This December, take your pick from the cinematic gifts under our tree! We’ve got a spotlight on indie queen Parker Posey, major retrospectives dedicated to the towering artists Yasujiro Ozu and Ousmane Sembène, offbeat portraits of the animal kingdom’s collisions with its human neighbors by Mark Lewis, and a delightfully downbeat selection of holiday noir. Tuck into seasonal comfort fare both soufflé-light (MGM Musicals) and meaty-macabre (Hitchcock for the Holidays), served with a pair of Barbara Stanwyck classics. There’s so much more to unwrap, including the grand epics Lawrence of Arabia and La roue, the rediscovered cult favorite The Cassandra Cat, and Wong Kar Wai’s lyrical martial-arts biopic The Grandmaster.
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* indicates programming available only in the U.S.
Starring Parker Posey
All hail the indie queen! Ever since she burst onto the scene in the early 1990s, Parker Posey has captivated audiences with her offbeat magnetism, deadpan comic timing, and effortless cool in hip, offbeat gems like Party Girl, The House of Yes, Henry Fool, and Clockwatchers. Even as her star rose and Hollywood called, Posey has remained true to her independent roots, balancing forays into the mainstream with memorable performances for adventurous filmmakers on her same idiosyncratic wavelength.
FEATURES: Party Girl (1995), The Daytrippers (1996), SubUrbia (1996), Clockwatchers (1997), Henry Fool (1997)*, The House of Yes (1997)*, The Anniversary Party (2001), Josie and the Pussycats (2001)*, Personal Velocity (2002), Fay Grim (2006), Broken English (2007), Ned Rifle (2014)
SHORTS: Opera No. 1 (1994), Iris (1994), The Sisters of Mercy (2004)
Welcome to the dark, spiritual void at the heart of the holiday season—at least for the characters in these gritty crime dramas. Contrasting December’s festive trimmings with lurid tales of murder, desperation, and existential dread, these hard-boiled baubles—including the offbeat time-travel noir Repeat Performance, the breathless couple-on-the run romance They Live by Night, and the lean, brutal New York B movie Blast of Silence—cast a dangerously seductive shadow over the season.
FEATURING: Lady in the Lake (1946), Repeat Performance (1947), I Wouldn’t Be in Your Shoes (1948), They Live by Night (1948), Backfire (1950), Roadblock (1951), Blast of Silence (1961)*
Directed by Yasujiro Ozu
Featuring In Search of Ozu, an original documentary about Ozu’s late work by Daniel Raim
Yasujiro Ozu was Japanese cinema’s great poet of everyday life, and, 120 years after his birth, he remains one of the most significant film artists who ever lived. From the late 1920s to the early ’60s, Ozu explored the rhythms and tensions of a country trying to reconcile modern and traditional values, especially as played out in relations between the generations. Though he is best known for his 1953 masterpiece Tokyo Story, Ozu began his career in the silent era in a looser mode, with comedies like I Was Born, But . . . and gangster movies like Dragnet Girl. He then gradually mastered the domestic drama during the war years and afterward, employing both humor, as in Good Morning, and distilled drama, as in Late Spring, before the final blossoming of his art in such late color triumphs as An Autumn Afternoon. With its instantly recognizable hallmarks—static shots, often from the vantage point of someone sitting low on a tatami mat; patient pacing; moments of transcendence represented by the isolated beauty of everyday objects—Ozu’s rigorous style has influenced filmmakers as various as Wim Wenders, Jim Jarmusch, Hou Hsiao-hsien, Claire Denis, and Paul Schrader.
