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C What’s On: The Criterion Channel’s Programming for February 2020

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It’s the first full week of February and we need to talk, which means it’s time once again for C What’s On, our look at what the Criterion Channel has programmed for its subscribers. It is Black History month, which means a showcase on Sidney Poitier, Julie Dash, and key black filmmakers in the the first half of the 20th century.

In addition, we have a showcase of Oscar-winning foreign films (yay), Jean-Luc Godard classics (eh), the movies of Anna Karina (hey), and so much more.

The full February 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.

Saturday, February 1**

Saturday Matinee: Lamb (Yared Zeleke, 2015)

Sunday, February 2**

Starring Sidney Poitier

Featuring an interview with film scholar Mia Mask

  • Cry, the Beloved Country (Zoltán Korda, 1951)
  • Good-bye, My Lady (William A. Wellman, 1956)
  • Edge of the City (Martin Ritt, 1957)
  • The Defiant Ones (Stanley Kramer, 1958)
  • A Raisin in the Sun (Daniel Petrie, 1961)
  • Paris Blues (Martin Ritt, 1961)
  • Pressure Point (Hubert Cornfield, 1962)
  • Lilies of the Field (Ralph Nelson, 1963)
  • The Slender Thread (Sydney Pollack, 1965)
  • A Patch of Blue (Guy Green, 1965)
  • Duel at Diablo (Ralph Nelson, 1966)
  • In the Heat of the Night (Norman Jewison, 1967)
  • Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (Stanley Kramer, 1967)
  • To Sir, with Love (James Clavell, 1967)
  • They Call Me Mister Tibbs! (Gordon Douglas, 1970)
  • Brother John (James Goldstone, 1971)
  • Buck and the Preacher (Sidney Poitier, 1972)
  • A Warm December (Sidney Poitier, 1973)
  • Uptown Saturday Night (Sidney Poitier, 1974)

Commentary: The above list of movies could be called The Essential Sidney Poitier. So many of his classics are gathered together in one place so subscribers can appreciate Poitier’s body of work.

In the context of black leading men in Hollywood, you can also reflect on the type of roles Poitier played/was forced to play in order to become such a popular black actor of his time. I think it was Karina Longworth on a recent episode of You Must Remember This who pointed out that Poitier played non-threatening embodiments of morally perfect black men. He was typecast and pigeonholed, but he paved the way for more complicated and realistic roles for black actors who came after.

Monday, February 3**

Foreign-Language Oscar Winners

  • Rashomon (Akira Kurosawa, 1950)
  • Gate of Hell (Teinosuke Kinugasa, 1953)
  • La strada (Federico Fellini, 1954)
  • Nights of Cabiria (Federico Fellini, 1957)
  • Mon oncle (Jacques Tati, 1958)
  • Black Orpheus (Marcel Camus, 1959)
  • The Virgin Spring (Ingmar Bergman, 1960)
  • Through a Glass Darkly (Ingmar Bergman, 1961)
  • (Federico Fellini, 1963)
  • The Shop on Main Street (Ján Kadár and Elmar Klos, 1965)
  • Closely Watched Trains (JiÅ™í Menzel, 1966)
  • War and Peace (Sergei Bondarchuk, 1966–67)
  • Z (Costa-Gavras, 1969)
  • The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (Luis Buñuel, 1972)
  • Amarcord (Federico Fellini, 1973)
  • Day for Night (François Truffaut, 1973)
  • Dersu Uzala (Akira Kurosawa, 1975)
  • The Tin Drum (Volker Schlöndorff, 1979)
  • Fanny and Alexander (Ingmar Bergman, 1982)
  • The Official Story (Luis Puenzo, 1985)
  • Babette’s Feast (Gabriel Axel, 1987)
  • The Great Beauty (Paolo Sorrentino, 2013)

Commentary: With the Oscars around the corner and the Golden Cages happening this week, here’s your chance to catch up on great foreign films that won the Academy Award. Lots of Bergman and Kurosawa and Fellini in there, but don’t miss out on Costa-Gavras’ Z and Marcel Camus’ Black Orpheus.

Tuesday, February 4

Short + Feature: Tourist Traps

The Beast (Michael Wahrmann and Samantha Nell, 2016) and The Naked Prey (Cornel Wilde, 1965)

Wednesday, February 5**

Daughters of the Dust (Julie Dash, 1991)

Featuring an interview with director Julie Dash

Commentary: Julie Dash’s Daughters of the Dust got a second life in part thanks to Beyoncé’s Lemonade. The film itself owes a lot to oral storytelling traditions and shades of theatricality.

