The Criterion Channel’s March 2021 Lineup

On the Channel

Feb 25, 2021

The Criterion Channel’s March 2021 Lineup
Buck and the Preacher

The Criterion Channel’s March 2021 Lineup

On the Channel

Feb 25, 2021

Giddy up, movie lovers! This month on the Channel, our Black Westerns series leads the charge, highlighting films that have challenged the myths of the Old West to tell the stories of African Americans on the frontier. And that’s just the beginning of a wagon train loaded with cinematic essentials, including the first-ever streaming retrospectives of screwball-comedy king Preston Sturges and fierce French satirist Nelly Kaplan; a dozen of Charlie Chaplin’s most inventive two-reelers; a salute to the darkly debonair Dirk Bogarde; Mark Cousins’s latest marathon documentary series, Women Make Film; and much more—check out the full calendar!

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* indicates programming available March 1
** indicates programming available only in the U.S.


The Twentieth Century**
Exclusive streaming premiere

Canadian history is reimagined as a head-spinning hallucinogenic fantasia in this outrageously warped future cult classic from director Matthew Rankin. In Toronto in 1899, aspiring politician Mackenzie King (Dan Beirne) dreams of becoming the prime minister of Canada. But his romantic vacillation between a British soldier and a French nurse, exacerbated by a fetishistic obsession, may well bring about his downfall. In his quest for power, King must gratify the expectations of his imperious mother, the hawkish fantasies of a warmongering governor-general, and the utopian idealism of a Quebecois mystic before facing a final test of leadership. Inspired by the diary of one of Canada’s most famous politicians, The Twentieth Century melds the influences of German expressionism, studio-era Technicolor melodrama, and midnight-movie camp into a feverishly stylized biopic unlike any other.


Short + Feature: Black on the Bayou
Boneshaker and Cane River

Two films imbued with a rich sense of Louisiana’s landscapes and culture explore the complexities of race, religion, and tradition on the bayou.


A New Leaf

The brilliance of Elaine May is on full display in her directorial debut, a deliciously deadpan black-comic jewel that stands as one of the finest and funniest films of the 1970s. She stars as the endearingly awkward, plant-obsessed heiress Henrietta Lowell, whose fortune becomes the target of trust-fund-depleted patrician wastrel Henry Graham (Walter Matthau), who’s willing to go as far as marriage and murder to get his hands on it. May famously clashed with studio executives in order to protect her vision, and the resulting film, though ultimately recut against her wishes, is a testament to her singular comic genius.


The In-Laws (Arthur Hiller, 1979)

Criterion Collection Edition #823

Let the Sunshine In** (Claire Denis, 2017)

Criterion Collection Edition #976


Double Feature: Boys to Men
The Last Tree and The 400 Blows

A vital new cinematic voice and an influential master transform their own experiences of the trials and tribulations of growing up into richly resonant art. Shola Amoo’s semiautobiographical The Last Tree employs a swooning visual style to immerse viewers in the world of Femi, a young Nigerian British man navigating his conflicting identities as he comes of age in early-2000s London. Heralded by some as a British answer to Moonlight, it also contains direct nods to François Truffaut’s defining portrait of adolescent turmoil The 400 Blows, the French New Wave touchstone that introduced the director and his alter ego—Jean-Pierre Léaud’s Antoine Doinel—to the world.


Saturday Matinee: The Steamroller and the Violin

When Sasha, a seven-year-old violin protégé, meets Sergei, a steamroller working in his neighborhood, he starts to open up from his strictly imposed routine of practice. Made as a thesis film for the VGIK Soviet film school, this early work by Andrei Tarkovsky captures the sadness and joy of childhood with the keen perception and visual imagination of a master in the making.


Black Westerns
Featuring an introduction by guest programmer and film scholar Mia Mask

As the civil rights movement gained momentum in the 1960s, leading filmmakers and stars sought to reshape the myths of the Hollywood western. Sidney Poitier, Gordon Parks, and even John Ford were among the directors who drew on the historical experiences of African American and Native American people to tell unexplored stories. In the decades that followed, Black actors from Woody Strode and Poitier (who broke with his urbane image in his thrilling directorial debut Buck and the Preacher) to Vonetta McGee and Ving Rhames would repeatedly play key roles as cattle rustlers, cavalrymen, outlaws, and bounty hunters in bold revisions of the genre. Featuring works by Mario van Peebles, John Singleton, and Gordon Parks Jr., this selection curated by guest programmer Mia Mask shows how the western aged and changed. It incorporated Blaxploitation (Thomasine and Bushrod), documentary (Black Rodeo), historical drama (Rosewood), and the coming-of-age film (The Learning Tree) as new generations of artists sought to broaden our understanding of the old frontier.

