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The Criterion Channel’s April 2022 Lineup

On the Channel

Mar 30, 2022

The Criterion Channel’s April 2022 Lineup

The Criterion Channel’s April 2022 Lineup

On the Channel

Mar 30, 2022

This month on the Criterion Channel, our Beyond Blaxploitation series takes you to the far side of a movement that redefined African American filmmaking with radical, boundary-pushing creativity. Then, delve into Guru Dutt’s sumptuous musical melodramas and John Ford’s mythmaking early films, or get to know one of European cinema’s most brilliant and unconventional actors with our Delphine Seyrig retrospective. That’s just the beginning of a month that also features a revelatory spotlight on Asian American filmmaking in the first decade of the twentieth century, the exclusive streaming premiere of yet another 2021 masterpiece by Oscar-winning Drive My Car director Ryusuke Hamaguchi, and so much more!

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

TOP STORIES
PREMIERING APRIL 1

Beyond Blaxploitation

WATCH NOW

Featuring a new introduction by film scholar Racquel J. Gates

Beginning in the early 1970s, a wave of so-called blaxploitation cinema, with one foot in exploitation thrills and one foot in avant-garde provocation, sent shockwaves through American film audiences. Though the term was originally deployed to criticize sensationalized images of African Americans, there was far more to the blaxploitation boom than mere stereotypes: it cemented a new generation of stars for the Black-is-beautiful era (Pam Grier, Richard Roundtree) while creating vital opportunities for daring Black filmmakers. The two sides of an often-misunderstood movement are on display in this survey of pulp classics and blaxploitation-adjacent rarities, which brings together kick-ass action extravaganzas like Shaft’s Big Score!, Truck Turner, and Friday Foster, as well as unclassifiable, mind-expanding films such as Space Is the Place, the recently rediscovered Top of the Heap, and Lord Shango, which defy genre by incorporating elements of Afrofuturism, surrealism, psychedelia, and Black mysticism. Taken together, they offer a fuller picture of a time when Black artists both in front of and behind the camera were breaking political and aesthetic boundaries to reclaim their image on-screen.

FEATURING: Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song (1971), Across 110th Street (1972), Shaft’s Big Score! (1972), Top of the Heap (1972), Trouble Man (1972), Black Caesar (1973), Cleopatra Jones (1973)***, Black Belt Jones (1974), Coonskin (1974)*, Space Is the Place (1974), Sugar Hill (1974), Three the Hard Way (1974), Thomasine and Bushrod (1974), Truck Turner (1974), Dolemite (1975)*, Friday Foster (1975), Lord Shango (1975)*, J.D.’s Revenge (1976), Abar, the First Black Superman (1977)*, Petey Wheatstraw (1977)*, Original Gangstas (1996)

***Available June 1

Adventures in Moviegoing with Ethan Hawke

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The thinking man’s movie star, Ethan Hawke has moved seamlessly between mainstream hits and acclaimed passion projects for directors such as Richard Linklater and Paul Schrader ever since breaking into Hollywood at age fourteen, garnering Academy Award nominations for both acting and screenwriting along the way. In this edition of Adventures in Moviegoing, Hawke sits down with his friend and collaborator, artist and author Greg Ruth, to discuss why the first movie he ever saw is still his favorite, how the rise of video-store culture shaped his view of cinema, and which films he would have given anything to have been on set for while they were being made. The films that the Texan-born Hawke has curated reflect his Lone Star State roots and include offbeat revisionist westerns from John Huston and Robert Altman and an independent gem from Eagle Pennell, the unsung pioneer of Austin’s indie scene.

FEATURING: Limelight (1952), Lola (1961), Faces (1968), The Blues Accordin’ to Lightnin’ Hopkins (1970), The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean (1972), Buffalo Bill and the Indians, or Sitting Bull’s History Lesson (1976), Last Night at the Alamo (1983), 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (2007)

Young Mr. Ford

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Featuring a new introduction by critic Farran Smith Nehme

As Shakespeare was to the British theater, John Ford was to the American cinema, establishing the themes—of heroism, honor, history as myth, and the conflict between the individual and the community—that would come to shape the country’s cultural imagination. This selection of often-overlooked gems from Twentieth Century-Fox—a studio that specialized in the kind of lyrical Americana that was Ford’s forte—traces the evolution of the filmmaker’s style in its formative years, before he was known primarily as a director of westerns. From the masterful interplay of landscape and character in the silent western 3 Bad Men to the the emotional devastation of the powerful post-WWI melodrama Pilgrimage to the gentle humanist comedy of Steamboat Round the Bend, these films show how Ford left an unmistakable imprint on every genre he touched.

