic romance Orton (Gary Oldman) shared with his mentor, Kenneth Halliwell (Alfred Molina).

The Piano Teacher: Edition #894

In this riveting study of the dynamics of control, Academy Award–winning director Michael Haneke takes on Nobel laureate Elfriede Jelinek’s controversial 1983 novel about perverse female sexuality and the world of classical music. Haneke finds his match in Isabelle Huppert, who delivers an icy but quietly seething performance as Erika, a piano professor at a Viennese conservatory who lives with her mother in a claustrophobically codepen­dent relation­ship. Severely repressed, she satisfies her mas­ochistic urges only voyeuristically until she meets Walter (Benoît Magimel), a student whose desire for Erika leads to a destructive infatuation that upsets the careful equilibrium of her life. A critical breakthrough for Haneke, The Piano Teacher—which won the Grand Prix as well as dual acting awards for its stars at Cannes—is a formalist masterwork that remains a shocking sensation. SUPPLEMENTAL FEATURES: interviews with Haneke and Huppert, a selected-scene commentary, and more.

Friday Night Double Feature: Cat People and The Curse of the Cat People

During his remarkable run at RKO in the 1940s, producer Val Lewton created a new breed of creature feature, one that was all the more terrifying for what it left to the imagination. With Cat People (1942), director Jacques Tourneur used shadowy noir aesthetics to tell the tale of a woman (Simone Simon) cursed to turn into a fearsome feline every time she finds herself in the heat of passion. The film’s sequel, The Curse of the Cat People (1944), which marked Robert Wise’s first directing credit and also starred Simon and Kent Smith in the same roles, strays into fairy-tale territory by focusing on a lonely young girl’s fantasy life.