In Ernst Lubitsch’s Heaven Can Wait, now streaming in its full edition on the Criterion Channel on FilmStruck, deceased playboy Henry Van Cleve (Don Ameche) presents himself to the outer offices of Hades, where he asks a bemused Satan for permission to enter through the gates of hell. Though the devil doubts that Henry’s sins qualify him for eternal damnation, Henry proceeds to recount a lifetime of wooing and pursuing women, his long, happy marriage to Martha (Gene Tierney) notwithstanding. Nominated for Academy Awards for best picture and director, this sparkling Lubitsch classic showcases the filmmaker’s trademark blend of wit, urbanity, and grace. Watch the film alongside a conversation from 2005 between film critics Molly Haskell and Andrew Sarris, an episode from 1982 of Creativity with Bill Moyers exploring screenwriter Samson Raphaelson’s life and career, home recordings of director Ernst Lubitsch playing the piano, and more.
These darkly atmospheric fairy tales stray into the forest to explore some of the primal anxieties of parents and children. Polish filmmaker Katarzyna Gondek’s hauntingly atmospheric Deer Boy (2017) tells the tale of a boy born with antlers, a misfortune that causes his mother and father feelings of shame, and the child to question his true nature—especially when he grows old enough to learn the family trade: deer hunting. Danish provocateur Lars von Trier’s psychodrama Antichrist (2009) trails a therapist (Willem Dafoe) and his wife (Charlotte Gainsbourg) into the woods, where they retreat after the accidental death of their infant son. But no respite is to be found, as they encounter all manner of gruesome terrors courtesy of Mother Nature—and, eventually, each other.
The corporate world of midcentury Manhattan invites intrigue and suspicion in these two spins on the screwball. In Clarence Brown’s sophisticated romance Wife vs. Secretary (1936), high-rolling Manhattanites Van (Clark Gable) and Linda Stanhope (Myrna Loy) seem to be living the life—until Linda begins to (wrongly) suspect her magazine-publisher husband of having an affair with his secretary (Jean Harlow). Taking its cues from golden-age comedies like Brown’s, the Coen brothers’ brilliantly stylized corporate satire The Hudsucker Proxy (1994) sets into motion a dizzying plot involving a scheming executive (Paul Newman), the dimwit (Tim Robbins) he installs as the president of his company, and the crusading journalist (Jennifer Jason Leigh) who poses as the new boss's secretary in an effort to figure out why.