FEATURING: I Graduated, But . . . (1929), A Straightforward Boy (1929), I Flunked, But . . . (1930), That Night’s Wife (1930), Walk Cheerfully (1930), The Lady and the Beard (1931), Tokyo Chorus (1931), I Was Born, But . . . (1932), Where Now Are the Dreams of Youth? (1932), Dragnet Girl (1933), Passing Fancy (1933), Woman of Tokyo (1933), A Mother Should Be Loved (1934), A Story of Floating Weeds (1934), An Inn in Tokyo (1935), The Only Son (1936), What Did the Lady Forget? (1937), Brothers and Sisters of the Toda Family (1941), There Was a Father (1942), Record of a Tenement Gentleman (1947), A Hen in the Wind (1948), Late Spring (1949), The Munekata Sisters (1950), Early Summer (1951), The Flavor of Green Tea over Rice (1952), Tokyo Story (1953), Early Spring (1956), Tokyo Twilight (1957), Equinox Flower (1958), Floating Weeds (1959), Good Morning (1959), Late Autumn (1960), The End of Summer (1961), An Autumn Afternoon (1962)
Hitchcock for the Holidays
Merry Hitch-mas to all! For five decades, Alfred Hitchcock explored our innermost anxieties, desires, and obsessions in his diabolically constructed thrillers, which redefined the mechanics of screen terror through meticulous editing, voyeuristic camera work, and unforgettable set pieces. In endlessly studied and imitated masterpieces like Shadow of a Doubt, Rear Window, and Vertigo as well as singular stylistic experiments like Lifeboat, Rope, and Marnie, the Master of Suspense tapped into the peculiar pleasures of fear like no filmmaker before or since.
FEATURING: Downhill (1927), The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog (1927), Champagne (1928), Blackmail (1929), Murder! (1930), Rich and Strange (1931), The Skin Game (1931), The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934), The 39 Steps (1935), Sabotage (1936), Young and Innocent (1937), The Lady Vanishes (1938), Foreign Correspondent (1940), Saboteur (1942), Shadow of a Doubt (1943), Lifeboat (1944), Rope (1948), Rear Window (1954), The Trouble with Harry (1955), The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956), Vertigo (1958), The Birds (1963)*, Marnie (1964)*, Torn Curtain (1966)
Featuring a new introduction by critic Michael Koresky
In the heyday of the golden-age Hollywood musical, one studio reigned supreme: MGM, the dream factory from which emanated gloriously tune-filled enchantments, bigger than life and in blazing Technicolor. The roster of legendary names say it all, with innovative artists such as Vincente Minnelli, Stanley Donen, and Busby Berkeley directing stars like Judy Garland, Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire, and Cyd Charisse in some of their most unforgettable performances. Overflowing with transcendent moments of movie magic—from a tuxedoed Garland’s rendition of “Get Happy” in Summer Stock to Astaire tapping up a storm in The Band Wagon to Kelly strapping on roller skates in It’s Always Fair Weather—these song-and-dance wonders are paragons of craftsmanship and razzle-dazzle entertainment that, in their ingenuity and sheer exuberance, have arguably never been surpassed.
FEATURING: Broadway Melody of 1940 (1940), For Me and My Gal (1942), The Harvey Girls (1946), The Pirate (1948), Summer Stock (1950), An American in Paris (1951), The Band Wagon (1953), Brigadoon (1954)*, It’s Always Fair Weather (1955)
Directed by Ousmane Sembène
Featuring the documentary Sembène: The Making of African Cinema
“If Africans do not tell their own stories, Africa will soon disappear,” declared Ousmane Sembène, the Senegalese cinematic revolutionary whose career-long project to illuminate the lives of the marginalized made him the continent’s most influential and widely acclaimed director. A manual laborer turned union activist turned acclaimed writer turned filmmaker, Sembène saw cinema as the ultimate vehicle for his searing social critiques, delivering caustic indictments of colonialism, ruling-class corruption, religion, and the patriarchy in landmark works like Black Girl (recently named one of the greatest films of all time in Sight and Sound magazine’s poll), Mandabi, and Xala. Blending elements of social realism, expressionism, satire, folklore, and the West African griot tradition, his radical, empathetic films created a new cinematic language of resistance.
