This month on the Criterion Channel, fall head over heels for your new favorite love story: we’ve collected some of the most swoon-inducing romances of all time as a Valentine’s special. Celebrate Black History Month with a collection of films that survey African American history on-screen, a look at literary legend James Baldwin’s captivating cinematic legacy, and a retrospective devoted to the independent trailblazer Oscar Micheaux. And with new programs devoted to queer-cinema renegade Derek Jarman, melodrama master Douglas Sirk, and noir innovator Robert Siodmak, there’s so much more to explore.
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* indicates programming available only in the U.S.
All programming premieres February 1 unless noted otherwise
Celebrate Black History
The story of Black Americans is, in many ways, the story of America itself. Though the African American experience has long been relegated to the margins of the big screen, a vital cinematic legacy endures thanks to the work of pioneers like William Greaves (Nationtime), Michelle Parkerson (. . . But Then, She’s Betty Carter), Kathleen Collins (Losing Ground), Bill Duke (The Killing Floor), and Charles Burnett (The Final Insult), as well as bracing contemporary voices like Garrett Bradley (America) and Ephraim Asili (The Inheritance). Their stories of revolution, resistance, creativity, community, and everyday endurance offer a multifaceted vision of Black American identity across generations.
FEATURES: Portrait of Jason (1967), Nationtime (1972), Sounder (1972), A Dream Is What You Wake Up From (1978), . . . But Then, She’s Betty Carter (1980), Remnants of the Watts Festival (1980), Imagine the Sound (1981), Losing Ground (1982), Say Amen, Somebody (1982), The Killing Floor (1984), Paris Is Burning (1990), The Final Insult (1997), still/here (2000), The Inheritance (2020)
SHORTS: Black Panthers (1968), Paul Robeson: Tribute to an Artist (1979), Fannie’s Film (1981), Suzanne, Suzanne (1982), We Demand (2016), America (2019)
All You Need Is Love
Sometimes all it takes to restore your faith in humanity is a simple, good-old-fashioned love story. Refreshingly free of cynicism, these unabashedly starry-eyed tales of all-consuming passion and sweep-you-off-your-feet romance are sexy, sweet, and maybe even a little sappy—just the way a good love affair should be. From romantic-comedy charmers (City Lights, The Lady Eve) to rapturous art-house reveries (Boy Meets Girl, Wings of Desire) to swooning expressions of queer desire (Desert Hearts, Happy Together), these are the intoxicating all-timers that make us fall in love with love.
FEATURING: City Lights (1931), It Happened One Night (1934), L’Atalante (1934), History Is Made at Night (1937), The Lady Eve (1941), I Know Where I’m Going! (1945), The Passionate Friends (1949), Summertime (1955), Pillow Talk (1959), Breathless (1960), The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964), Stolen Kisses (1968), Cane River (1982), Tootsie (1982), Boy Meets Girl (1984), Desert Hearts (1985), A Room with a View (1986), Wings of Desire (1987), Mississippi Masala (1991), Chungking Express (1994), The Incredibly True Adventure of Two Girls in Love (1995), Happy Together (1997), Weekend (2011)
James Baldwin On-Screen
Towering literary lion, fierce social critic, and inimitable cultural icon James Baldwin opened up a new space for the frank discussion of race, sexuality, and identity in American society. He also left behind a dynamic cinematic legacy, as seen in these portraits that capture his electrifying presence, passionate eloquence, and incisive commentary on everything from art to religion to love to liberation to his most personal experiences as a gay Black man who lived much of his life abroad but who never stopped examining his own complex relationship to the United States. This collection also includes Go Tell It on the Mountain, a star-studded television film based on Baldwin’s first novel, one of the few screen adaptations of his fiction.
FEATURES: Go Tell It on the Mountain (1985), James Baldwin: The Price of the Ticket (1989), I Am Not Your Negro (2016)*
SHORTS: Baldwin’s Nigger (1968), Meeting the Man: James Baldwin in Paris (1970), James Baldwin: From Another Place (1973)
Queer Britannia: A Derek Jarman Retrospective
Featuring an introduction by critic Alonso Duralde
A cinematic renegade who became an essential voice of protest against Thatcher-era repression, visionary British iconoclast Derek Jarman left behind a legacy of astonishing films that give defiant expression to gay desire, anguish, rage, and humanity. Ranging from lush, boldly conceived biographies of queer historical figures such as Caravaggio and Edward II to searing, formally radical experimental works like The Last of England and Blue, in which he confronted both the decline of Britain and his own mortality in the wake of an AIDS diagnosis, Jarman’s oeuvre is one of the most uncompromising and fearlessly personal in all of cinema.
