C What’s On: The Criterion Channel’s Programming for December 2019


The start of a new month means it is time for C What’s On, our look at what the Criterion Channel has programmed for its subscribers. The December lineup is heavy with classics with a slight Yuletide tinge. Most notably we have showcases on pre-1950s Bette Davis and pre-1940s Humphrey Bogart; a boatload of Juliette Binoche; and spotlights on directors Andrea Arnold, Maren Ade, Céline Sciamma, and William Wyler.

Last month, the Criterion Channel featured the streaming debut of Hu Bo’s An Elephant Sitting Still. This month sees the streaming premieres of Diamantino and The Juniper Tree. More on each on their respective days.

The full December schedule for the Criterion Channel is below. My picks for the month are designated by a double asterisk (**), and I’ve included some commentary where warranted.

Dark Victory (1939) Official Trailer - Bette Davis, Humphrey Bogart Drama Movie HD

Sunday, December 1**

Starring Bette Davis

Featuring a new introduction by critic Farran Smith Nehme

  • Three on a Match (Mervyn LeRoy, 1932),
  • Hell’s House (Howard Higgin, 1932)
  • The Cabin in the Cotton (Michael Curtiz, 1932)
  • Of Human Bondage (John Cromwell, 1934)
  • Front Page Woman (Michael Curtiz, 1935)
  • The Petrified Forest (Archie Mayo, 1937)
  • Marked Woman (Lloyd Bacon, 1937)
  • Kid Galahad (Michael Curtiz, 1937)
  • Jezebel (William Wyler, 1938)
  • Dark Victory (Edmund Goulding, 1939)
  • The Old Maid (Edmund Goulding, 1939)
  • The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (Michael Curtiz, 1939)
  • The Letter (William Wyler, 1940)
  • The Little Foxes (William Wyler, 1941)
  • Now, Voyager (Irving Rapper, 1942)
  • The Man Who Came to Dinner (William Keighley, 1942)
  • In This Our Life (John Huston, 1942)
  • Mr. Skeffington (Vincent Sherman, 1944)

Commentary: What a treasure of Bette Davis films here, many of which I’ve never seen. This month is going to be busy, but it’ll be fun making time for as many of these classics as possible. I may sit down with my mom to check some of these out.

Monday, December 2**

Diamantino (Gabriel Abrantes and Daniel Schmidt, 2018) – Exclusive streaming premiere

Something Wild (Jonathan Demme, 1986) – Criterion Collection Edition #563

Commentary: I meant to check out Gabriel Abrantes and Daniel Schmidt’s Diamantino at last year’s New York Film Festival (NYFF), but was unable to stay for the screening. Looks like it could be a hoot.

Tuesday, December 3**

Short + Feature: For the Birds

The Cage (Ricky Staub, 2017) and Kes (Ken Loach, 1969)

Featuring an introduction by Criterion Channel programmer Penelope Bartlett

FISH TANK - Official Trailer

Wednesday, December 4**

Directed by Andrea Arnold

Short films:

  • Milk (1998)
  • Dog (2001)
  • Wasp (2003)

Features films:

  • Red Road (2006)
  • Fish Tank (2009)
  • Wuthering Heights (2011)

Commentary: Aside from American Honey, I’m totally new to the work of Andrea Arnold, so this will be a great chance to look at some of her past work.

Thursday, December 5**

Bogart’s Beginnings

  • Three on a Match (Mervyn LeRoy, 1932)
  • Black Legion (Archie Mayo, 1937)
  • Dead End (William Wyler, 1937)
  • Marked Woman (Lloyd Bacon, 1937)
  • The Petrified Forest (Archie Mayo, 1937)
  • Kid Galahad (Michael Curtiz, 1937)
  • Dark Victory (Edmund Goulding, 1939)

Commentary: I haven’t any Humphrey Bogart films prior to the 1940s, so this is a nice chance to dip back into his early screen appearances. Wonder if the star presence was there at the beginning, or if it developed over time.

Friday, December 6

Double Feature: Paint It Black

Scarlet Street (Fritz Lang, 1945) and The Woman in the Window (Fritz Lang, 1944)

Commentary: I saw Fritz Lang’s Scarlet Street last year at Columbia University’s annual Kit Film Noir Festival. It was pretty solid. Curious about The Woman in the Window.