Thursday, February 6

Long Day’s Journey into Night (Bi Gan, 2018)

Exclusive streaming premiere

Commentary: I was pretty cold on Long Day’s Journey Into Night, though it seemed like it was right up my alley. Maybe I’ll watch it again. Or maybe I’ll enjoy another work of slow cinema instead.

Friday, February 7**

Double Feature: Con Me If You Can

The Grifters (Stephen Frears, 1990) and House of Games (David Mamet, 1987)

Frownland (Ronald Bronstein, 2007)

Commentary: Frownland is from a Safdie brothers collaborator, so I’m pretty interested in it. Mostly I’m here to recommend the great con job double feature.

Saturday, February 8**

Saturday Matinee: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (Norman Z. McLeod, 1947)

Sunday, February 9**

Film Plays Itself

  • Footlight Parade (Lloyd Bacon, 1933)
  • Sunset Boulevard (Billy Wilder, 1950)
  • The Bad and the Beautiful (Vincente Minnelli, 1952)
  • The Big Knife (Robert Aldrich, 1955)
  • Two Weeks in Another Town (Vincente Minnelli, 1962)
  • (Federico Fellini, 1963)
  • Contempt (Jean-Luc Godard, 1963)
  • La ricotta (Pier Paolo Pasolini, 1963)
  • David Holzman’s Diary (Jim McBride, 1967)
  • Symbiopsychotaxiplasm Take One (William Greaves, 1968)
  • Lions Love (… and Lies) (Agnès Varda, 1969)
  • Day for Night (François Truffaut, 1973)
  • The Day of the Locust (John Schlesinger, 1975)
  • Hollywood Shuffle (Robert Townsend, 1987)
  • Close-up (Abbas Kiarostami, 1990)
  • The Player (Robert Altman, 1992)
  • Adaptation (Spike Jonze, 2002)

Commentary: Lots of worthwhile movies about movies here, but I think the pair of first-time watches I’m most interested in are Vincente Minnelli’s The Bad and the Beautiful and its spiritual sequel Two Weeks in Another Town. Both were highlighted in A Personal Journey with Martin Scorsese Through American Movies, which is the fastest 225 minutes I’ve spent in a movie theater.

Monday, February 10**

Some Like It Hot (Billy Wilder, 1959) – Criterion Collection Edition #950

Commentary: Still one of the finest closing lines in cinema history.

Tuesday, February 11**

Short + Feature: India Up Close

Tungrus (Rishi Chandna, 2017) and The Big City (Satyajit Ray, 1963)


Wednesday, February 12**

Mustang (Deniz Gamze Ergüven, 2015)

Featuring a documentary on the making of the film

Commentary: Okay, for real this time, I will finally make it a point to watch Deniz Gamze Ergüven’s film. It’s been on my radar for a long while, and I hope to have a little time carved out to enjoy it. Finally. If not, expect a similar note in a few months.

Thursday, February 13

Vanya on 42nd Street (Louis Malle, 1994) – Criterion Collection Edition #599

Friday, February 14**

Double Feature: Blue Valentines

Brief Encounter (David Lean, 1945) and In the Mood for Love (Wong Kar-wai, 2000)

Commentary: Let’s have a bummer of a Valentine’s Day together. I’ll be on a red eye flight and possibly on some kind of drowsy cold medicine, but if not, I’ll try to use in-flight wi-fi to stream one of these great movies about passionate romances that are ultimately thwarted.

Saturday, February 15**

Saturday Matinee: Jason and the Argonauts (Don Chaffey, 1963)

Featuring archival laserdisc commentary with special-effects artist Ray Harryhausen and film historian Bruce Eder

Commentary: Jason and the Argonauts was one of the great cinematic memories of my childhood, and one of Ray Harryhausen’s finest achievements in stop-motion special effects. Glad it’s getting highlighted here.

