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The Criterion Channel’s January 2024 Lineup

On the Channel

Dec 12, 2023

The Criterion Channel’s January 2024 Lineup
The Boy Friend

The Criterion Channel’s January 2024 Lineup

On the Channel

Dec 12, 2023

Kick off the new year with a new favorite movie! There’s plenty to choose from in January, including a heap of catnip for fans of film felines, a spotlight on classic screen siren Ava Gardner, the gripping New York dramas of James Gray, an alternately thrilling and haunting selection of movies set after the end of the world, the rapturously transgressive visions of Ken Russell, and four great Criterion Editions packed with supplemental features: Farewell Amor, Inside Llewyn Davis, The Man Who Fell to Earth, and The Incredible Shrinking Man.

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* indicates programming available only in the U.S.

TOP STORIES

Cat Movies

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Every cat is a born star. With their intriguingly enigmatic personalities, sleek grace, and bewitching eyes, they make for the perfect aesthetic subjects, as well as sphinx-like gateways through which we can contemplate the mysteries of our own existence. Bringing together lovably mischievous cats (That Darn Cat), magical Czechoslovak New Wave cats (The Cassandra Cat), supernatural Japanese cats (Kuroneko, House), claws-out killer cats (Cat People, Sleepwalkers), extraterrestrial cats (The Cat from Outer Space, The Cat), and even a cat that owns a baseball team (Rhubarb), this salute to some of the screen’s most entrancing felines is purr cinema.

FEATURES: Cat People (1942), The Cat Creeps (1946)*, Rhubarb (1951), The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957), The Shadow of the Cat (1961)*, Walk on the Wild Side (1962), The Cassandra Cat (1963), That Darn Cat (1965), Kuroneko (1968), Eye of the Cat (1969)*, The Long Goodbye (1973), House (1977), The Cat from Outer Space (1978), Inferno (1980), Cat’s Eye (1985), Two Evil Eyes (1990), The Cat (1991), Sleepwalkers (1992), Inside Llewyn Davis (2013)*

SHORTS: The Perils of Priscilla (1969), To the Unknown (2017)

Starring Ava Gardner

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One of the most ravishing screen sirens of the 1940s and ’50s, Ava Gardner possessed a captivating combination of talent, sultry beauty, and audacity that practically vibrated on film. Discovered as a teenager after a family member sent her photograph to MGM, Gardner was immediately set apart from the studio’s typically blonde singer-dancers by her raven-tressed looks and feisty earthiness, making a knockout impression in classics like the crackerjack noir The Killers, the sumptuous melodrama The Barefoot Contessa, and the eccentrically ethereal romantic fantasy Pandora and the Flying Dutchman—the last, which swathes her in an array of showstopping gowns, proving a perfect vehicle for her glamorous allure.

FEATURING: The Killers (1946), The Hucksters (1947), The Great Sinner (1949), Pandora and the Flying Dutchman (1951), The Snows of Kilimanjaro (1952), Mogambo (1953), The Barefoot Contessa (1954), The Night of the Iguana (1964)

James Gray’s New York

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Plus: Watch Gray’s episode of Adventures in Moviegoing

James Gray has always stayed true to himself and to his roots in Queens, New York, drawing on his family’s immigrant background to lend a multilayered authenticity to his rich, empathetic dramas steeped in the city’s cultural melting pot. This collection—including his intense crime-drama debut Little Odessa, the soulful romance Two Lovers, and the gorgeous period piece The Immigrant—are timeless love letters to his hometown and its personal and collective histories, distinguished by a commitment to character-driven narrative that marks Gray as perhaps American cinema’s last great classicist.

FEATURING: Little Odessa (1994), The Yards (2000)*, We Own the Night (2007), Two Lovers (2008)*, The Immigrant (2013)*

Postapocalyptic Sci-Fi

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In the wake of World War II, amid the pervasive Cold War–era dread of nuclear annihilation, a profusion of dystopian films emerged that envisioned what the world might look like should doomsday come to pass. Encompassing dark, harrowing considerations of life after Armageddon (Testament, Threads) and grungy action extravaganzas set in imaginatively realized postapocalyptic landscapes (Mad Max, Escape from New York), these welcome-to-the-wasteland works of science fiction alternately unsettle and thrill with their visions of a future that can sometimes feel all too imminent.