FEATURING: Sebastiane (1976), Jubilee (1978), The Tempest (1979), The Angelic Conversation (1985), Caravaggio (1986), The Last of England (1987), War Requiem (1989), The Garden (1990), Edward II (1991), Wittgenstein (1993), Blue (1993), Glitterbug (1994)
Oscar Micheaux: Trailblazer
A pioneering American writer, director, and producer whose films are among the boldest of the silent and early sound eras, independent auteur Oscar Micheaux gave Black audiences a reflection of their own experiences crafted with a complexity and seriousness that stood in stark contrast to the racist stereotypes propagated by his contemporary D. W. Griffith and the nascent Hollywood studio system. Tackling issues of race relations, systemic injustice, and the struggles of Black Americans striving for better lives with both stirring power and a showman’s sense of spectacle, these films—including the bold exposé of racist violence Within Our Gates; Body and Soul, a potent critique of religious hypocrisy starring the great Paul Robeson; and the subversive detective mystery Murder in Harlem, presented here in a major new restoration—offer a vital counter-history of American cinema, one with the Black experience at its fore.
FEATURING: Within Our Gates (1920), The Symbol of the Unconquered: A Story of the Ku Klux Klan (1920), Body and Soul (1925), The Darktown Revue (1931), The Exile (1931), The Girl from Chicago (1932), Ten Minutes to Live (1932), Veiled Aristocrats (1932), Murder in Harlem (1935), Birthright (1938)
Douglas Sirk Rarities
Though best known for the subversive, extravagantly stylized color melodramas he directed in the 1950s, Douglas Sirk’s brilliance was not limited to his work in Technicolor, as seen in these equally rich, relatively unsung black-and-white gems made during the same period. Featuring a moody mystery set in a nunnery (Thunder on the Hill), a pair of bold anti–family values melodramas starring the formidable Barbara Stanwyck (All I Desire, There’s Always Tomorrow), and an expressionistically sordid portrait of death-chasing stunt fliers (The Tarnished Angels), these Sirk deep cuts display the intricate mise-en-scène and slashing irony that define the filmmaker’s finest work.
FEATURING: Thunder on the Hill (1951), All I Desire (1953), There’s Always Tomorrow (1956), The Tarnished Angels (1957)
Robert Siodmak: Four Key Noirs
Along with fellow European émigrés like Fritz Lang and Billy Wilder, German-born Robert Siodmak was instrumental in importing the expressionist visual style and hard-bitten existentialist sensibility that would define Hollywood film noir, arguably creating more classics of the genre than any other director. His moody, shadow-etched compositions and flair for the fatalistic are on full display in this selection of some of his finest, including Phantom Lady, his dreamlike first noir and a fascinating protofeminist example of the genre, and The Killers and Criss Cross, a pair of bleak, twisty pulp masterpieces starring Burt Lancaster.
FEATURING: Phantom Lady (1944), The Suspect (1944), The Killers (1946), Criss Cross (1949)
EXCLUSIVE STREAMING PREMIERES
On-Gaku: Our Sound
When you’re a bored teenager looking for thrills, sometimes the only thing you can turn to is rock ’n’ roll. With no skills, money, or even a full set of drums, a feared trio of high-school delinquents nevertheless decide they are destined for musical glory in a quest to impress their only friend, avoid a rival gang, and—most importantly—jam out. Animated almost entirely by director Kenji Iwaisawa, and featuring a lead performance by Japanese alt-rock legend Shintaro Sakamoto, On-Gaku: Our Sound brings its own sound and vision to the beloved underground manga by Hiroyuki Ohashi from which it was adapted. With pitch-perfect deadpan humor, the film offers a highly original take on the beloved slacker comedy: a lo-fi buddy film with a blaring musical finale that will leave you wanting an immediate encore.
