The Criterion Channel officially launched today, which is a dream for lovers of cinema. The streaming service was born following the untimely demise of FilmStruck last year. The Criterion Channel offers subscribers access to practically all of the Criterion Collection, including Eclipse releases, so long as Criterion currently holds the rights. For instance, you may not be able to watch previous Criterion releases like Grand Illusion, The Third Man, or RoboCop, but you can see all of the Criterion releases from the late great Agnes Varda, the classic output of Akira Kurosawa, loads of Ingmar Bergman, the entire Lone Wolf and Cub film series, all of the Zatoichi films, and so much more.
A subscription to The Criterion Channel is $10.99 per month, or $99.99 per year. It is a remarkable value just given all of the films that you have access to, in addition to actor and filmmaker interviews, behind-the-scenes featurettes, audio commentary tracks for numerous films, and other content.
In addition to streaming films on your laptop and desktop, The Criterion Channel is available on Apple TV, Amazon Fire, Roku, and your iOS and Android devices. That said, as of this writing I cannot add The Criterion Channel via the Roku website, or find the channel while searching on the Roku itself. This being the first day, I assume this issue will be rectified very soon.
So what is on The Criterion Channel? Below I’ll give a cursory rundown of some of the programming on the channel this month and my initial experiences searching for available titles.
According to an official press release from last week, The Criterion Channel hosts more than 1,000 films in the Criterion Collection and Janus Films library. In addition, The Criterion Channel will be home to a rotating selection of films from other studios and independent licensors, including Kino Lorber, MGM, Warner Bros, Sony Pictures, Paramount Pictures, IFC Films, Oscilloscope, and Shout Factory. This rotating selection will help keep content and programming fresh each day.
The Criterion Channel will also be home to original programming that debuted in the FilmStruck days. The interview series Adventures in Filmmakers and Meet the Filmmakers are back, as is Observations on Film Art.
Below is a schedule of The Criterion Channel’s special programming until the end of April. Any day marked with ** is my personal pick for things I am most excited about.
Monday, April 8**
Spotlight: Columbia Noir — Eleven dark gems from the studio that epitomized the hard-boiled essence of film noir
- My Name Is Julia Ross, Joseph H. Lewis, 1945
- So Dark the Night, Joseph H. Lewis, 1946
- The Big Heat, Fritz Lang, 1953
- Human Desire, Fritz Lang, 1954
- Drive a Crooked Road, Richard Quine, 1954
- Pushover, Richard Quine, 1954
- Nightfall, Jacques Tourneur, 1957
- The Burglar, Paul Wendkos, 1957
- The Lineup, Don Siegel, 1958
- Murder by Contract, Irving Lerner, 1958
- Experiment in Terror, Blake Edwards, 1962
Mildred Pierce, directed by Michael Curtiz, 1945 – Criterion Collection Edition #860
Tuesday, April 9
Short + Feature: Yearbook and Y tu mamá también — A short film by Bernardo Britto paired with Alfonso Cuarón’s beloved road movie
Wednesday, April 10**
Screenwriter: Suso Cecchi d’Amico — Seven classics from the Italian screenwriter behind some of the greatest films of all time
- Bicycle Thieves, Vittorio De Sica, 1948
- Senso, Luchino Visconti, 1954
- Le amiche, Michelangelo Antonioni, 1955
- Le notti bianche, Luchino Visconti, 1957
- Big Deal on Madonna Street, Mario Monicelli, 1958
- Rocco and His Brothers, Luchino Visconti, 1960
- Salvatore Giuliano, Francesco Rosi, 1962
Wanda, directed by Barbara Loden, 1970 — Criterion Collection Edition #965
Thursday, April 11
Directed by David Lynch — Visions of terror and salvation from contemporary cinema’s master of the surreal
- Eraserhead, 1977
- The Elephant Man, 1980
- Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me, 1992
- Mulholland Drive, 2001
- Six Men Getting Sick, 1967
- The Alphabet, 1968
- The Grandmother, 1970
- The Amputee Version 1, 1974
- The Amputee Version 2, 1974
- Premonitions Following an Evil Deed, 1995
Ace in the Hole, directed by Billy Wilder, 1951 — Criterion Collection Edition #396
Friday, April 12**
Double Feature: Last Hurrah for Chivalry and The Umbrellas of Cherbourg — John Woo finds unlikely inspiration in Jacques Demy’s candy-colored musical.
Jubal, directed by Delmer Daves, 1956 — Criterion Collection Edition #656
Saturday, April 13**
Saturday Matinee: Bugsy Malone —Pint-sized wise guys battle it out in this irresistible all-kid gangster spoof.
Sunday, April 14
Julie Taymor’s Adventures in Moviegoing — Our guest-programmer series returns with the acclaimed stage and screen director.