FEATURING: The Day the Earth Caught Fire (1961), Panic in Year Zero (1962), The Bed Sitting Room (1969), No Blade of Grass (1970), Mad Max (1979), Escape from New York (1981), 1990: The Bronx Warriors (1982), Escape from the Bronx (1983), The New Barbarians (1983), Testament (1983)*, Night of the Comet (1984), Threads (1984), The Quiet Earth (1985), Dead End Drive-In (1986)

HandMade Films

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Featuring An Accidental Studio, a 2019 feature documentary on HandMade Films

Cofounded by former Beatle George Harrison in 1978, the storied production studio and distribution company HandMade Films gave new life to British cinema in the 1980s, taking chances on risky projects and first-time directors to bring audiences future classics like The Long Good Friday, Withnail and I, and Terry Gilliam’s Time Bandits. Guided by the idiosyncratic visions of artists like Neil Jordan (Mona Lisa), Nicolas Roeg (Track 29), and Bob Hoskins (The Raggedy Rawney), the projects that HandMade championed were not always financially successful, but, in an era increasingly dominated by blockbusters and franchises, they struck a blow for fiercely original storytelling and creative independence.

FEATURING: The Long Good Friday (1980), Time Bandits (1981), Scrubbers (1982), Bullshot (1983), Privates on Parade (1983), A Private Function (1984), Water (1985), Mona Lisa (1986), Withnail and I (1986), Five Corners (1987), The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne (1987), How to Get Ahead in Advertising (1988), The Raggedy Rawney (1988), Track 29 (1988), Checking Out (1989), Powwow Highway (1989), Cold Dog Soup (1990), Intimate Relations (1996), An Accidental Studio (2019)

Roots & Revolution: Reggae on Film

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Featuring an introduction by Criterion curatorial director Ashley Clark

A perfect storm of rhythm, bass, melody, and political and spiritual messaging, reggae was born in Jamaica in the late 1960s and early ’70s, and has since gone on to become one of the most influential, popular, and genre-exploding forms of music around the globe. The first classic reggae film, Perry Henzell’s wildly entertaining drama The Harder They Come, starring the great Jimmy Cliff as singer-outlaw Ivanhoe Martin, thrummed with hard-edged authenticity and set a template for future classics like Rockers and the recently rediscovered Babylon, whose casts of real-life reggae stars and industry figures lend a sense of raw reportage to fictional narratives. Unsurprisingly, many documentarians have also turned their gaze on reggae’s key trailblazers (The Upsetter: The Life and Music of Lee Scratch Perry, Omega Rising Women of Rastafari), amplifying the movement’s resounding cinematic legacy.

FEATURING: The Harder They Come (1972), Blacks Britannica (1978), Rockers (1978), Babylon (1980), Omega Rising Women of Rastafari (1988), The Upsetter: The Life and Music of Lee Scratch Perry (2008)

Sundance Favorites

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Featuring an introduction by Sundance festival director emeritus John Cooper and John Nein, senior programmer and director of strategic initiatives

For four decades, the Sundance Film Festival has been at the heart of American independent cinema, providing a vital launching pad for up-and-coming filmmakers wholly committed to their singular artistic vision. From acclaimed features by maverick directors like the Coen brothers (Blood Simple), Wendell B. Harris Jr. (Chameleon Street), Gregg Araki (The Doom Generation), and Kelly Reichardt (Old Joy) to crossover hits like The Blair Witch Project and touchstone documentaries such as Streetwise, Paris Is Burning, and Hoop Dreams, this selection of highlights from across the festival’s history celebrates its ongoing dedication to bold, personal storytelling from outside the mainstream.

FEATURING: Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take One (1968), Style Wars (1983), Blood Simple (1984), In Heaven There Is No Beer? (1984), Stranger Than Paradise (1984), Streetwise (1984), The Times of Harvey Milk (1984), Desert Hearts (1985), Smooth Talk (1985), Working Girls (1986), Chameleon Street (1989), For All Mankind (1989), Christo in Paris (1990), Metropolitan (1990), Paris Is Burning (1990), Trust (1990), A Brief History of Time (1991), Mississippi Masala (1991), Slacker (1991), Thank You and Good Night (1991), My Crasy Life (1992), Before the Rain (1994), Hoop Dreams (1994), The Doom Generation (1995), When We Were Kings (1996), The Blair Witch Project (1999), Me and You and Everyone We Know (2005), Old Joy (2006), Hive (2021)

STREAMING PREMIERES

Plan 75

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In a dystopian future, Japan’s government launches Plan 75, a program encouraging the elderly to terminate their own lives to relieve its rapidly aging population’s social and economic burdens. In Chie Hayakawa’s remarkable and sensitive feature debut, the lives of three ordinary citizens—an elderly woman no longer able to live independently (the legendary Chieko Baisho, in a moving late-career performance), an initially eager Plan 75 salesman (Hayato Isomura), and an immigrant care worker (Stephanie Arianne)—intersect in this new reality as they confront the crushing callousness of a world ready to dispose of those no longer deemed valuable. Hayakawa’s view is far from grim, however, as these characters soon learn to fully reckon with their own lives and what it truly means to live.

