This month on the Criterion Channel, our Jennifer Jason Leigh retrospective delves into the career of one of the movies’ most fearless performers. A hundredth-birthday salute to Seijun Suzuki brings together some of the wildest, most stylish and formally daring films in all of Japanese cinema, while our collection of James Stewart’s collaborations with Anthony Mann brings out the dark side of a beloved Hollywood star. And don’t miss our survey of the poignant, playful films that put Asian American filmmaking on the map in the 1980s. There’s so much more to choose from this month, including a pair of essential premieres, a newly restored Olivier Assayas thriller, and a celebration of Richard Linklater’s Austin Film Society.
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* indicates programming available only in the U.S.
Starring Jennifer Jason Leigh
Featuring a new interview with Leigh
Celebrated for her fearless portrayals of complex, troubled women at emotional extremes, Jennifer Jason Leigh brings strength to vulnerability and unexpected grace to even the most damaged of characters. Beginning her film career while still a teenager, she quickly established a penchant for risky, auteur-driven independent projects, delivering edgy, unpredictable, and highly acclaimed performances in films as diverse as Miami Blues, Single White Female, Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle, Georgia, and The Anniversary Party, the last of which she also cowrote and codirected. Five decades into a remarkable career, her artistry remains as vital and uncompromising as ever.
FEATURING: Flesh + Blood (1985), Sister, Sister (1987), Heart of Midnight (1988), Miami Blues (1990), Single White Female (1992)*, Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle (1994), Georgia (1995)*, The Anniversary Party (2001), In the Cut (2003)*, Margot at the Wedding (2007), Synecdoche, New York (2008)*
Anthony Mann Directs James Stewart
With their eight unforgettable collaborations—most famously the five legendary, psychologically charged westerns Winchester ’73, Bend of the River, The Naked Spur, The Far Country, and The Man from Laramie—director Anthony Mann and star James Stewart pushed the actor’s hitherto wholesome image into uncharted new territory, revealing dark depths of anger, violence, anxiety, and moral ambiguity. Distinguished by their intricate mise-en-scène, taut action set pieces, and striking use of landscape, these films reshaped both Stewart’s persona and longstanding American mythologies of heroism, honor, and justice.
FEATURING: Winchester ’73 (1950), Bend of the River (1952), Thunder Bay (1953), The Glenn Miller Story (1954), The Far Country (1954), The Man from Laramie (1955), Strategic Air Command (1955)*; COMING JUNE 1: The Naked Spur (1953)
Asian American ’80s
The 1980s marked the first decade of Asian American feature filmmaking—a period defined by restless thematic and stylistic exploration as trailblazing directors sought to express their complex cultural identity on-screen. In this decade, filmmakers like Wayne Wang (whose Chan Is Missing emerged as an indie landmark), Steven Okazaki, Peter Wang, and Kayo Hatta sought to define “Asian American” anew, whether through comedic contrast with Asians on the other side of the Pacific (The Great Wall, Living on Tokyo Time), or via tender melodramas of the second generation (Dim Sum: A Little Bit of Heart, Otemba). Supported not only by the burgeoning American independent market of the 1980s, but also by new Asian American film festivals and media centers in New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, the films in this program—curated by Brian Hu—imagined for the first time what a community in the shadows might do with the spotlight.
FEATURES: Chan Is Missing (1982), They Call Me Bruce (1982), Dim Sum: A Little Bit of Heart (1985), A Great Wall (1986), Living on Tokyo Time (1987), West Is West (1987), The Wash (1988), Eat a Bowl of Tea (1989)
SHORTS: Community Plot (1984), Pak Bueng on Fire (1987), Otemba (1988), Two Lies (1990)
Seijun Suzuki: The Chaos of Cool
Featuring a new introduction by author Grady Hendrix
Born one hundred years ago this month, Japanese New Wave renegade Seijun Suzuki combined a deliriously inventive approach to filmmaking and a fast-and-loose attitude toward genre expectations to make some of the most thrillingly stylish movies of all time, frequently transcending narrative logic and skyrocketing clear into the realm of total pop-art abstraction. From the anything-goes yakuza thrillers Tokyo Drifter and Branded to Kill (a masterpiece so narratively fractured it resulted in his unceremonious firing from his longtime home studio of Nikkatsu) to the daring postwar dramas of human frailty Gate of Flesh and Story of a Prostitute to his acclaimed late-career swerve toward surreal period drama in the Taisho Trilogy (Zigeunerweisen, Kagero-za, Yumeji), Suzuki played chaos like jazz, cramming boundless visual ideas into his beautifully composed frames.
FEATURING: Eight Hours of Terror (1957), Everything Goes Wrong (1960), Take Aim at the Police Van (1960), The Man With a Shotgun (1961), Detective Bureau 2-3: Go to Hell Bastards! (1963), Youth of the Beast (1963), Gate of Flesh (1964), Story of a Prostitute (1965), Fighting Elegy (1966), Tokyo Drifter (1966), Branded to Kill (1967), Zigeunerweisen (1980), Kagero-za (1981), Yumeji (1991)
Featuring a new introduction by filmmaker Ramin Bahrani
One of the world’s great cinematic artists, Jafar Panahi has been carefully crafting self-reflexive works about artistic, personal, and political freedom for the past three decades, despite being banned from filmmaking by the Iranian government since 2010. In No Bears—completed shortly before his imprisonment in 2022—Panahi plays a fictionalized version of himself, a dissident filmmaker who relocates to a rural border town to direct a film remotely in nearby Turkey and finds himself embroiled in a local scandal. As he struggles to complete his film, Panahi must confront the opposing pulls of tradition and progress, city and country, belief and evidence, and the universal desire to reject oppression.