Saturday, December 7

Saturday Matinee: The Black Stallion (Carroll Ballard, 1979)

The Italian Job (1969) - Trailer

Sunday, December 8**

The Art of the Heist

  • They Live by Night (Nicholas Ray, 1948)
  • He Ran All the Way (John Berry, 1951)
  • Rififi (Jules Dassin, 1955)
  • Bob le flambeur (Jean-Pierre Melville, 1956)
  • The Killing (Stanley Kubrick, 1956)
  • Big Deal on Madonna Street (Mario Monicelli, 1958)
  • The League of Gentlemen (Basil Dearden, 1960)
  • Cruel Gun Story (Takumi Furukawa, 1964)
  • The Italian Job (Peter Collinson, 1969)
  • Le cercle rouge (Jean-Pierre Melville, 1970)
  • The Friends of Eddie Coyle (Peter Yates, 1973)
  • Incident by a Bank (Ruben Östlund, 2009)

Commentary: I may skip a rewatch of The Killing here (I can go without early Stanley Kubrick; he gets great and endlessly rewatchable starting at Paths of Glory) and instead ret a refresher on Rififi, The Italian Job, and Le circle rouge. Want to give some first-watch time to They Live By Night and Cruel Gun Story.

Monday, December 9

The Friends of Eddie Coyle (Peter Yates, 1973) – Criterion Collection Edition #475

Tuesday, December 10**

Short + Feature: Jingle Hells

Bad Night for the Blues (Chris Shepherd, 2010) and Mon oncle Antoine (Claude Jutra, 1971)

Commentary: I remember reading Roger Ebert’s essay on My Uncle Antoine (Mon oncle Antoine) ages ago and been meaning to see since. Revisiting that essay, I’m eager to see this film and maybe delve deeper into Claude Jutra’s tragic career.

Wednesday, December 11**

Directed by Maren Ade

Featuring an interview with Ade

  • The Forest for the Trees (2003)
  • Everyone Else (2009)

Commentary: I wasn’t over the moon with Maren Ade’s Toni Erdmann, but I still think about that strained daughter/father relationship and its cringe moments. Looking forward to these earlier Ade films and how they compare.

Terms of Endearment - Trailer

Thursday, December 12**

The Breaking Point (Michael Curtiz, 1950) – Criterion Collection Edition #889

Terms of Endearment (James L. Brooks, 1983)

Commentary: On Thanksgiving, my friends and I unironically watched Garry Marshall’s Beaches. Yeah, the Bette Midler movie. I think Terms of Endearment came up at some point as well. Totally down to see this weepie for the first time.

Friday, December 13

Double Feature: Blondell Bombshells

Three on a Match (Mervyn LeRoy, 1931) and Gold Diggers of 1933 (Mervyn LeRoy, 1933)

Saturday, December 14**

Saturday Matinee: On the Town (Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen, 1949)

Sunday, December 15**

Starring Juliette Binoche

  • Rendez-vous (André Téchiné, 1985)
  • Mauvais sang (Leos Carax, 1986)
  • The Unbearable Lightness of Being (Philip Kaufman, 1988)
  • The Lovers on the Bridge (Leos Carax, 1991)
  • Three Colors: Blue (Krzysztof KieÅ›lowski, 1993)
  • Code Unknown (Michael Haneke, 2000)
  • Caché (Michael Haneke, 2005)
  • Summer Hours (Olivier Assayas, 2008)
  • Certified Copy (Abbas Kiarostami, 2010)
  • Elles (MaÅ‚gorzata Szumowska, 2011)
  • Camille Claudel 1915 (Bruno Dumont, 2013)
  • Clouds of Sils Maria (Olivier Assayas, 2014)
  • Slack Bay (Bruno Dumont, 2016)

Commentary: Juliette Binoche is awesome, and I love that she’s still doing interesting work, like Claire Denis’ Let the Sunshine In. In this showcase, I have my first-watch eyes on The Lovers on the Bridge, Code Unknown, Summer Hours, and Certified Copy (which I need to see to consider for a best-of-the-decade list).

Monday, December 16

The Killing (Stanley Kubrick, 1956) – Criterion Collection Edition #575

Tuesday, December 17

Short + Feature: Let’s Talk About Love

Presentation, or Charlotte and Her Steak (Éric Rohmer, 1961) and Metropolitan (Whit Stillman, 1990)

Tomboy (2011) Movie Trailer HD

Wednesday, December 18**

Directed by Céline Sciamma

  • Water Lilies (2007)
  • Tomboy (2011)
  • Girlhood (2014)

Commentary: Céline Sciamma’s Portrait of a Lady on Fire is one of the best movies of 2019. This showcase of her previous films coincides with the release of her latest in New York and Los Angeles. Portrait of a Lady on Fire will open in further cities around Valentine’s Day.