REDISCOVERIES AND RESTORATIONS

The Unknown

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Featuring audio commentary by film scholar David J. Skal

The most celebrated and exquisitely perverse of the many collaborations between Tod Browning and his legendary leading man Lon Chaney, The Unknown features a wrenchingly physical performance from “the Man of a Thousand Faces” as the armless Spanish knife thrower Alonzo (he flings daggers with his feet) whose dastardly infatuation with his beautiful assistant (Joan Crawford)—a woman, it just so happens, who cannot bear to be touched by the hands of any man—drives him to unspeakable extremes. Sadomasochistic obsession, deception, murder, disfigurement, and a spectacular Grand Guignol climax—Browning wrings every last frisson from the lurid premise.

Ikarie XB 1

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A visionary work of Eastern Bloc science fiction, this mesmerizing Czechoslovak adaptation of a novel by Stanisław Lem melds Cold War ideology and utopian futurism into a tour de force of space-age modernism. In the year 2163, a band of astronauts embarks on a fifteen-year voyage deep into outer space, in hopes of discovering life in another galaxy. It’s a perilous journey during which they will confront the wreckage of the twentieth century, the chilling vastness of the cosmos, and their own mortality. A triumph of avant-garde production design that served as a model for Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, Ikarie XB 1—long known internationally only through a mangled and dubbed reedit—is a singular sci-fi landmark that finds both terror and wonder in the unknown.

The Music of Regret

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An extension of artist Laurie Simmons’s photographic work, in which she stages dreamlike tableaux using puppets and dolls, this one-of-a-kind musical brings her singularly surreal world to life. In three acts, a cast of puppets, ventriloquist dummies, inanimate objects perched on human legs, and Meryl Streep(!) enact a curiously poignant song-and-dance cycle of jealousy, regret, love, and longing that imbues Simmons’s uncanny materials of choice—captured by acclaimed cinematographer Ed Lachman—with raw human emotion.

CRITERION COLLECTION EDITIONS

Farewell Amor (Ekwa Msangi, 2020)

Criterion Collection Edition #1128

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Ekwa Msangi’s luminous feature debut honors the multitude of struggles and emotions that make up the immigrant experience as it chronicles a broken family’s journey to wholeness.

SUPPLEMENTAL FEATURES: Audio commentary by Msangi and cinematographer Bruce Francis Cole, short films by Msangi, deleted scenes, and interviews with the cast.

Inside Llewyn Davis (Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, 2013)

Criterion Collection Edition #794

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The Coen brothers present one of their greatest creations in Llewyn Davis, a singer barely eking out a living at the margins of the early-sixties New York folk scene.

SUPPLEMENTAL FEATURES: Audio commentary by authors Robert Christgau, David Hajdu, and Sean Wilentz; a conversation between the Coens and Guillermo del Toro; a feature-length documentary capturing an Inside Llewyn Davis tribute concert; and more.

The Man Who Fell to Earth (Nicolas Roeg, 1976)

Criterion Collection Edition #304

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The otherworldly David Bowie is perfectly cast as an extraterrestrial posing as a human in Nicolas Roeg’s hallucinatory examination of alienation in contemporary life.

SUPPLEMENTAL FEATURES: Audio commentary by Roeg, Bowie, and actor Buck Henry; interviews with screenwriter Paul Mayersberg and actors Candy Clark and Rip Torn; and more.

The Incredible Shrinking Man (Jack Arnold, 1957)

Criterion Collection Edition #1100

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Existentialism goes pop in this benchmark of atomic-age science fiction, in which a suburban everyman finds himself becoming smaller . . . and smaller . . . and smaller.

SUPPLEMENTAL FEATURES: Audio commentary by genre-film historian Tom Weaver and horror-music expert David Schecter, a program on the film’s special effects by effects experts Craig Barron and Ben Burtt, a conversation between filmmaker Joe Dante and comedian and writer Dana Gould, and more.