FEATURES: Black Girl (1966), Mandabi (1968), Emitaï (1971), Xala (1975), Ceddo (1977), Guelwaar (1992)
SHORTS: Borom sarret (1963), Niaye (1964), Tauw (1970)
Featuring a new introduction by the director, part of Criterion’s Meet the Filmmakers series
While vacationing by the Baltic Sea, writer Leon (Thomas Schubert) and photographer Felix (Langston Uibel) are surprised to encounter Nadja (Paula Beer), a mysterious young woman staying as a guest at Felix’s family’s holiday home. Nadja soon distracts Leon from finishing his latest novel, not only because of her passionate liaison with lifeguard Devid (Enno Trebs) but also because her brutal honesty forces Leon to confront his artistic inadequacies. As Nadja and Leon grow closer, an encroaching forest fire threatens the group and pushes the writer to discover whether he can truly care for anything beyond himself. Christian Petzold’s acclaimed latest was the winner of the Silver Bear Grand Jury Prize at the 2023 Berlin International Film Festival.
Human Flowers of Flesh
In her spellbinding, immersive second feature, director Helena Wittmann invites us to relinquish control and join her on a Mediterranean voyage unlike any other. After a stirring encounter with the French Foreign Legion, Ida (Dogtooth’s Angeliki Papoulia), sets sail with her own corps of five men, none of whom speak the same language, to trace the route of this fabled troop. Their voyage will take them from Marseille to Corsica and finally to Sidi Bel Abbès, Algeria, the historical headquarters of the Legion. Along the way, boundaries blur, life at sea produces a special kind of mutual understanding, and a legionnaire of yore makes an about-face.
REDISCOVERIES AND RESTORATIONS
The Cassandra Cat
In this modern-day fairy tale and rediscovered Czech New Wave cult classic, an ordinary Bohemian village is visited by a magician (Jan Werich), his beautiful assistant (Emília Vásáryová), and a magic cat with the power to reveal people in colors that indicate their true natures: yellow for the unfaithful, purple for liars, red for lovers like Robert (Vlastimil Brodský), a bighearted schoolteacher whose independence of thought places him at odds with the town’s conservative authorities. When the cat reveals the villagers as they really are and the town descends into whimsical chaos, humorless school principal Karel (Jiří Sovák) vows to hunt down the feline and put an end to its anarchic reign. Ahead of its time in experimenting with stylized color and extended political metaphor, The Cassandra Cat is director Vojtěch Jasný’s triumphant excursion into fantasy as a mirror of real-life social divisions and hypocrisies.
Jean de Florette and Manon of the Spring
Claude Berri’s masterful, multipart adaptation of The Water of the Hills, the two-volume novel by Marcel Pagnol, is one of the towering achievements of the French cinema. Spanning three generations in the lives of two rural families, these twin tragedies weave an absorbing, slow-burn epic of greed, deception, and revenge amid the Provence countryside, where the sun-dappled bucolic beauty belies dark motivations. Featuring unforgettable performances from Yves Montand, Gérard Depardieu, Daniel Auteuil, and Emmanuelle Béart, Jean de Florette and Manon of the Spring harken back to the rich, humanist tradition of French film at its finest.
Lynne Ramsay’s intoxicating study of grief and transformation stars a magnetic Samantha Morton as the eponymous enigma, a young woman who embarks on an audacious, freewheeling quest to find freedom after a terrible tragedy on Christmas day, traveling from grim small-town Scotland to sun-splashed southern Spain. With dark humor, punk swagger, and a soundtrack that skips from Can to Aphex Twin to the Velvet Underground, this otherworldly existential odyssey only grows more mysterious as it builds to its heart-stopping finale.
Lawrence of Arabia
One of the screen’s grandest epics, David Lean’s monumental Oscar winner recounts the true-life experiences of T. E. Lawrence, better known to the world as Lawrence of Arabia. A young, idealistic British officer in World War I, Lawrence (Peter O’Toole, in a career-defining performance) is assigned to the camp of Prince Feisal (Alec Guinness), an Arab leader in a revolt against the Turks. In a series of brilliant tactical maneuvers, Lawrence leads fifty of Feisal’s men in a tortured three-week crossing of the Nefud Desert to attack the strategic Turkish-held port of Aqaba. Setting an engrossing, complex exploration of war, colonialism, and masculinity against stunning desert landscapes, Lawrence of Arabia remains a paragon of cinematic spectacle.
