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The Criterion Channel’s August 2023 Lineup

On the Channel

Jul 19, 2023

The Criterion Channel’s August 2023 Lineup

The Criterion Channel’s August 2023 Lineup

On the Channel

Jul 19, 2023

This August, we’re celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of a movement that changed the sound, image, style, and attitude of pop culture around the world with our collection of hip-hop’s finest moments on film. A star spotlight on Kay Francis highlights one of the 1930s’ most singular screen actors, while our complete presentation of Roger Corman’s Edgar Allan Poe adaptations collects some of the most brilliant B movies ever made. There’s so much more on offer, including European thrillers both visceral and cerebral, gangster movies from underworld insider Rowland Brown, Lou Ye’s hypnotic explorations of a changing China, and exclusive premieres of fresh-from-theaters favorites like Tori and Lokita and Dos Estaciones.

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* indicates programming available only in the U.S.

TOP STORIES

Hip-Hop

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Celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the birth of hip-hop with this mixtape of the cultural phenomenon’s finest movie moments, featuring a stunning line-up of legendary musical figures including A Tribe Called Quest, Grandmaster Flash, Public Enemy, Tupac Shakur, RZA, Nas, Ice Cube, MC Lyte, and DJ Kool Herc. It was Herc who, at a Bronx dance party on August 11, 1973, first used two turntables to create an instrumental “break beat,” an innovation that sent the crowd wild. This modest New York origin story inspired an unparalleled nationwide, then global, explosion encompassing music, dance, public art, fashion, and, eventually, cinema. This dynamic program spotlights the many ways that hip-hop has intersected with film, showcasing raw early documents of the scene’s key players, intimate and informative portraits of musical expertise and technical wizardry, and definitive, star-studded evocations of the culture’s impact.

FEATURING: Wild Style (1982), Style Wars (1983), Beat Street (1984), Krush Groove (1985), Deep Cover (1992), Fear of a Black Hat (1993), Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai (1999), Freestyle: The Art of Rhyme (2000), Scratch (2001), Paid in Full (2002)*, Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest (2011), Something from Nothing: The Art of Rap (2012), Jamel Shabazz Street Photographer (2013);  COMING SEPTEMBER 1: Do the Right Thing (1989), Boyz n the Hood (1991), Poetic Justice (1993); COMING NOVEMBER 1: Belly (1998), Belly 2: Millionaire Boyz Club (2008)

Starring Kay Francis

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“I can’t wait to be forgotten,” Kay Francis once famously remarked. Too bad, because she was completely unforgettable. Glamorous, tragic, and idiosyncratic, Francis was a miraculous vision. Her tall, lithe frame (always clad in the chicest of couture), downturned brows, and doe eyes helped make her the top female star at Warner Bros. in the early 1930s, but beneath the stylish image was a streak of world-weary fatalism that imbued her performances with a wistful, moving gravitas. Francis’s finest moments—sparkling, risqué pre-Code gems like Trouble in Paradise, One Way Passage, and Jewel Robbery—are a testament to a singular screen presence that still feels strikingly authentic and modern.

FEATURING: The Cocoanuts (1929), For the Defense (1930)*, Street of Chance (1930)*, The Virtuous Sin (1930), Ladies’ Man (1931), One Way Passage (1932), Jewel Robbery (1932), Trouble in Paradise (1932), Mandalay (1934), When the Daltons Rode (1940)*

Grindhouse Gothic: Roger Corman Directs Edgar Allan Poe

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Featuring an episode of Adventures in Moviegoing with Roger Corman

When exploitation cinema’s most visionary impresario took on American literature’s greatest horror writer, it was a match made in hell. Having honed his knack for genre filmmaking with the string of B movies he produced fast and cheap for American International Pictures in the 1950s, Roger Corman began one of the most artistically ambitious projects of his heroic career with a series of brilliantly inventive, hair-raising adaptations of stories by Edgar Allan Poe. These menacing and macabre films, produced between 1960 and 1964, found Corman experimenting with color, lighting, and art direction in sometimes avant-garde ways to achieve their otherworldly gothic atmosphere. They also cemented the immortality of genre legend Vincent Price, who, as star of seven of the eight films, tore into the scenery with diabolical relish.

FEATURING: House of Usher (1960), The Pit and the Pendulum (1961), The Premature Burial (1962), Tales of Terror (1962), The Haunted Palace (1963), The Raven (1963), The Masque of the Red Death (1964), The Tomb of Ligeia (1964)

Eurothrillers

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Take a European vacation full of danger, suspense, and surprise with some of the most stylish, nerve-twisting films ever to make their way across the pond. There’s murder on the Mediterranean (Purple Noon), mystery in the Land of the Midnight Sun (Insomnia), paranoia among the shadows of Prague (The Ear), surreal dread on the English moors (The Shout), erotically charged menace on the French Riviera (La piscine), and high-tech corporate intrigue across the dark web (Demonlover) in a selection of continental thrill rides to make your pulse quicken.