Sunday, February 16**

Pioneers of African American Cinema

Featuring interviews with film scholars Charles Musser and Jacqueline Najuma Stewart

  • Two Knights of Vaudeville (Director unknown, 1915)
  • Mercy, the Mummy Mumbled (R. G. Phillips, 1918)
  • A Reckless Rover (C. N. David, 1918)
  • Within Our Gates (Oscar Micheaux, 1920)
  • The Symbol of the Unconquered: A Story of the KKK (Oscar Micheaux, 1920)
  • By Right of Birth (Harry A. Gant, 1921)
  • Regeneration (Richard E. Norman, 1923)
  • Body and Soul (Oscar Micheaux, 1925)
  • The Flying Ace (Richard E. Norman, 1926)
  • Ten Nights in a Bar Room (Roy Calnek, 1926)
  • Rev. S. S. Jones Home Movies (Reverend Solomon Sir Jones, 1924–1928)
  • Eleven P.M. (Richard Maurice, 1928)
  • Zora Neale Hurston Fieldwork Footage (Zora Neale Hurston, 1928)
  • The Scar of Shame (Frank Perugini, 1929)
  • Hell-Bound Train (James Gist and Eloyce Gist, 1930)
  • The Darktown Revue (Oscar Micheaux, 1931)
  • The Exile (Oscar Micheaux, 1931)
  • Hot Biskits (Spencer Williams, 1931)
  • The Girl from Chicago (Oscar Micheaux, 1932)
  • Ten Minutes to Live (Oscar Micheaux, 1932)
  • Veiled Aristocrats (Oscar Micheaux, 1932)
  • Verdict: Not Guilty (James Gist and Eloyce Gist, 1933)
  • Heaven-Bound Travelers (James Gist and Eloyce Gist, 1935)
  • Birthright (Oscar Micheaux, 1938)
  • The Bronze Buckaroo (Richard C. Kahn, 1939)
  • Commandment Keeper Church, Beaufort South Carolina, May 1940 (Zora Neale Hurston, 1940)
  • The Blood of Jesus (Spencer Williams, 1941)
  • Dirty Gertie from Harlem U.S.A. (Spencer Williams, 1946)

Commentary: Here’s a remarkable collection of early cinematic works made by black filmmakers and starring people of color. It includes work by the great writer Zora Neale Hurston, as well as prolific independent filmmaker Oscar Micheaux. I’m looking forward to checking all of these out.

Monday, February 17**

Art-House America: Jacob Burns Film Center

  • The Great Dictator (Charles Chaplin, 1940)
  • Brief Encounter (David Lean, 1945)
  • Daybreak Express (D. A. Pennebaker, 1953)
  • Monterey Pop (D. A. Pennebaker, 1968)
  • Aguirre, the Wrath of God (Werner Herzog, 1972)
  • Mikey and Nicky (Elaine May, 1976)
  • The Marriage of Maria Braun (Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1978)
  • La Ciénaga (Lucrecia Martel, 2001)
  • Tuesday, After Christmas (Radu Muntean, 2010)
  • Heart of a Dog (Laurie Anderson, 2015)

The Graduate (Mike Nichols, 1967) – Criterion Collection Edition #800

Commentary: A lot of hits here, gang. My pick for a first-time watch is Mikey and Nicky so I can enjoy seeing Peter Falk and John Cassavetes carousing on the run.

Also, yeah, see The Graduate if you haven’t already.

Tuesday, February 18**

Short + Feature: Matters of Perspective

J.M. Mondésir (Alice Colomer-kang, 2013) and Rashomon (Akira Kurosawa, 1950)

Wednesday, February 19**

Directed by Allison Anders

  • Border Radio (Allison Anders with Dean Lent and Kurt Voss, 1987)
  • Gas Food Lodging (1992)

Commentary: Always enjoy these Criterion Channel spotlights and women film directors. Looking forward to seeing some Allison Anders movies for the first time.

Thursday, February 20

Starring Wendy Hiller

  • Pygmalion (Anthony Asquith and Leslie Howard, 1938)
  • Major Barbara (Gabriel Pascal, 1941)
  • I Know Where I’m Going! (Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, 1945)
  • Separate Tables (Delbert Mann, 1958)
  • A Man for All Seasons (Fred Zinnemann, 1966)
  • Murder on the Orient Express (Sidney Lumet, 1974)
  • The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne (Jack Clayton, 1987)

Friday, February 21**

Double Feature: How Great Thou Art

The Graduate (Mike Nichols, 1967) and Bad Timing (Nicolas Roeg, 1980)

Commentary: Bad Timing has a bunch of bad reviews, and yet I’m curious to see it. It seems like Roeg’s career took a serious downturn after the 1970s ended. I only just now got the Art Garfunkel pun.

Saturday, February 22**

Saturday Matinee: PlayTime (Jacques Tati, 1967)

Commentary: Jacques Tati’s masterpiece PlayTime feels like a game when rewatching it. Look for new details, consider how they reticulate in later scenes, and what new textures you can find in each tableaux. PlayTime is a movie like a much-loved picture book—what joy there is in every image, on each old page smudged from appreciative fingers.

