Trailblazing female filmmakers deliver two lo-fi portraits of young women living dangerously, both fueled by killer soundtracks, in our latest Tuesday’s Short + Feature, now playing on the Criterion Channel on FilmStruck. Just before breaking through with The Virgin Suicides, Sofia Coppola made her first foray into directing with Lick the Star (1998), a black-and-white 16 mm short about the viciousness of high school cliques that establishes the filmmaker’s ongoing fascination with the interior lives of women. With Smithereens (1982)—the first American independent film to compete for the Palme d’Or—Susan Seidelman captures the grit and glam of eighties downtown New York through the story of a fame-seeking punk heroine.
Stanley Kubrick bent the conventions of the historical drama to his own will in this dazzling vision of a pitiless aristocracy, adapted from a novel by William Makepeace Thackeray. In picaresque detail, Barry Lyndon chronicles the adventures of an incorrigible trickster (Ryan O’Neal) whose opportunism takes him from an Irish farm to the battlefields of the Seven Years’ War and the parlors of high society. For the most sumptuously crafted film of his career, Kubrick recreated the decadent surfaces and intricate social codes of the period, evoking the light and texture of eighteenth-century painting with the help of pioneering cinematographic techniques and lavish costume and production design, all of which earned Academy Awards. The result is a masterpiece—a sardonic, devastating portrait of a vanishing world whose opulence conceals the moral vacancy at its heart. Supplemental features: a documentary featuring cast and crew interviews as well as audio excerpts from a 1976 interview with director Stanley Kubrick, a program about the film’s groundbreaking visuals, an interview with critic Michel Ciment, and more.
The last few years have been a wild ride for director Damien Chazelle. His semi-autobiographical breakthrough, Whiplash, received three Academy Awards, and his contemporary spin on the golden-age musical, La La Land, made him the youngest person to ever win an Oscar. Last winter, the University of Wisconsin–Madison’s Cinematheque invited Chazelle to present a rare 35 mm print of La La Land, and also hosted a series that included a selection of his personal favorite films. A passionate cinephile who developed his inventive approach to style and form while studying documentary filmmaking at Harvard, Chazelle joined professor Kelley Conway for a discussion about Jean Rouch and Edgar Morin's 1961 cinéma verité masterwork Chronicle of a Summer, in which he delved into the evolution of documentary cinema in the sixties and the ways in which nonfiction film has influenced his work with actors. In this program, we present the full wide-ranging talk alongside our edition of Chronicle of a Summer.
Sue Lyon delivers provocative performances in these two literary adaptations. With her heart-shaped glasses and coquettish charm, the actress, under the direction of Stanley Kubrick, made a cinematic icon out of the title character of Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita, a fourteen-year-old girl entangled in a forbidden relationship with a middle-aged professor (James Mason). In John Huston’s take on Tennessee Williams’s play The Night of the Iguana, Lyon once again embodies a daring nymphet, this time attempting to seduce an unstable priest played by Richard Burton.