Featuring: Sergeant Rutledge (1960), Duel at Diablo (1966), The Learning Tree (1969), El Condor (1970)*, Skin Game (1971), Black Rodeo (1972), Buck and the Preacher (1972), The Legend of Black Charley (1972), Thomasine and Bushrod (1974), Posse (1993), Buffalo Soldiers (1997)**, Rosewood (1997)

Please be advised: some of the films contain offensive racist language and racial stereotypes directed against Black and Native American people.

Monday, March 8

Women Make Film
Presented with a selection of films referenced in the documentary

Five years in the making, this epic journey through film history is made up of forty “chapters” narrated by Tilda Swinton, Jane Fonda, Adjoa Andoh, Sharmila Tagore, Kerry Fox, Thandie Newton, and Debra Winger. Women Make Film follows in the footsteps of Mark Cousins’s The Story of Film: An Odyssey to give us a guided tour of the art and craft of the movies. Using almost a thousand film extracts from thirteen decades and five continents, Cousins explores how films are made, shot, and edited; how stories are shaped; and how movies depict life, love, politics, humor, and death through the compelling lens of some of the world’s greatest directors—all of them women.


Short + Feature: Life of a Salesman
Man Rots from the Head and Salesman

Traveling salesmen reckon with the void of contemporary existence in a surreally sinister short and a landmark vérité documentary.


Boat People

One of the major films of the Hong Kong New Wave, Ann Hui’s Boat People is a work of indelible humanity and searing political resonance. Invited to document the progress of postwar Vietnamese society, a Japanese photojournalist (George Lam) initially finds a picture-perfect image of communist contentment. But when he begins looking beneath the idealized surface the government wants him to see, he discovers a world of poverty and brutality that shocks him into helping a desperate family escape. Winner of five Hong Kong Film Awards—including best picture and director—Hui’s masterpiece gives harrowing expression to the experiences of those living under authoritarian oppression.


Mandabi (Ousmane Sembène, 1968)

Criterion Collection Edition #1065

Creative Marriages: Jean-Luc Godard & Anna Karina
Featuring a new introduction by critic Michael Sragow

Has any other couple exerted as potent an influence on the course of movie history as Jean-Luc Godard and Anna Karina? Before, during, and after their tumultuous marriage, this director and actor interwove their personal lives and their art in seven films that changed the face of cinema. In Band of Outsiders, Karina’s portrait of a soulful innocent enabled Godard to transform a juvenile-delinquent crime novel into a pulp Jules and Jim. And in Pierrot le fou, her embodiment of a freedom-loving hedonist and homicidal femme fatale anchored Godard’s pop-art hybrid of film noir, road comedy, guerrilla theater, and social-political farce. Karina wasn’t just the image, but also the inspiration and spirit of the most poetic and accessible movies Godard ever made.


Double Feature: Commedia alla Pietrangeli
The Visitor and I Knew Her Well

A cutting sex farce and a tragicomic celebrity culture satire from one of the masters of the irreverent art of commedia all’italiana.


Saturday Matinee: Shane

George Stevens’s majestic western gave the genre one of its most iconic heroes in a film that has itself assumed the stature of a myth.


Directed by Preston Sturges

From capitalism to patriotism to politics to marriage, there was virtually no pillar of American life that escaped unscathed during screwball auteur Preston Sturges’s whirlwind heyday in the 1940s. One of the first Hollywood filmmakers to write and direct his own scripts (a deal he negotiated by selling his Oscar-winning screenplay for The Great McGinty to Paramount for just $10), Sturges took screwball comedy to new heights of sublime absurdity with his elegantly cockeyed dialogue, free-form approach to narrative, and subversive skewering of conventional morality. These immortal comedy classics—including the Barbara Stanwyck sizzler The Lady Eve, the everyman ode Sullivan’s Travels, and the Production Code–defying jaw-dropper The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek—were the result of a brief but dazzling run of creativity that remains virtually unmatched in Hollywood history.