Shot on dreamy 16 mm, the stunning debut feature from Haitian-Canadian filmmaker Miryam Charles resurrects a tragedy that occurred within her own family—the unresolved death of her cousin—to weave a ghostly and gorgeous reflection on memory, grief, and what could have been. In Bridgeport, Connecticut, a teenage girl is found hanged in her room. While everything points to suicide, the autopsy report reveals something else. Ten years later, the director examines the causes and consequences of this unsolved crime. Like an imagined biography, Cette maison explores the relationship between the security of home and the violence that can jeopardize it.
CRITERION COLLECTION EDITIONS
The Infernal Affairs Trilogy
Criterion Collection Edition #1159
The Hong Kong crime thriller was jolted to new life with these bracing, explosively stylish critical and commercial triumphs that introduced a dazzling level of narrative and thematic complexity to the genre (as well as inspiring Martin Scorsese’s The Departed).
SUPPLEMENTAL FEATURES: Audio commentaries for the first two films featuring codirectors Andrew Lau Wai-keung and Alan Mak and screenwriter Felix Chong Man-keung, interviews with cast and crew, making-of programs, and more.
Days of Heaven (Terrence Malick, 1978)
Criterion Collection Edition #409
A love triangle, a swarm of locusts, a hellish fire—Terrence Malick’s glorious period tragedy is one of American cinema’s most visually arresting achievements.
SUPPLEMENTAL FEATURES: Audio commentary featuring editor Billy Weber, art director Jack Fisk, costume designer Patricia Norris, and casting director Dianne Crittenden; interviews with actors Richard Gere and Sam Shepard; and more.
Chan Is Missing (Wayne Wang, 1982)
Criterion Collection Edition #1124
In his wryly offbeat breakthrough, Wayne Wang updates the ingredients of classic film noir for the streets of contemporary San Francisco’s Chinatown.
SUPPLEMENTAL FEATURES: The making-of documentary Is Chan Still Missing?, conversations between Wang and critic Hua Hsu and Wang and filmmaker Ang Lee, and more.
REDISCOVERIES AND RESTORATIONS
“No one sees anything. Ever. They watch, but they don’t understand.” So observes Connie Nielsen in Olivier Assayas’s hallucinatory, globe-spanning Demonlover, a postmodern neonoir thriller and media critique in which nothing—not even the film itself—is what it appears to be. Nielsen plays Diane de Monx, a Volf Corporation executive turned spy for rival Mangatronics in the companies’ battle over the lucrative market of Internet adult animation. But Diane may not be the only player at Volf with a hidden agenda: both romantic interest Hervé (Charles Berling) and office enemy Elise (Chloë Sevigny) seem to know her secret and can easily use it against her for their own purposes. As the stakes grow higher and Diane ventures into deadlier territory, Assayas explores the connections between multinational businesses and extreme underground media as well as the many ways twenty-first-century reality increasingly resembles violent, disorienting fiction.
Art-House America: Austin Film Society
Founded by Richard Linklater in 1985 as a screening series dedicated to bringing experimental and art cinema to Austin, Texas, the Austin Film Society has since grown into a cultural powerhouse and cornerstone of the city’s creative community—all while remaining true to its edgy, eclectic roots. In addition to their vibrant repertory programming, AFS regularly welcomes renowned filmmakers from across the globe to present their work while fostering homegrown Texan talent through their Austin Film Society Grant program. Revelatory documentaries (No Home Movie), outré transmissions from the far-out fringes (Singapore Sling), works from the greater Austin filmmaking diaspora (Attenberg, Computer Chess), and a blast of Black queer anarchy (Chocolate Babies)—the films they have selected reflect the spirit of discovery and artistic freedom that is at the heart of the AFS mission.
FEATURES: Working Girls (1931), Good Morning (1959), Singapore Sling (1990), Slacker (1991), Cold Water (1994), Chocolate Babies (1996), Attenberg (2010), Computer Chess (2013)*, No Home Movie (2015)
SHORTS: Pioneer (2011), Rat Pack Rat (2014), Carne seca (2015), The Rabbit Hunt (2017)
The Blindness Series
A series of eight densely layered experimental video essays by Vietnamese American artist Tran T. Kim-Trang, The Blindness Series encompasses a dizzying array of themes and aesthetic strategies as it explores the many metaphorical resonances surrounding blindness and vision. Ranging in style from highly processed collage that mimics the aesthetics of MTV to more straightforward documentary, these thought-provoking, politically engaged works explore questions surrounding cosmetic surgery of (Asian American) eyelids, vision and sexuality, video surveillance, and hysterical blindness as they open up entirely new ways of seeing.
FEATURING: aletheia (1992), operculum (1993), kore (1994), ocularis (1997), ekleipsis (1998), alexia (2000), amaurosis (2002), Epilogue: The Palpable Invisibility of Life (2006)
The Three Musketeers
Alexandre Dumas’s classic swashbuckler gets a rollicking musical-comedy spin, with Don Ameche as a singing d’Artagnan.
NEW ADDITIONS TO PREVIOUS PROGRAMS
Now Playing in Directed by David Lynch: The Elephant Man
With this poignant second feature, David Lynch brought his atmospheric visual and sonic palette to a notorious true story, cementing his reputation as one of American cinema’s most visionary talents.
Now Playing in Erotic Thrillers: Single White Female*
An innocent want ad opens the door to murderous, unrelenting terror in this psychological shocker starring Jennifer Jason Leigh in one of her greatest performances.
Back by Popular Demand
Don’t miss these viewer favorites, returning to the Channel in May!
FEATURING: Gilda (1946), Days of Heaven (1978), Modern Romance (1981), King of New York (1990), But I’m a Cheerleader (1999)