Perhaps the greatest screen dramas about the settling of America, Jan Troell’s The Emigrants and The New Land chart a Swedish farming family’s voyage to America and their efforts to put down roots in this beautiful but forbidding new world. Movie legends Max von Sydow and Liv Ullmann give remarkably authentic performances as a couple who meet with one physical and emotional trial after another on their arduous journey. The precise, minute detail with which Troell depicts the couple’s story—which is also that of countless other people who sought better lives across the Atlantic—is a wonder to behold. Now streaming on the Criterion Channel on FilmStruck in its full edition, this two-part epic is accompanied by an introduction by theater and film critic John Simon, a conversation between film scholar Peter Cowie and Troell, an interview with Ullmann, an hour-long documentary on the making of the films, and more.
Also up this week:
Stanley Kubrick’s painfully funny take on Cold War anxiety is one of the fiercest satires of human folly ever to come out of Hollywood. The matchless shape-shifter Peter Sellers plays three wildly different roles: Royal Air Force Captain Lionel Mandrake, timidly trying to stop a nuclear attack on the USSR ordered by an unbalanced general (Sterling Hayden); the ineffectual and perpetually dumbfounded U.S. President Merkin Muffley, who must deliver the very bad news to the Soviet premier; and the titular Strangelove himself, a wheelchair-bound presidential adviser with a Nazi past. Finding improbable hilarity in nearly every unimaginable scenario, Dr. Strangelove, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964) is a subversive masterpiece that officially announced Kubrick as an unparalleled stylist and pitch-black ironist. Supplemental features: interviews with Stanley Kubrick collaborators and scholars; excerpts from an audio interview with Kubrick; four short documentaries, about the making of the film, the sociopolitical climate of the period, the work of actor Peter Sellers, and the artistry of Kubrick; and more.
Barry Jenkins and Stephen Frears explore the experiences of immigrants in these dreamy romances set in laundromats. Jenkins’s first short, My Josephine (2003), deploys a stylized color palette and elegant camera movement to build an atmospheric mood piece around the nightly routine of a lovestruck Arab laundromat worker who washes American flags for free. Made while Jenkins was in film school, in the aftermath of 9/11, this beautiful love story is accompanied here by a new intro by the director. Written by Hanif Kureishi, Frears’s My Beautiful Laundrette (1985) lays bare the social fissures of Margaret Thatcher’s England, telling the story of a young Pakistani man (Gordon Warnecke) in South London attempting to open a high-end laundromat with the help of his skinhead lover (Daniel Day-Lewis).
These revisionist westerns deliver an idiosyncratic twist on the myths and archetypes of the frontier, with a little help from their boldly anachronistic soundtracks. Robert Altman’s dreamy 1971 take on the genre boasts an atmosphere thickened by Leonard Cohen’s plaintive songs, and stars Warren Beatty and Julie Christie as two newcomers to a mining town in the Pacific Northwest who join forces to provide the locals with a superior kind of whorehouse experience. Then, Jim Jarmusch follows an accountant named William Blake (Johnny Depp) to the outpost of Machine in a bleak vision of the American West from 1995, set to Neil Young’s bone-rattling guitar riffs.