Featuring: The Great McGinty (1940), Christmas in July (1940), The Lady Eve (1941), Sullivan’s Travels (1941), The Palm Beach Story (1942), The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek (1944), Hail the Conquering Hero (1944), Unfaithfully Yours (1948)

Monday, March 15

Films by Rodney Evans
Featuring a new introduction by the filmmaker

New York City–based filmmaker Rodney Evans celebrates triumphs over adversity in his beautifully crafted, deeply personal works, which draw from his own experiences as a Black, queer, and disabled artist. Starring Anthony Mackie in his breakthrough role, Evans’s acclaimed feature debut Brother to Brother is an ode to queer African American creativity across generations—from the Harlem Renaissance to the present day. Fifteen years later, Evans—confronting the deterioration of his sight due to a genetic condition—turned the camera on himself and three other blind/visually impaired artists in Vision Portraits, a profound philosophical rumination on what it means to truly see.

Featuring: Brother to Brother (2004), Vision Portraits (2019)

Tuesday, March 16

Hawai‘i Shorts

While documentary work has defined the visual language of Hawai‘i cinema for decades, a rise in narrative filmmaking in recent years signals an evolution in Hawai‘i-based storytelling—helmed by a burgeoning generation of filmmakers actively engaged in collective world-building through narrative fiction, particularly from a Native Hawaiian lens. Selected by Doris Duke Theatre programmer Taylour Chang, these short films are just a few examples of a growing community of artists nurturing a visual language for Hawai‘i cinema that is rooted to the land that inspires it. The inspirations seeded in these films continue to open exciting new horizons for narrative storytelling in Hawai‘i. Also: don’t miss our Art-House America profile of the Doris Duke Theatre, featuring another selection of Hawaiian films by Chang.

Featuring: Lāhainā Noon (2014), Kalewa (2018), The Moon and the Night (2018), Other People (2018), The Pit Where We Were Born (2018), Down on the Sidewalk in Waikīkī (2019), Moloka‘i Bound (2019)

Wednesday, March 17

Directed by Nelly Kaplan

Sex, power, and rebellion are at the heart of the feminist cinema of Nelly Kaplan, the unsung iconoclast who passed away in November 2020. Born in Argentina to a Russian Jewish family, Kaplan relocated to Paris at age seventeen, where she became an assistant to legendary director Abel Gance before directing her first (and still best-known) feature, the caustic antipatriarchal revenge comedy A Very Curious Girl. Transgressive, satirical, and surreal, Kaplan’s films are defined by their proactive female protagonists—complex, empowered women who, in Kaplan’s world, are always in charge.

Featuring: A Very Curious Girl (1969), Papa the Little Boats (1971), Charles and Lucie (1979), The Pleasure of Love (1991)


Charlie Chaplin: The Mutual Comedies
Featuring the documentaries Chaplin’s Goliath and The Birth of the Tramp

In the two-reel comedies Charlie Chaplin created for the Mutual Film Corporation between 1916 and 1917, the slapstick virtuoso sometimes played an inebriate, a fireman, or a prop man in a movie studio; but most of all, he further explored and developed the Little Tramp character who would come to stand as one of cinema’s most immortal comic creations. The Little Tramp of these films became arguably the most famous and recognizable character in the world, while Chaplin himself became the highest-paid filmmaker of his time. In these twelve definitive classics of silent screen comedy, Chaplin perfected what would become his trademark themes and techniques and created what many critics and enthusiasts regard as his finest work.

Featuring: The Floorwalker (1916), The Fireman (1916), The Vagabond (1916), One A.M. (1916), The Count (1916), The Pawnshop (1916), Behind the Screen (1916), The Rink (1916), Easy Street (1917), The Cure (1917), The Immigrant (1917), The Adventurer (1917)

Observations on Film Art #41: The Viewer Who Knew Just Enough—Point of View in Blood Simple

With their razor-sharp debut Blood Simple, Joel and Ethan Coen introduced the world to their striking sensibility and redefined film noir for a new generation. In this edition of Observations on Film Art, Professor David Bordwell explores how the brothers employ a sophisticated shuffling of viewpoints in order to generate nonstop suspense and surprise and to create a cool, sometimes comic detachment from the story’s increasingly berserk proceedings.