Thursday, December 19**

Symbiopsychotaxiplasm (William Greaves, 1968) – Criterion Collection Edition #360

Commentary: Something about the Criterion Collection cover for this film caught by eye. Maybe it’s the simple yet stylish design that nods to Buckminster Fuller’s geodesic domes and the chic aesthetic of a New Directions paperback.

Friday, December 20**

Double Feature: Madcap Marriages

I Married a Witch (René Clair, 1942) and The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek (Preston Sturges, 1944)

Commentary: René Clair and Preston Sturges in a pack—you can’t go wrong, kids. Have fun.

Saturday, December 21**

Saturday Matinee: Murder on the Orient Express (Sidney Lumet, 1971)

Commentary: I’m going to finally make time to watch this star-studded adaptation, so help me. Then I’ll probably go see Rian Johnson’s Knives Out again.

Sunday, December 22**

Blue Christmas

  • Morning for the Osone Family (Keisuke Kinoshita, 1946)
  • Black Narcissus (Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, 1947)
  • Plácido (Luis García Berlanga, 1961)
  • The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (Jacques Demy, 1964)
  • My Night at Maud’s (Eric Rohmer, 1969)
  • Fanny and Alexander (Ingmar Bergman, 1982)
  • Cronos (Guillermo del Toro, 1993)
  • A Christmas Tale (Arnaud Desplechin, 2008)

Commentary: Melancholy, askew, and unexpected holiday moods are my jam. They’re often how I get through this particularly stressful time of year. I’m particularly interested in Morning for the Osone Family, Plácido,and A Christmas Tale, which would all be first-watches. Then again, a rewatch of The Umbrellas of Cherbourg is always welcome.

Monday, December 23

Observations on Film Art No. 33: Mise-en-scène in My Brilliant Career

Professor Jeff Smith on director Gillian Armstrong’s technique and craft in her 1979 Australian New Wave classic

Tuesday, December 24**

Short + Feature: Homoerotic for the Holidays

Wren Boys (Harry Lighton, 2017) and Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence (Nagisa Oshima, 1983)

Commentary: When you watch Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence, note that homoerotic charge between David Bowie and Ryuichi Sakamoto (who also composed the excellent score). It’s the fascinating draw of the film. Ditto seeing Takeshi Kitano in his Beat days.

THE JUNIPER TREE - Official Trailer (4K Restoration)

Wednesday, December 25**

The Juniper Tree (Nietzchka Keene, 1990)

Streaming premiere, with three short films by Nietzchka Keene

Commentary: Check out the screen debut of Björk in this low-budget medieval fantasy film from Iceland. Merry Christmas.

Thursday, December 26**

Three Starring Michael Caine

  • Alfie (Lewis Gilbert, 1966)
  • The Italian Job (Peter Collinson, 1969)
  • Get Carter (Mike Hodges, 1971)

Commentary: I welcome all of your bad impressions of Michael Caine saying, “Hello, I’m Michael Caine.”

Friday, December 27**

Double Feature: Love Notes

In the Good Old Summertime (Robert Z. Leonard and an uncredited Buster Keaton, 1949) and The Shop Around the Corner (Ernst Lubitsch, 1940)

Commentary: I have a clear memory of watching The Shop Around the Corner on Turner Classic Movies more than a decade ago on the futon with an old roommate. I quietly shed a few tears during a romantic scene; she, while knitting, made puke noises at the screen. I wish they’d shown In the Good Old Summertime right after that.

Saturday, December 28

Saturday Matinee: Oliver! (Carol Reed, 1968)

Sunday, December 29**

Directed by William Wyler

  • Dodsworth (1936)
  • These Three (1936)
  • Dead End (1937)
  • Jezebel (1938)
  • Wuthering Heights (1939)
  • The Letter (1940)
  • The Westerner (1940)
  • The Little Foxes (1941)
  • The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)

Commentary: You can make a secret double-feature this month with the Wyler Wuthering Heights and the Arnold Wuthering Heights.

Monday, December 30

Tunes of Glory (Ronald Neame, 1960) – Criterion Collection Edition #225

Tuesday, December 31**

Short + Feature: Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door

Coda (Alan Holly, 2013) and The Phantom Carriage (Victor Sjöström, 1921)

Commentary: Nothing says the end of the year like an encounter with Death. That came out wrong. I like how this double feature is two movies in different mediums almost a century apart.

merry christmas mr lawrence (1983) - the forbidden kiss

Hubert Vigilla
Brooklyn-based fiction writer, film critic, and long-time editor and contributor for Flixist. A booster of all things passionate and idiosyncratic.