FEATURING: M (1931), The Wages of Fear (1953), Diabolique (1955), Purple Noon (1960), Knife in the Water (1962), Night Games (1966), La piscine (1969), Z (1969), The Ear (1970), State of Siege (1972), Mr. Klein (1976), The Shout (1978), The Element of Crime (1984), The Hit (1984), The Vanishing (1988), Europa (1991), La cérémonie (1995), Funny Games (1997), Insomnia (1997), Demonlover (2002), Revanche (2008)

STREAMING PREMIERES

Tori and Lokita

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Featuring a new introduction by directors Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, part of Criterion’s Meet the Filmmakers series

From two-time Palme d’Or winners Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne (Two Days, One Night) comes the story of seventeen-year-old Lokita and twelve-year-old Tori (in remarkable debut performances from Joely Mbundu and Pablo Schils), two immigrants—from Cameroon and Benin, respectively—whose sibling-like bond is the only resource they can depend on in their struggle for survival on the margins of European society. The inseparable pair work as performers in a cheap trattoria, dealing drugs on the side for the restaurant’s abusive cook, while balancing the demands of an indifferent bureaucracy and a band of violent smugglers. When Lokita is held captive while working in a marijuana grow house, Tori scrambles to save his companion from their abusers, as events spiral out of control. Winner of the 75th Anniversary Prize at the 2022 Cannes Film Festival, the latest humanist drama from the Dardenne brothers is a heart-stopping thriller that casts an unflinching eye on the trials of the young and dispossessed.

Dos Estaciones

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This richly evocative blend of fictional character study and documentary-like observation offers an intimate perspective on the ravages of globalization through an arresting portrait of one woman’s personal and professional battles. Teresa Sánchez (winner of a Special Jury Award at the Sundance Film Festival) delivers an astonishing performance as María García, the owner of Dos Estaciones, a formerly majestic tequila factory now struggling to stay afloat. The factory is the final holdover from generations of Mexican-owned tequila plants in the highlands of Jalisco, the rest having folded to foreign corporations. Once one of the wealthiest people in town, María knows her current financial situation is untenable. When a persistent plague and an unexpected flood cause irreversible damage, she is forced to do everything she can to save her community’s primary economy and source of pride.

Saturday Fiction

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The latest from acclaimed director Lou Ye—one of contemporary Chinese cinema’s boldest auteurs—is a stylish, spellbinding thriller built around a tour-de-force performance from the great Gong Li. It’s 1941, and China has become a wartime intelligence battlefield. Actor Jean Yu (Gong) returns to Shanghai, ostensibly to appear in the play Saturday Fiction, directed by her former lover. But what is her true aim? To free her ex-husband? To gather intelligence for the Allied forces? To work for her adoptive father? Or to escape from war with her lover? As she embarks on her mission, with friends ever more difficult to distinguish from undercover agents, Jean Yu starts to question whether to reveal what she has learned about the imminent Pearl Harbor attack.

Turn Every Page: The Adventures of Robert Caro and Robert Gottlieb*

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Turn Every Page explores the remarkable fifty-year relationship between two literary legends, writer Robert Caro and his longtime editor Robert Gottlieb, who passed away this June. Eighty-six at the time of filming, Caro is working to complete the final volume of his masterwork, The Years of Lyndon Johnson; Gottlieb, ninety-one, waits to edit it. The task of finishing their life’s work looms before them. With humor and insight, this unique double portrait reveals the work habits, peculiarities, and professional joys of these two ferocious intellects at the culmination of a journey that has consumed both their lives and impacted generations of politicians, activists, writers, and readers.

RESTORATION PREMIERES

Suzhou River*

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A landmark of Sixth Generation Chinese filmmaking, Lou Ye’s international breakthrough reworks elements of Vertigo and film noir into an impressionistic wash of dreamy images and intoxicating romanticism. Along the industrial banks of the Suzhou River, which winds precariously through Shanghai, Marda (Jia Hongsheng) falls in love with a beautiful young woman named Moudan (Zhou Xun, soon to be one of her generation’s most esteemed actors). When he loses her in an attempted kidnapping gone wrong, she seems to disappear into the river forever—until he meets MeiMei (Zhou Xun again), a woman who performs a nightclub act as a mermaid and who happens to look exactly like Moudan.

The Delta

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A treasure of the 1990s’ New Queer Cinema, Ira Sachs’s incisive debut feature moodily evokes the wide space between dreams, desires, and fulfillment in post–Vietnam War America via the romance between Lincoln (Shayne Gray), an affluent white teenager, and Minh (Thang Chan) the immigrant son of a poor Vietnamese woman and a Black GI. The vivid setting is a little-seen, little-known Memphis, a city where kids get through their nights by drinking and doing drugs and gay men struggle with questions of personal identity and fulfillment. When Lincoln and Minh set off on a boat down the Mississippi, could it just be another in a long series of failed escapes?