DIRECTOR SPOTLIGHTS

Three by Isabel Sandoval

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Featuring an interview with the director, part of Criterion’s Meet the Filmmakers series

“I’m drawn to women with secrets,” says acclaimed Filipina director Isabel Sandoval, who toys with genre conventions in her subversive portraits of women tangled up in complex sociopolitical realities. A true auteur, Sandoval wrote, produced, directed, and starred in her feature debut, Señorita, the gripping, noir-tinged story of a trans woman’s struggles to quit sex work and start a new life. Individual and social crises again collide in Apparition, an intense psychological drama set in a Filipino convent being gradually consumed by the encroaching political unrest of the Marcos era. And with Lingua Franca, Sandoval reached new levels of acclaim, starring alongside Twin Peaks: The Return’s Eamon Farren in a character study that gives poignant expression to the experiences of an undocumented trans Filipina caregiver living in Brooklyn.

FEATURING: Señorita (2011), Apparition (2012), Lingua Franca (2019)

Directed by Bertrand Tavernier

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The films of Bertrand Tavernier are suffused with his love for cinema. In addition to being one of France’s foremost auteurs, Tavernier was also a film critic and historian who drew from his deep knowledge of classic French and American cinema to create his own uniquely absorbing, finely wrought works. Though his films span a wide variety of genres—the politically charged crime thriller The Clockmaker of St. Paul, the sci-fi cult classic Death Watch, and the bittersweet family portrait Daddy Nostalgia to name just a few—each displays the exceptional craftsmanship, rigorous intelligence, and profound humanist and moral themes that made him one of the leading lights of Gallic cinema for over four decades.

FEATURING: The Clockmaker of St. Paul (1974), Let Joy Reign Supreme (1975), The Judge and the Assassin (1976), Spoiled Children (1977), Death Watch (1980), A Week’s Vacation (1980), Mississippi Blues (1983), A Sunday in the Country (1984), Daddy Nostalgia (1990), L.627 (1992), The Undeclared War (1992), Captain Conan (1996), It All Starts Today (1999), Safe Conduct (2002)

Ken Russell’s Shocking Rhapsodies

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Passionate, transgressive, over-the-top, and unforgettable: the films of British iconoclast Ken Russell have rarely been surpassed in their feverish visual imagination and sheer audaciousness. Courting controversy after controversy with provocations like The Devils, Mahler, and Altered States, Russell explored the extremes of sexuality, violence, religion, and creativity through elaborate, often eye-popping mise-en-scène and performances of hysterical excess. The result is a cinema that still feels daring and fresh, with unbridled romanticism and surreal flights of fancy woven into his boundary-pushing narratives.

FEATURING: The Boy Friend (1971), The Devils (1971), Savage Messiah (1972), Mahler (1974), Altered States (1980), Gothic (1986), The Lair of the White Worm (1988), Salome’s Last Dance (1988), The Rainbow (1989), Whore (1991)

Directed by Juleen Compton

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The two fiercely independent, idiosyncratic films made by Juleen Compton in the 1960s are vital works of bold, against-all-odds feminist art from a time when virtually no American women were afforded the opportunity to work in narrative feature filmmaking. Originally an actor who studied with Lee Strasberg, the free-spirited Compton self-financed Stranded (in which she also stars) and The Plastic Dome of Norma Jean, allowing her complete creative freedom in bringing these stylistically freewheeling, New Wave–inspired stories about women’s struggles for self-determination to the screen. Legitimately liberated in both content and form, they reveal a titanic talent who, in a more just world, would have enjoyed a long and flourishing career behind the camera.

FEATURING: Stranded (1965), The Plastic Dome of Norma Jean (1966)

AMERICAN INDEPENDENTS

Heaven Knows What*

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The most unrelentingly intense work from directors Josh and Benny Safdie thus far is a blistering portrait of heroin addiction on the streets of New York City.

The Blair Witch Project

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Twenty-five years after it changed the horror genre forever, this microbudget milestone retains its power to terrify.

SHORT FILMS

Animated Shorts

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From gorgeous hand drawing to playful stop motion, dreamlike pinscreen to exquisite silhouette shadowplay, a dazzling array of techniques is on display in this miniature animation celebration. Including bite-size masterpieces by visionary animators such as Lotte Reiniger (Papageno), John and Faith Hubley (Cockaboody), and Suzan Pitt (Asparagus), these eyeball-whirling wonders may be short in length but they’re positively epic in visual imagination.

FEATURING: A Night on Bald Mountain (1933), Papageno (1935), Spook Sport (1939), Les escargots (1966), Cockaboody (1973), Asparagus (1979), No Place Like Home #1 and #2 (1999), Dad’s Dead (2002), Old Man (2012), Public Service Announcement (2014), Something to Remember (2019), Goodbye Jerome! (2022)

ENCORES

Back by Popular Demand

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

FEATURING: The Graduate (1967), The Swimmer (1968), Near Dark (1987)*

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