The mesmerizing, utterly unclassifiable science films of Jean Painlevé have to be seen to be believed: delightful, surrealist-influenced dream works that are also serious science. The French filmmaker-scientist-inventor had a decades-spanning career in which he created hundreds of short films on subjects ranging from astronomy to pigeons to, most famously, such marine-life marvels as the sea horse and the sea urchin. Our collection of his work, now streaming on the Criterion Channel on FilmStruck, brings together twenty-three of his greatest films, eight of which feature original scores by Yo La Tengo. In addition, you can watch more than two hours of interviews with the filmmaker, drawn from the eight-part television series Jean Painlevé Through His Films, directed by Denis Derrien and Hélène Hazera.
Also up this week: two harrowing depictions of war-torn Europe, an intimate portrait of Luis Buñuel, and a Rod Steiger double bill.
These unsettling films take a hard look at the nightmarish realties of Europe torn apart by war. An English family’s comfortable life is suddenly thrown into disarray by armed conflict in Daniel Mulloy’s BAFTA Award–winning short Home (2016), a thought-provoking response to the divisive rhetoric surrounding the subject of migration in his native country. In Ingmar Bergman’s underseen masterwork Shame (1968), which came out at the height of the Vietnam War, a couple (Liv Ullmann and Max von Sydow) are confronted with moral dilemmas amid growing civil unrest.
One of the boldest iconoclasts in modern cinema takes the spotlight in this 1964 episode of Cinéastes de notre temps, Janine Bazin and André S. Labarthe’s legendary series of filmmaker profiles. Directed by Robert Valey, this thirty-eight-minute portrait (excerpted here) features an illuminating conversation with Buñuel, who delves into his artistic philosophy as well as his relationships with fellow luminaries such as Salvador Dalí and Federico García Lorca. Along the way, a host of collaborators, friends, family, and film critics make appearances to talk about the director’s life and work. Watch the film alongside other Cinéastes highlights now streaming on the Channel, including episodes with John Cassavetes, Max Ophuls, and Robert Bresson.
A charismatic performer with a genius for embodying volatile characters, Rod Steiger is at his searing best in this pairing of a beloved Hollywood drama and an Italian social-realist masterpiece. Winner of eight Oscars, Elia Kazan’s 1954 On the Waterfront stars Marlon Brando as a prizefighter-turned-longshoreman forced to decide whether to remain loyal to his mob-connected union boss and his brother (Steiger), who are being chased by the authorities. In Francesco Rosi’s Hands over the City, an exposé of political corruption that took home the Golden Lion at the 1963 Venice Film Festival, Steiger delivers a ferocious performance as a Neapolitan land developer who exploits his political power to profit from a real-estate deal.