The Velvet Queen*
A breathtaking journey into the heart of the Tibetan highlands, The Velvet Queen follows renowned nature photographer Vincent Munier as he guides writer Sylvain Tesson on his quest to document the infamously elusive snow leopard. Munier introduces his companion to the subtle art of tracking animals—how to wait from a blind spot and summon the patience to catch sight of the beasts. Over the course of their trek through the Tibetan peaks, inhabited by invisible presences, the two men ponder humankind’s place amongst the magnificent creatures and sublime landscapes they encounter.
A rediscovered treasure of independent cinema, this incisive comedic drama follows Rainbow Gold (Victoria Gabrielle Platt), a teenager coming of age in Brooklyn, as she looks to two vastly different models of womanhood: her straitlaced mother, Alma (Kim Weston-Moran), who runs a hair salon in the parlor of their home and disapproves of her daughter’s newfound interest in boys; and her free-spirited, larger-than-life aunt Ruby (Mizan Kirby), who has just returned from Paris after a ten-year absence and whose presence shakes up the household. Bursting with the bold Day-Glo colors of nineties fashion, this dazzling feature from feminist filmmaker and animator Ayoka Chenzira grapples with questions of Black women’s sexuality, agency, and self-image from a multigenerational perspective.
The Sounds of Science: Yo La Tengo Plays Jean Painlevé
Featuring an introduction by Yo La Tengo
The mesmerizing, utterly unclassifiable films of Jean Painlevé have to be seen to be believed: delightful, surrealist-influenced dream works that are also serious science. The French filmmaker-scientist-inventor had a decades-spanning career in which he created hundreds of short films on subjects ranging from astronomy to pigeons to, most famously, such marine-life marvels as the seahorse and the sea urchin. Set to an original score—never before available to stream—by indie-rock heroes Yo La Tengo, the suite of eight underwater miniatures presented here captures the strange beauty and wonder of the aquatic world with a Dadaist’s eye.
Yo La Tengo’s latest album, This Stupid World, will be released on February 10 by Matador Records.
A tour de force of DIY visual invention, this underground sci-fi lesbian extravaganza has been newly restored to its Super 8 visual splendor. It’s the year 2700 in the fictional burned-out city of Asche, and the lives of three women are about to collide: comic-book artist Spy (Susana Helmayr), sexed-up pyromaniac Volley (Ursula Puerrer), and reptile-obsessed alien Nun (A. Hans Scheirl). What ensues is an anarchic tale of obsession and revenge that critic B. Ruby Rich describes as “the film that J. G. Ballard might have made if he’d been born an Austrian dyke.”
Spotlight on Within Our Gates
In the latest installment of our Spotlight series, film scholar Racquel J. Gates unpacks Oscar Micheaux’s 1920 classic Within Our Gates, a landmark of American silent film that deploys stunning cinematic innovations to tell its story from a Black perspective.
Starring Rock Hudson and Doris Day
One of Hollywood’s most popular screen couples, Doris Day and Rock Hudson revitalized their careers and the romantic-comedy formula with the 1959 megahit Pillow Talk, delighting audiences with a teasing sexual innuendo that they would deploy to similar success in the follow-ups Lover Come Back and Send Me No Flowers. Though their much-analyzed gender politics would soon be rendered outmoded by the sexual revolution, these soufflé-light bedroom farces endure thanks to their sly wit, colorful production design, and the irresistible chemistry generated by two stars letting loose for some frothy fun.FEATURING: Pillow Talk (1959), Lover Come Back (1961), Send Me No Flowers (1964)
A boy’s newfound ability to read sets his imagination free in this rollicking, sumptuously animated storybook adventure.
A rigorous, uniquely cinematic study of a domestic worker in Mumbai makes visible the lives and labor that so often remain outside the frame.
On a winter night in Atlantic City, the manager of a defunct casino must reckon with his parental failures when his unruly son comes to him in desperate need of help.
NEW ADDITIONS TO PREVIOUS PROGRAMS
Now Playing in Snow Westerns: The Tall Men
Stunning CinemaScope landscapes, a dynamite cast, and the vigorous direction of Raoul Walsh come together in this gripping portrayal of an epic cattle drive.
Back by Popular Demand
Don’t miss these viewer favorites, returning to the Channel in February!FEATURING: The Blue Angel (1930), Nostalghia (1983)