Double Feature: Reading, Writing, and Rebellion
Cooley High and Rock ’n’ Roll High School

Get your teenage kicks with a pair of 1970s high school classics featuring killer soundtracks and bursting with the spirit of youthful rebellion.


Saturday Matinee: Georges Méliès: Fairy Tales in Color

The inexhaustibly imaginative magician of early cinema, Georges Méliès created some of the medium’s very first fantasies through his revolutionary use of trick photography, special effects, and exquisite hand-painted color. Beautifully restored by Lobster Films, these whimsical wonders—including science-fiction landmark A Trip to the Moon, gorgeous dreamscape The Kingdom of Fairies, and the Jules Verne-inspired The Impossible Voyage—continue to delight and enchant more than one hundred years after their creation.

Featuring: The Pillar of Fire (1899), Joan of Arc (1900), A Trip to the Moon (1902), Robinson Crusoe (1903), The Kingdom of Fairies (1903), The Infernal Cauldron (1903), The Impossible Voyage (1904), Rip’s Dream (1905), The Inventor Crazybrains and His Wonderful Airship (1905), The Merry Frolics of Satan (1906), The Witch (1906), The Diabolic Tenant (1906), Whimsical Illusions (1910)


Directed by Bimal Roy

A pioneer of India’s Parallel Cinema, Bimal Roy brought a new level of realism to his country’s film industry with his landmark breakthrough Do bigha zamin, a heartrending portrait of an ordinary family’s everyday struggle for survival, inspired by the Italian neorealist movement. Both a master visual stylist and an empathetic champion of the oppressed, Roy skillfully straddled the line between art and commercial cinema, tackling issues of poverty, caste discrimination, and the subjugation of women through his moving melodramas and earthy romances.

Featuring: Do bigha zamin (1953), Devdas (1955), Madhumati (1958), Sujata (1960), Bandini (1963)


Don’t Blink – Robert Frank

The life and work of Robert Frank—the legendary photographer behind the landmark book The Americans and director of films like the Beat classic Pull My Daisy and the infamous Rolling Stones documentary Cocksucker Blues—are so intertwined that they are practically one and the same. Directed by Frank’s longtime friend and editor Laura Israel, Don’t Blink is a lively and revealing journey into the images and words of this iconoclastic artist, a Swiss-born man who reinvented himself the American way and continued to stand on ground of his own making well into his nineties.


Marcello Mastroianni: I Remember

Italian-cinema icon Marcello Mastroianni starred in more than a hundred films over the course of his astonishing, half-century career, though he will perhaps always be best remembered for the six masterpieces he made with Federico Fellini, who cast the actor as his on-screen alter ego in international sensations like La dolce vita and 8½. In this sprawling documentary directed by Mastroianni’s longtime partner, Anna Maria Tatò, the actor tells the story of his life with philosophical humility and sly wit, offering candid insight into the man behind the dashing image.


Grace Jones: Bloodlight and Bami

This electrifying journey through the public and private worlds of the legendary Grace Jones blends eye-popping musical performances with intimate personal footage, all brimming with Jones’s bold aesthetic. A larger-than-life entertainer, an androgynous glam-pop diva, an unpredictable media presence: Grace Jones is all these things and more. Taking us home with her to Jamaica, into the studio with longtime collaborators Sly & Robbie, and backstage at gigs around the world, Sophie Fiennes’s documentary goes beyond the traditional music biography, offering a portrait as stylish and unconventional as its subject.


Essential Fellini

A century after his birth, Federico Fellini still stands apart as a giant of the cinema. The Italian maestro is defined by his dualities: the sacred and the profane, the masculine and the feminine, the provincial and the urbane. He began his career working in the slice-of-life poetry of neorealism, and though he soon spun off on his own freewheeling creative axis, he never lost that grounding, evoking his dreams, memories, and obsessions in increasingly grand productions teeming with carnivalesque imagery and flights of phantasmagoric surrealism while maintaining an earthy, embodied connection to humanity. Featuring a selection of beautifully restored classics, this tribute celebrates a titan who conjured a cinematic universe all his own: a vision of the world as a three-ring circus in which his innermost infatuations, fears, and fantasies take center stage.