- Baby Face, Alfred E. Green, 1933
- Great Expectations, David Lean, 1946
- Rashomon, Akira Kurosawa, 1950
- Sawdust and Tinsel, Ingmar Bergman, 1953
- Nights of Cabiria, Federico Fellini, 1957
- The Cranes Are Flying, Mikhail Kalatozov, 1957
Monday, April 15
Eight Hours Don’t Make a Day, directed by Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1972 — Criterion Collection Edition #946
Tuesday, April 16
Short + Feature: The Silence and Taste of Cherry — Two soul-searching Iranian films grapple with mortality
Wednesday, April 17**
Directed by Susanne Bier — Three intimate and explosive dramas from an auteur specializing in emotional extremes
- Brothers, 2004
- After the Wedding, 2006
- In a Better World, 2010
Thursday, April 18**
Kaili Blues — Bi Gan introduces his audacious feature debut, along with a related short film The Poet and Singer.
Friday, April 19**
Double Feature: Hamlet and To Be or Not to Be — Laurence Olivier’s Shakespeare adaptation meets Ernst Lubitsch’s wartime farce.
Saturday, April 20
Saturday Matinee: The Kid — Charlie Chaplin pairs his lovable Tramp with a child companion in one of his best-loved films.
Sunday, April 21**
Meet the Filmmakers: Charles Burnett — The director of To Sleep with Anger revisits Watts with filmmaker Robert Townsend in an intimate portrait paired with a selection of his films.
- My Brother’s Wedding, 1983
- To Sleep with Anger, 1990
- Hollywood Shuffle, Robert Townsend, 1987
- Several Friends, 1969
- The Horse, 1973
- When It Rains, 1995
- The Final Insult, 1997
- Quiet as Kept, 2007
Monday, April 22
David Simon on Paths of Glory — The creator of The Wire introduces Stanley Kubrick’s wrenching antiwar film.
Tuesday, April 23
Short + Feature: Fauve and The Wages of Fear — An Oscar-nominated short precedes Henri-Georges Clouzot’s masterful suspense film.
The Hidden Fortress, directed by Akira Kurosawa, 1958 — Criterion Collection Edition #116
Wednesday, April 24
The Virgin Suicides, directed by Sofia Coppola, 1999 — Criterion Collection Edition #920
Thursday, April 25
Killer Couples x 3 — Three couples you definitely don’t want to meet at a party
- The Honeymoon Killers, Leonard Kastle, 1969
- Eating Raoul, Paul Bartel, 1982
- Sightseers, Ben Wheatley, 2012
Friday, April 26**
Double Feature: Murder by Contract and Le samouraï — Irving Lerner’s pared-down film noir, followed by Jean-Pierre Melville’s minimalist thriller
Saturday, April 27**
Saturday Matinee: Mon oncle — Jacques Tati’s first color film is a slapstick sendup of modern technology.
Sunday, April 28**
Spotlight: Simone Signoret — A salute to the French actor who brought unforgettable complexity to every performance
- La ronde, Max Ophuls, 1950
- Casque d’or, Jacques Becker, 1952
- Diabolique, Henri-Georges Clouzot, 1955
- Room at the Top, Jack Clayton, 1959
- Adua and her Friends, Antonio Pietrangeli, 1960
- Army of Shadows, Jean-Pierre Melville, 1969
- The Widow Courdec, Pierre Granier-Deferre, 1971
Monday, April 29
Observations on Film Art No. 26: The Revolutionary Subjectivity of Memories of Underdevelopment — Professor Jeff Smith picks up our monthly film-school series with a course on a Cuban classic.
Tuesday, April 30**
Short + Feature: Surface Tension and News from Home — Hollis Frampton and Chantal Akerman’s experimental portraits of New York City
I’ll need to spend a full week or so digesting and mulling over what The Criterion Channel has to offer. On this first day of The Criterion Channel, I have gotten a peculiar amount of joy using the search function to find out if a certain movie is on The Criterion Channel. Orson Welles’ The Magnificent Ambersons is not available on The Criterion Channel (probably because it’s currently on Netflix) but you can stream Chimes at Midnight; John Waters’ Female Trouble is nowhere to be found, but you can stream Multiple Maniacs. No to cult favs like Repo Man and Putney Swope, but there are some classic Ishiro Honda kaiju movies (Godzilla, Rodan, The War of the Gargantuas) and Rene Laloux’s Fantastic Planet.
I feel like I’ll be playing “Is it available on The Criterion Channel?” a lot in the coming weeks. While I’ll be a little disappointed if something isn’t streamable, there is more than enough for me to check out regardless.
Have you also subscribed to The Criterion Channel? Let us know your experiences below in the comments. We’ll have more coverage of The Criterion Channel here on Flixist in the coming weeks and months, so keep an eye out for that.