FEATURING: Kentucky Pride (1925), 3 Bad Men (1926), Four Sons (1928), The Black Watch (1929), Born Reckless (1930), Men Without Women (1930), Pilgrimage (1933), Doctor Bull (1933), Judge Priest (1934), The World Moves On (1934), Steamboat Round the Bend (1935), Young Mr. Lincoln (1939), How Green Was My Valley (1941), Tobacco Road (1941)

Starring Delphine Seyrig

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One of the most mesmerizing presences in European art-house cinema, Delphine Seyrig was a favorite of visionary directors such as Chantal Akerman (Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du commerce, 1080 Bruxelles), Alain Resnais (Last Year at Marienbad), Marguerite Duras (India Song), Luis Buñuel (The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie), and Ulrike Ottinger (Freak Orlando), bringing an air of ethereal mystery to her minutely detailed performances. Yet Seyrig bucked against the muse role that the era’s filmmaking offered her: her penchant for working with women auteurs was an extension of her feminist politics, which she also expressed in her often-overlooked directorial work, including the revealing documentary Be Pretty and Shut Up!, about the experiences of actresses working in a sexist, male-dominated film industry.

FEATURING: Last Year at Marienbad (1961), Muriel, or The Time of Return (1963), Accident (1967), Stolen Kisses (1968), The Milky Way (1969), Mr. Freedom (1969), Donkey Skin (1970), Daughters of Darkness (1971), The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (1972), A Doll’s House (1973), India Song (1975)*, Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (1975), Be Pretty and Shut Up! (1976), Baxter, Vera Baxter (1977)*, Freak Orlando (1981), Golden Eighties (1986), Seven Women, Seven Sins (1986), Joan of Arc of Mongolia (1989)*

Asian American Filmmaking 2000–2009

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Featuring a new introduction by series programmers Brian Hu and Chi-hui Yang

The first decade of the twenty-first century witnessed an explosion of Asian American cinematic creativity, much of which went unseen by mainstream audiences. Politically complex and formally innovative, these films highlighted the intricacies of diverse communities shaped by a multitude of forces: colonialism, migration, racism, subcultures, gentrification, war, and the politics of appropriation and assimilation. Curated by Chi-hui Yang and Brian Hu, this program spotlights films that take an inventive approach to genre—personal documentary (I Was Born, But . . . ), musical (Colma: The Musical), thriller (Cavite), coming-of-age odyssey (In Between Days), and beyond—revealing a rich and radical counter-cinema forged by artists still fighting for visibility.

FEATURES: First Person Plural (2000), Better Luck Tomorrow (2002)****, Refugee (2003), Saving Face (2004)**, I Was Born But . . . (2004), Cavite (2005), Man Push Cart (2005), In Between Days (2006), Journey from the Fall (2006), Punching at the Sun (2006), Colma: The Musical (2006), The Betrayal (2008)

SHORTS: Pirated (2000), Barrier Device (2002), Balikbayan (2004), Sangam (2004), Summer of the Serpent (2004), Windowbreaker (2006), Going Home (2006), In Space (2009)

****Available August 1


The World of Guru Dutt

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Featuring a new introduction by filmmaker Mira Nair and In Search of Guru Dutt, a 1989 documentary by Nasreen Munni Kabir

Hailed as “the Orson Welles of Indian cinema” for his striking visual style and ability to weave deeply personal themes into mainstream entertainment, director-producer-actor Guru Dutt left behind some of the most revered works of his country’s national cinema in a short but immensely influential career. As an actor he brought a brooding melancholy to popular Hindi film, often playing a soulful outsider wounded by a callous world. Behind the camera, he was a dramatist and visual stylist of rare sophistication, drawing on his background as a choreographer to unleash tidal waves of emotion in his musical sequences and harnessing light and shadow to achieve stunning compositions with his virtuoso cinematographer V. K. Murthy. Though he died tragically young at age thirty-nine, his films—including the powerful portrait of artistic struggle Pyaasa and the fascinatingly self-reflexive Paper Flowers (the commercial failure of which effectively ended Dutt’s directorial career even as it has since been reclaimed as a classic)—live on as masterpieces of poetic expression.