EDITIONS

Bo Widerberg’s New Swedish Cinema

Criterion Collection Edition #1189

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Merging social-realist themes with a refined, often breathtakingly beautiful visual sensibility, the politically committed yet poetic works of Bo Widerberg broke with the inward-looking psychodrama of Ingmar Bergman to give dynamic expression to the everyday experiences of working-class Swedes.

SUPPLEMENTAL FEATURES: An introduction by filmmaker Ruben Östlund, interviews with actor Tommy Berggren and cinematographer Jörgen Persson, behind-the-scenes footage, and more.

The Watermelon Woman (Cheryl Dunye, 1996)

Criterion Collection Edition #1184

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Balancing breezy romantic comedy with a serious inquiry into the history of Black and queer women in Hollywood, Cheryl Dunye’s wry, incisive debut feature slyly rewrites longstanding constructions of race and sexuality on-screen.

SUPPLEMENTAL FEATURES: An interview with Dunye, a conversation between Dunye and artist-filmmaker Martine Syms, six short films by Dunye, and more.

DIRECTOR SPOTLIGHTS

Rowland Brown’s 1930s Underworld

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Though relatively overlooked today—perhaps because he directed only a handful of films in a career cut short in part by his propensity for getting violent with producers—writer-director Rowland Brown helmed some of the grittiest, most subversive and straight-up shocking films of the pre-Code era. Notorious for his rumored connections to gangsters such as Bugsy Siegel, Brown brought an insider’s view of the underworld to his brutal, anticapitalist crime dramas, infusing them with startling authenticity.

FEATURING: Quick Millions (1931), Hell’s Highway (1932), The Devil Is a Sissy (1936)

Directed by Dustin Guy Defa

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Featuring a new introduction by the filmmaker, part of Criterion’s Meet the Filmmakers series

Though his filmography to date consists of only three features and a dozen or so acclaimed, eclectic short films, Dustin Guy Defa has carved out a unique niche as one of American independent cinema’s most intriguing and defiantly unorthodox auteurs. Interested, above all, in people and their relationships, his by turns wryly humorous and melancholic films are populated by unforgettable characters and feel something like a throwback to the smart, literate, observant human dramas of the 1970s. Defa’s unique touch is on perfect display in his award-winning short Person to Person, which shares a title with his wonderfully low-key, shaggy-dog 2017 feature.

FEATURES: Bad Fever (2011), Person to Person (2017)

SHORTS: Family Nightmare (2011), Declaration of War (2013), Person to Person (2014), God Is an Artist (2015), Review (2015), Dramatic Relationships (2016), Editing (2021)

Three by Lou Ye

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Frequently working in defiance of state censorship, Lou Ye has emerged as one of the edgiest and most controversial of China’s Sixth Generation of filmmakers. Singled out for praise by his contemporary Jia Zhangke, Lou belongs to a cohort of artists who have forged a subversive, radically personal cinema to tell the human stories of those left behind by the country’s rapid industrialization. Distinguished by their dynamic handheld camerawork and dreamlike rhythms, the mesmerizing identity mysteries Suzhou River and Saturday Fiction toy with the conventions of film noir and the Hitchcockian thriller, while Spring Fever explores disillusionment and desire through a haunting queer love triangle.

FEATURING: Suzhou River (2000)*, Spring Fever (2009), Saturday Fiction (2019)

TRUE STORIES

Charm Circle

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First-time feature filmmaker Nira Burstein trains her camera on her own eccentric Jewish family in this tender, wryly amusing, and unpredictable portrait documentary that has earned comparisons to Grey Gardens.

SHORTS

Unemployees

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In the latest slacker anthem by underground auteur Joel Potrykus, recent college grads Patty (Kandy Kapelle) and Patti (Dani Parker) enter the workplace seeking gainful unemployment—only to find that gaming the system isn’t so easy. 

Tropicalía

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Lush, surreal, wild: an isolated woman undergoes a radical transformation in this richly sensorial, extravagantly imaginative short set in a verdant storybook world.

NEW ADDITIONS TO PREVIOUS PROGRAMS

Now Playing in Method Acting: Dog Day Afternoon

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A bank robbery goes unforgettably wrong in this New York classic, anchored by what may be Al Pacino’s career-defining performance.

Now Playing in Directed by Susan Seidelman: Desperately Seeking Susan

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Rosanna Arquette and Madonna are irresistible in this madcap mistaken-identity comedy set in New York’s ’80s downtown.

PREMIERING AUGUST 15

Now Playing in AI: Colossus: The Forbin Project*

A computer with control of the U.S.’s nuclear arsenal goes rogue in this suspenseful Cold War thriller that looks forward to our digital age.

ENCORES

Back by Popular Demand

Don’t miss these viewer favorites, returning to the Channel in August!

FEATURING: The Big Heat (1953), Anatomy of a Murder (1959), The Apartment (1960)

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