An epic masterwork of the silent era, Abel Gance’s La roue (“The Wheel”) has in recent years been restored to its complete original form: a four-part, nearly seven-hour melodrama that reaches the heights of Greek tragedy. Séverin-Mars stars as Sisif, a humble railwayman who secretly adopts an infant orphaned in a train disaster. Over the years, Sisif lets Norma (Ivy Close) believe she is his biological daughter, even as he falls in love with the young woman. He soon shares this “curse” with his biological son, Elie (Gabriel de Gravone), who becomes smitten by Norma when he learns of his sister’s true origins. Sisif and Elie are forced to reconcile their forbidden desires; meanwhile, Norma endures a loveless marriage to the wealthy Jacques de Hersan (Pierre Magnier). Powered by Gance’s pioneering filmic and editing techniques, as well as Arthur Honegger’s original score, La roue stands as one of the most ambitious achievements in the history of cinema.
CRITERION COLLECTION EDITIONS
The Flavor of Green Tea over Rice (Yasujiro Ozu, 1952)
Criterion Collection Edition #989
This ineffably lovely domestic saga, made by Yasujiro Ozu at the height of his mastery, is a sublimely piercing portrait of a marriage coming quietly undone.
SUPPLEMENTAL FEATURES: A video essay by film scholar David Bordwell and a documentary by Daniel Raim on Ozu’s longtime collaboration with screenwriter Kogo Noda.
An Autumn Afternoon (Yasujiro Ozu, 1962)
Criterion Collection Edition #446
The last film by Yasujiro Ozu was also his final masterpiece, a gently heartbreaking story about a man’s dignified resignation to life’s shifting currents and society’s modernization.
SUPPLEMENTAL FEATURES: Audio commentary by film scholar David Bordwell and excerpts from a 1978 television program featuring critics Michel Ciment and Georges Perec.
The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (Terry Gilliam, 1988)
Criterion Collection Edition #1166
The fabled Baron Munchausen embarks on an outlandish quest that takes him from faraway lands to the moon to the belly of a sea monster and beyond in Terry Gilliam’s dazzling fantasy.
SUPPLEMENTAL FEATURES: Audio commentary by Gilliam and screenwriter Charles McKeown, a documentary on the making of the film, a video essay by critic and filmmaker David Cairns, deleted scenes, and more.
Blast of Silence* (Allen Baron, 1961)
Criterion Collection Edition #428
Swift, brutal, and blackhearted, Allen Baron’s New York City noir follows a hit man on assignment in Manhattan during Christmastime with mechanical precision, as well as an eye and ear for the oddball details of urban life.
SUPPLEMENTAL FEATURES: A documentary on the making of the film.
Julian Schnabel brings the all-too-brief life and incandescent world of Jean-Michel Basquiat to the screen with this dreamily stylized tribute from one creative phenom to another.
The Mountains Are a Dream That Call To Me
A mesmerizing sensory odyssey unfolds against Nepal’s awe-inspiring mountain landscapes when a young Nepali man encounters an older Australian woman coping with grief, causing him to change course and discover his homeland in a new light.
Requiem for a Dream
Darren Aronofsky’s harrowing tale of addiction unfolds as a hallucinatory stream of jagged, jittery nightmare visuals so visceral that you can feel the cold sweats.
A Barbara Stanwyck Christmas
Make it a classic Christmas with this twofer of holiday favorites starring golden-age Hollywood’s most versatile and always pitch-perfect leading lady. With her characteristic blend of grit and tenderness, the radiant Barbara Stanwyck will melt your heart twice: first as a jewel thief who finds an unexpected home for the holidays with Fred MacMurray in Mitchell Leisen’s swooningly romantic Remember the Night, and then as a newspaper reporter whose made-up story becomes a real-life Gary Cooper in Frank Capra’s Meet John Doe.