FEATURING: Baaz (1953), Aar paar (1954), Mr. & Mrs. ’55 (1955), Pyaasa (1957), Paper Flowers (1959), Chaudhvin ka chand (1960), Sahib bibi aur ghulam (1962)

STREAMING PREMIERES

France

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Léa Seydoux brilliantly holds the center of Bruno Dumont’s unexpected, unsettling film, which starts out as a satire of the contemporary news media before steadily spiraling out into something richer and darker. Never one to shy away from provoking his viewers, Dumont casts Seydoux as France de Meurs, a seemingly unflappable superstar TV journalist whose career, homelife, and psychological stability are shaken after she carelessly drives into a young delivery man on a busy Paris street. This accident triggers a series of self-reckonings, as well as a strange romance that proves impossible to shake. A film that teases at redemption while refusing to grant absolution, France is tragicomic and deliciously ambivalent—a very twenty-first-century treatment of the difficulty of maintaining identity in a corrosive culture.

Bring Down the Walls

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Art and activism collide in this empowering documentary, which examines the injustices of America’s prison-industrial complex and the power of house music as a catalyst for human connection, transformation, and liberation. A collaboration between filmmaker Phil Collins and the Black, Latino, and queer artists, activists, and formerly incarcerated people who, in 2018, created a temporary space in downtown Manhattan that served as both a hub for prison-abolition organizing and a venue for exhilarating dance parties, Bring Down the Walls proposes a vision of social justice in which collective action and communal celebration are inextricably entwined.

Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy

THURSDAY, APRIL 14

An unexpected love triangle, a failed seduction, and a chance encounter with the past. Propelled by coincidence and imagination, and guided by love’s gentle current, acclaimed director Ryusuke Hamaguchi (Oscar winner for Drive My Car) presents an enchanting triptych that spins mundane encounters into a world of infinite possibilities. In “Episode 1: Magic (or Something Less Assuring),” a young woman is startled when she realizes that her best friend’s new flame might just be her ex; in “Episode 2: Door Wide Open,” a disgruntled student plots to trick his college professor, using his friend-with-benefits as bait; and in “Episode 3: Once Again,” a young woman’s college reunion leads to an unanticipated run-in with an old friend, and awakens feelings long since forgotten. Playfully inspired by life’s tiny miracles and bound together by memory, regret, deception, and fate, this collection of stories leaves no stone unturned as Hamaguchi plumbs the ever-deepening mysteries of the all-too-human heart.

CRITERION EDITIONS
PREMIERING APRIL 1

Blue Velvet (David Lynch, 1986)

Criterion Collection Edition #977
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David Lynch burrows deep beneath the picturesque surfaces of small-town life in this haunting vision of innocence lost.

SUPPLEMENTAL FEATURES: The Lost Footage, fifty-three minutes of deleted scenes and alternate takes assembled by Lynch; a feature-length meditation on the making of the film made on-set by Peter Braatz; an interview with composer Angelo Badalamenti; and more.

Last Year at Marienbad (Alain Resnais, 1961)

Criterion Collection Edition #478
WATCH NOW

Alain Resnais’s legendary cinematic puzzle is not just a defining work of the French New Wave but one of the great, lasting mysteries of modern art.

SUPPLEMENTAL FEATURES: Interviews with Renais and film scholar Ginette Vincendeau, a documentary on the making of the film, and two shorts by Renais.

Young Mr. Lincoln (John Ford, 1939)

Criterion Collection Edition #320
WATCH NOW

Henry Fonda delivers one of his defining performances as the young president-to-be in this compassionate and assured slice of Americana from John Ford.

SUPPLEMENTAL FEATURES: Audio commentary by film scholar Joseph McBride, audio interviews with Ford and Fonda, and a radio dramatization of the film.

