Gluttony and greed drive men to dangerous and grotesque extremes in this week’s Short + Feature pairing on the Criterion Channel on FilmStruck. Peter Foldes’s 1974 Cannes-award-winning short Hunger, one of the first computer-animated films ever made, follows a shape-shifting figure who sets out at the end of a workday on a monstrous eating binge and is consumed by the wages of sin. Then, John Huston’s classic fable of adventure and avarice, The Treasure of Sierra Madre, stars Humphrey Bogart, Tim Holt, and Walter Huston (the filmmaker’s father) as Americans in Mexico whose hunt for gold drives them to paranoia, desperation, and violence.
Also up this week:
In one of his most finely tuned performances, Peter Sellers plays the pure-hearted, childlike Chance, a gardener who is forced into the wilds of Washington, D.C., when his wealthy guardian dies. Shocked to discover that the real world doesn’t respond to the click of a remote, Chance stumbles into celebrity after being taken under the wing of a tycoon (Melvyn Douglas, in an Oscar-winning performance), who mistakes his protégé’s horticultural mumblings for sagacious pronouncements on life and politics, and whose wife (Shirley MacLaine) targets Chance as the object of her desire. Adapted from a novel by Jerzy Kosinski, this satire, both deeply melancholy and hilarious, is the culmination of Hal Ashby’s remarkable string of films in the 1970s, and a carefully modulated examination of the ideals, anxieties, and media-fueled delusions that shaped American culture during that decade. Supplemental features: a documentary on the making of the film, excerpts from a 1980 American Film Institute seminar with director Hal Ashby, appearances from 1980 by actor Peter Sellers on The Don Lane Show, and more.
The duplicitous world of acting takes center stage in these two tales of gender-bending thespians. Kon Ichikawa’s kabuki-inspired melodrama An Actor’s Revenge (1963) features a chameleonic performance by Kazuo Hasegawa, who plays a female impersonator intent on avenging the deaths of his parents. And in Sydney Pollack’s Tootsie (1982), struggling actor Michael (Dustin Hoffman) lands the role of a lifetime by posing as a woman for a soap-opera gig—a part that brings him unexpected fame, as well as a crash course in the trials and tribulations faced by women in 1980s America.