Featuring: Variety Lights (1950), The White Sheik (1952), I vitelloni (1953), La strada (1954), Il bidone (1955), Nights of Cabiria (1957), (1963), Juliet of the Spirits (1965), Amarcord (1973), City of Women (1980), And the Ship Sails On (1983), Intervista (1987)


Double Feature: Whatever Lola Wants, Lola Gets
The Blue Angel and Lola

Two masters of cinematic artifice and melodramatic irony speak to one another across generations in these twin tales of moral corruption set amidst Germany’s cabaret underworld.


Saturday Matinee: Naal

A heart-soaring tale about the meaning of family as seen through the eyes of a mischievous boy growing up in rural India.


Starring Dirk Bogarde

Though his pretty-boy good looks first propelled him to fame as a British matinee idol, there was always something edgy and intriguingly unwholesome lurking beneath Dirk Bogarde’s debonair surface: a complex, neurotic soul that, in his extraordinary later career, he bared before the cameras of iconoclastic auteurs like Joseph Losey, Luchino Visconti, Liliana Cavani, and Rainer Werner Fassbinder. Through his brilliant performances in frequently controversial art-house provocations such as Victim, The Servant, Death in Venice, and The Night Porter, Bogarde became something of an emblem of transgressive sexuality, moral corruption, and decadence—an actorly embodiment of postwar Europe’s bourgeois malaise. The fearlessness with which Bogarde took on these risky roles and the intelligence that he brought to them has ensured that, one hundred years after his birth, he endures as one of cinema’s most captivating performers.

Featuring: The Sea Shall Not Have Them (1954), Cast a Dark Shadow (1955), Victim (1961), The Servant (1963), Darling (1965), Accident (1967), The Damned (1969), Death in Venice (1971), The Night Porter (1974), Despair (1978), Daddy Nostalgia (1990)

Monday, March 29

Giuseppe Makes a Movie

DIY filmmaker, musician, and onetime teen actor Giuseppe Andrews has made over thirty experimental features. Set in some demented alternate universe, they are populated by real-life alcoholics and drug addicts, trash-talking senior citizens and residents of his trailer-park community dressed in cow outfits and costume-shop wigs, acting out booze-fueled vignettes of severe psychosis filtered through Giuseppe’s John Waters–meets–Harmony Korine–meets–Werner Herzog sensibility. Director Adam Rifkin creates a wildly surreal, outrageously funny, and strangely touching portrait of a true outsider artist as he follows Giuseppe and his ragtag troupe on the production of his latest two-day opus, Garbanzo Gas, capturing the compassion and camaraderie that binds this misfit community together.


Short + Feature: Gone Girls
Mary Last Seen and The Vanishing

Unravel the mysterious fates of two women whose road trips lead to unexpected destinations.


Directed by Ursula Meier

Working with cinematographer (and regular Claire Denis collaborator) Agnès Godard,  French-Swiss filmmaker Ursula Meier has made two singular features to date, each the product of a distinctive vision that applies a fable-like sensibility to their view of life on the margins of contemporary Europe. Starring Isabelle Huppert and Olivier Gourmet, her first feature, Home, is an offbeat, tragicomic allegory in which a happy but highly unconventional family finds their hermetic existence upended by the construction of a highway right outside their house. Meier blends heartrending naturalism with fairy-tale elements in her follow-up, Sister, starring Léa Seydoux and Kacey Mottet Klein as a pair of impoverished siblings living in the shadow of a luxury ski resort who resort to desperate measures to survive.

Featuring: Home (2008)**, Sister (2012)**

Plus: Now Playing in 30 Years of The Film Foundation

In November, we kicked off our thirtieth-anniversary celebration for film-preservation powerhouse The Film Foundation, founded by Martin Scorsese in 1990. This month, the lineup welcomes stunning restorations of a Technicolor cult classic by Albert Lewin and two early triumphs by Federico Fellini that find him at the crossroads between neorealism and his later, dreamier style.

Featuring: Pandora and the Flying Dutchman (1951), La strada (1954), Il bidone (1955)

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