Sunday, February 23

Directed by Jean-Luc Godard

Featuring a 1965 profile of Godard from the series Cinéastes de notre temps

  • Breathless (1960)
  • A Woman Is a Woman (1961)
  • Vivre sa vie (1962)
  • Le petit soldat (1963)
  • Contempt (1963)
  • Band of Outsiders (1964)
  • A Married Woman (1964)
  • Pierrot le fou (1965)
  • Alphaville (1965)
  • Masculin feminine (1966)
  • Made in U.S.A (1966)
  • 2 or 3 Things I Know About Her (1967)
  • La Chinoise (1967)
  • Weekend (1967)
  • Le gai savoir (1969)
  • Tout va bien (with Jean-Pierre Gorin, 1972)
  • Every Man for Himself (1980)
  • Hail Mary (1985)
  • For Ever Mozart (1996)
  • Film socialisme (2010)
  • Goodbye to Language (2014)
  • The Image Book (2018)

Commentary: I am so ambivalent about Jean-Luc Godard. I can understand his importance and admire his craft, but his movies often leave me cold and at a distance. I get the aesthetic and narrative anarchism and the radical politics in this films starting in the mid-1960s, but I am rarely engaged. Even the play with stereoscopy in Goodbye to Language feels like a bit of a laugh buried under intellectual posturing and eye-rolling obscurantism.

I doubt I’ll rewatch any of these. Then again…

Sunday, February 23**

Starring Anna Karina

  • A Woman Is a Woman (Jean-Luc Godard, 1961)
  • Vivre sa vie (Jean-Luc Godard, 1962)
  • Le petit soldat (Jean-Luc Godard, 1963)
  • Band of Outsiders (Jean-Luc Godard, 1964)
  • Alphaville (Jean-Luc Godard, 1965)
  • Pierrot le fou (Jean-Luc Godard, 1965)
  • Made in U.S.A (Jean-Luc Godard, 1966)
  • The Nun (Jacques Rivette, 1966)

Commentary: Sure, I may be ambivalent about Godard, but Anna Karina f**king rules. I’ll watch The Nun. There. Having that cake and eating it too.

Monday, February 24**

Three Starring Montgomery Clift

  • Red River (Howard Hawks, 1948)
  • A Place in the Sun (George Stevens, 1951)
  • From Here to Eternity (Fred Zinnemann, 1953)

Tuesday, February 25**

Short + Feature: Dance, Dance, Dance!

Night Journey (Alexander Hammid, 1960) and Pina (Wim Wenders, 2011)

Commentary: Pina is one of those movies I wish I caught on the big screen in 3D. Though I’m usually not a fan of 3D, I’ve heard from friends that Wenders’ use of it adds greater dynamism to this tribute to dance choreographer Pina Bausch.

Wednesday, February 26**

Short Films by Mati Diop

  • Atlantiques (2009)
  • Snow Canon (2011)
  • Big in Vietnam (2012)
  • A Thousand Suns (2013)
  • Liberian Boy (2015)

Commentary: I meant to see Matt Diop’s Atlantics before completing my top five movies of 2019 list, but life got in the way. After I finally stream Atlantics on Netflix, I’ll come back to the Criterion Channel to see her previous short works.

Thursday, February 27**

Lindsay Anderson’s Mick Travis Trilogy

  • If…. (1969)
  • O Lucky Man! (1973)
  • Brittania Hospital (1982)

Commentary: Described as a movie about “everyman turned guerrilla revolutionary Mick Travis,” I wonder if these movies by Lindsay Anderson are like a radicalized version of the “angry young man” movies of the British Free Cinema movement. Maybe I’ll revisit Saturday Night and Sunday Morning with this trio of films.

Friday, February 28**

Double Feature: Love Across Borders

Ali: Fear Eats the Soul (Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1974) and The Edge of Heaven (Fatih Akin, 2007)

Commentary: Two films about relationships and cultural clashes. I’ve never seen a Faith Akin film, and this will be a great excuse to rewatch Ali: Fear Eats the Soul for the first time in ages. Writing these monthly Criterion Channel programs up, I realize just how many classic movies I saw when I was in college.

Saturday, February 29**

Saturday Matinee: Invention for Destruction (Karel Zeman, 1958)

Commentary: Karel Zeman’s mix of animation and live-action plays out like a cinematic puppet show of sorts, if you can imagine real people walking alongside lithographs. His work looks so distinctive, and remains wonderfully inventive and visually imaginative. I think I may do a Zeman double feature of Invention for Destruction and The Fabulous Baron Munchausen.