FEATURING: Remember the Night (1940), Meet John Doe (1941)*
Mark Lewis’s Unnatural Histories
Mark Lewis makes nature films like you’ve never seen before. In their strangeness, all the sublimity, absurdity, and incomprehensibility of the animal world—especially where it intersects with human society—comes into fascinating and wryly humorous focus. It’s little wonder that Werner Herzog is a big fan. Whether chronicling the ecological folly that unleashed a plague of biblical proportions upon Australia (Cane Toads: An Unnatural History) or the frequently strange relationships between people and fowl (The Natural History of the Chicken), these films reveal as much about the mysteries of the animal kingdom as they do about the endless oddities of human nature.
FEATURING: Cane Toads: An Unnatural History (1988), Rat (1998), Animalicious (1999), The Natural History of the Chicken (2000), Cane Toads: The Conquest (2010)
Based on the original recordings of the 1962 meeting between Alfred Hitchcock and French New Wave upstart François Truffaut, this engaging documentary delves into the Master of Suspense’s one-of-a-kind craft.
Artists on Artists: 12 Short Films Presented by This Long Century
As an ever-expanding online archive, This Long Century has published hundreds of unmediated personal reflections from artists, filmmakers, and writers over the past fifteen years. This eclectic selection of films by a small group of past This Long Century contributors—including Kelly Reichardt, Albert Serra, Deborah Stratman, and Tuan Andrew Nguyen—foregrounds the long tradition of artists depicting other artists in their work. Through portraits, tributes, and personal responses, these short works by some of today’s most fascinating filmmakers—some of which have never before been shown outside of a gallery or museum setting—create richly inspired feedback loops, offering unique insight into both their creators and subjects.
FEATURING: Anne Truitt, Working (2009), Cuba Libre (2013), Prisoner’s Cinema (2013), Antoine/Milena (2015), The Foundation (2015), We Were Lost in Our Country (2019), Bronx, New York, November 2019 (2021), Cal State Long Beach, CA, January 2020 (2021), Dear Chantal (2021), For the Time Being (2021), Nadine Nortier (2022)
A stocking stuffer of holiday shorts captures both the magic of the season and the melancholy of what can be the loneliest time of year. From a cozy stop-motion treasure (A Christmas Dream) to striking early works by renowned auteurs like Lynne Ramsay (Gasman), these by turns festive, funny, and poignant films are proof that sometimes small gifts are the best of all.
FEATURING: A Christmas Dream (1945), Otemba (1988), Gasman (1998), Bad Night for the Blues (2010), Lady of the Night (2017), Wren Boys (2017), A New Year (2018), Melting Snow (2021)
This ecstatic audiovisual kaleidoscope chronicles the legacy of legendary Los Angeles jazz ensemble the Pan Afrikan Peoples Arkestra, paying homage to the musicians who pass on the magic and the communities that nourish them.
Under the Heavens
The fates of two women become forever intertwined in this powerful tale of immigrant survival and human connection.
NEW ADDITIONS TO PREVIOUS PROGRAMS
Premiering December 1 in ’90s Horror: Event Horizon*
In this extravagantly designed interstellar nightmare, a rescue mission searches for a missing spaceship at the outer limits of our solar system, where it’s pulled into a wormhole of pure terror.
Premiering December 1 in World of Wong Kar Wai: The Grandmaster*
Wong Kar Wai brings his swooningly romantic sensibility to the martial-arts genre with this sumptuously stylized epic about the legendary fighter Ip Man.
Premiering December 1 in Con Games: House of Games
A therapist is drawn into the seductive world of con artists by a duplicitous cardsharp in David Mamet’s sly, merciless thriller.
Premiering December 1 in Afrofuturism: The Burial of Kojo
A profusion of dazzling magical-realist images grace this bewitching Afrofuturist fable told through the eyes of a young Ghanaian girl.
Back by Popular Demand
Don’t miss these viewer favorites, returning to the Channel in December!
FEATURING: Bell, Book and Candle (1958), Little Murders (1971), The Panic in Needle Park (1971), The Last Detail (1973), The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1988), Margaret (2011)