Ministry of Fear (Fritz Lang, 1944)

Criterion Collection Edition #649
WATCH NOW

Suffused with dread and paranoia, this Fritz Lang adaptation of a novel by Graham Greene is a plunge into the eerie shadows of a world turned upside down by war.

SUPPLEMENTAL FEATURES: An interview with Lang scholar Joe McElhaney.

The Last Picture Show (Peter Bogdanovich, 1971)

Criterion Collection Edition #549
WATCH NOW

Peter Bogdanovich’s aching portrait of a dying West stands as one of the key films of the American cinema renaissance of the seventies.

SUPPLEMENTAL FEATURES: Two audio commentaries featuring Bodganovich and cast members, two documentaries about the making of the film, a Q&A with Bodganovich, and more.

THREE DIMENSIONS

Texas Blues: Three Films by Eagle Pennell

MONDAY, APRIL 28

Featuring the 2008 documentary The King of Texas

Long before Austin, Texas, was an epicenter for all things indie, maverick filmmaker Eagle Pennell made his mark on the city with a handful of bittersweet, amiably lo-fi looks at the everyday oddballs populating the Lone Star State. Though he only completed a handful of films before his untimely death at age forty-nine, their rough-hewn charm and genuine feeling for working-class camaraderie set the template for a whole generation of off-the-grid auteurs (including fellow Austinite Richard Linklater and Quentin Tarantino, who cited Pennell as a key influence on Reservoir Dogs) and inspired none other than Robert Redford to found the Sundance Institute in order to perpetuate the spirit of cinematic independence that Pennell embodied.

FEATURING: A Hell of a Note (1977), The Whole Shootin’ Match (1978), Last Night at the Alamo (1983)

WOMEN FILMMAKERS

The Chambermaid

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Lila Avilés turns the monotonous workday of a chambermaid at a high-end Mexico City hotel into a tour de force of social observation.

Two Films by Anne Fontaine

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One of contemporary French cinema’s most prolific directors, Luxembourg-born Anne Fontaine has moved easily between serious-minded dramas and frothy comedies for nearly three decades, with psychologically complex characters a constant in whatever genre she happens to be working in. The two sides of her sensibility are on display in My Worst Nightmare, a breezy romantic farce starring the great Isabelle Huppert, and The Innocents, a moving and provocative tale of survival and spirituality set in post–World War II Poland.

FEATURING: My Worst Nightmare (2011), The Innocents (2016)

Saving Face

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 20

Alice Wu’s wonderfully warm, witty queer romantic comedy offers a slyly perceptive, culturally specific look at Chinese American family values and what it means to both honor and break with tradition.

Adam

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 27

Two women at an emotional crossroads are brought together by fate—and by the eternal comforts of food and music—in Moroccan filmmaker Maryam Touzani’s gracefully understated celebration of the healing power of female friendship.

More women filmmakers featured in this month’s programming: India Song (1975), Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (1975), Be Pretty and Shut Up! (1976), Baxter, Vera Baxter (1977), Thriller (1979), Golden Eighties (1986), Seven Women, Seven Sins (1986), Loose Corner (1986), First Person Plural (2000), Barrier Device (2002), Balikbayan (2004), Summer of the Serpent (2004), In Between Days (2006), The Betrayal (2008), In Space (2009), Boom for Real: The Late Teenage Years of Jean-Michel Basquiat (2017), Maat (2020), Through the Night (2020), A Demonstration (2020), my favorite software is being here (2021), Two Sons and a River of Blood (2021), Melting Snow (2021), Bodies in Dissent (2021)

 

TRUE STORIES

Through the Night

WATCH NOW

The lives of three working mothers intersect at a twenty-four-hour daycare center in this exploration of the titanic strength, love, and selflessness that underpin “women’s work.”

Boom for Real: The Late Teenage Years of Jean-Michel Basquiat

MONDAY, APRIL 18

The life and times of a prefame Jean-Michel Basquiat are recreated in this vivid evocation of downtown New York in the 1970s.

Deep Blues

MONDAY, APRIL 25

Venture deep into the heart of the Mississippi Delta to discover the best local blues artists working outside the mainstream recording industry.


More documentaries featured in this month’s programming: Prismatic Ground Presents, The Blues Accordin’ to Lightnin’ Hopkins (1970), Be Pretty and Shut Up! (1976), First Person Plural (2000), Refugee (2003), I Was Born But . . .  (2004), The Betrayal (2008), Bring Down the Walls (2020)

SATURDAY MATINEES

Jane Eyre

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Samantha Morton and Ciarán Hinds star in this superlative adaptation of Charlotte Brontë’s classic novel.

Quill: The Life of a Guide Dog

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Told with refreshingly unsentimental, documentary-like naturalism, this Japanese drama is an exquisitely touching look at the relationship between humans and animals.

The Robe

SATURDAY, APRIL 16

The first movie ever filmed in CinemaScope stands as a monumental exemplar of studio-era Hollywood filmmaking at its grandest and most spare-no-expense lavish.

The Band Wagon

SATURDAY, APRIL 23

Fred Astaire puts on a show for the ages in this Vincente Minnelli–directed dazzler, one of the greatest of the beloved musicals to emanate from the MGM dream factory.

The Importance of Being Earnest

SATURDAY, APRIL 30

Oscar Wilde’s comic jewel sparkles in Anthony Asquith’s grand Technicolor screen adaptation.

SHORT-FILM PROGRAMS

Prismatic Ground Presents

WATCH NOW

One of the most creative and galvanizing venues for film exhibition to emerge during the pandemic, Prismatic Ground is a festival centered on the intersection between experimental and documentary film. This selection of shorts from its first edition in April 2021 offers an eclectic cross section of formally and politically radical work. Highlighting filmmakers whose approach to image-making eschews traditional narrative in favor of abstraction and sensation—and whose techniques span animation, archival collage, 16 mm photography, and digital technology—Prismatic Ground shows how avant-garde practices can be deployed to confront violent histories of colonialism, genocide, and capitalism, introducing audiences to a cinema of radical potential.

FEATURING: Loose Corner (1986), Reckless Eyeballing (2004), Maat (2020), A New England Document (2020), Letter From Your Far-Off Country (2020), A Demonstration (2020), my favorite software is being here (2021), Two Sons and a River of Blood (2021), Melting Snow (2021), Bodies in Dissent (2021)


Short + Feature: Bohemian Rhapsodies
Thriller and La vie de bohème

WATCH NOW

Sally Potter and Aki Kaurismäki put their distinctive directorial stamps on a classic story of art, love, and the immortal allure of Paris.

Short + Feature: Commanders in Grief
Mamartuile and Secret Honor

TUESDAY, APRIL 19

A pair of presidential satires explore the light and dark sides of being a country’s most powerful figurehead—and what happens when it all goes terribly wrong.

Short + Feature: Making New Waves
All the Boys Are Called Patrick and The Story of a Three Day Pass

TUESDAY, APRIL 26

Actor and early French New Wave regular Nicole Berger is at the center of two romantic trysts in these foundational works from Jean-Luc Godard and Melvin Van Peebles.

DOUBLE FEATURES

Double Feature: NSFWC
Million Dollar Legs and The Bank Dick

WATCH NOW

The cranky genius of ur-curmudgeon W. C. Fields is on display in a pair of outrageous comedy classics.


Double Feature: Fritzkrieg!
Man Hunt and Ministry of Fear

WATCH NOW

Two stylish anti-Nazi thrillers from Fritz Lang transcend propaganda with their expert craftsmanship and bleak air of noir fatalism.

Double Feature: Called to the Dean
Paris, Texas and Blue Velvet

FRIDAY, APRIL 15

The late, great Dean Stockwell shows two sides—melancholy and soulful, then menacingly creepy—in a pair of 1980s art-house sensations.


Double Feature: Vicious Cycles
Rockers and Bicycle Thieves

FRIDAY, APRIL 22

The search for a stolen bike sets off vivid odysseys through Kingston and Rome in a definitive reggae classic and the Italian neorealist touchstone that inspired it.

Double Feature: The Fast Lane
Deprisa, deprisa and Y tu mamá también

FRIDAY, APRIL 29

Hit the road with a pair of whirlwind journeys through Spain and Mexico infused with the ecstatic rebel spirit of youth.

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