If you haven’t joined The Criterion Channel party yet, this would be a great month to do so. Full of heavy hitters, the lineup is jam-packed with features highlighting what makes Criterion so appealing to moviegoers. There are collections honoring cinema verité documentaries, Mike Leigh’s work at the BBC, and films starring Hollywood actress Joan Bennet. Of particular note, however, is the wealth of films representing Sight and Sound’s 100 Greatest Movies of All Time. Each is a classic, and this collection alone forms the bulk of the recommendations that follow.
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The Birds (1963) / Psycho (1960)
Available: January 1 | Realized by: Alfred Hitchcock | Written by: Evan HunterJoseph Stefano
If the tomatometer existed in the early 1960s, chances are that none of the scores for these films would instill confidence in their potential audiences. Both received mixed ratings, as is often the case with relatively transgressive art that positions itself for commercial consumption. You just have to ask John Lennon or black sabbath. It is only with time that The birds and psychology acquired a better reputation as masterpieces, or quite close to them. the Birds is the impossible-to-reproduce story of, well, some truly violent and angry birds. But it begins as a dramatic portrayal of a very human love triangle. Once this human drama is interrupted, it stays that way. If there’s one particular thing that started this avian apocalypse, the birds aren’t in the mood to discuss it.
psychology, a little easier to imitate but still one of a kind, is the story of a hotelier with a few demons. This film alone planted a million seeds in the public imagination and many of its scenes continue to receive homages in modern horror. In tandem, they’re a punch of imaginative horror movies that took decades to digest. Between their productions, Alfred Hitchcock took part in a long interview with the French critic turned director Francois Truffaut. The resulting book, Hitchcock/Truffautmakes a great reading companion to both of these films, as Hitchcock provides a jaw-dropping insight into this highly productive period of his film career.
Watch Psycho on the Criterion Channel
Watch the birds on the Criterion Channel
Fine Work (1999)
Available: January 1 | Realized by: Claire Dennis | Written by: Claire Denis, Jean-Pol Fargeau
Discard: Denis Lavant, Michel Subor, Gregoire Colin
Good work is a French drama based on the American writer Herman Melvilleunfinished novel Billy Budd, a sailor. Realized by Claire Dennis (recently from Robert Pattinson– featuring high life), this elegiac-toned poem abandons Melville’s nautical setting of the 1700s for present-day East Africa, occupied by French foreign legionnaires. The story – a sergeant develops a hateful crush and swears to destroy a charming young recruit – is told via flashback vignettes. The dialogues are rare. The composition of the plan is phenomenal. The tragic plot unfolds as if it were a dream. Denis claimed to turn fast and climb carefully, and it shows. Good work is floating but not in a hurry. The film’s main dramatic beats are few, and yet the visuals are so arresting – the music so tense – that shots of a face, a horse or soldiers carrying a body are imbued enough to draw the viewer into rapture. .
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The 400 Blows (1959)
Available: August 1 | Realized by: Francois Truffaut | Written by: Francois Truffaut, Marcel Moussy
Discard: Jean-Pierre Leaud, Albert Remy, Claire Maurier
The 400 blows is the highly influential story of a troubled Parisian youth, and the directorial debut of director François Truffaut, author of the aforementioned Alfred Hitchcock book. In Blows, our protagonist is a preteen Antoine. When he’s not skipping school, he’s a disruptive student. At home, his parents just don’t seem to have him. The film is presented at the height of Antoine, making it a perfect example of the New Wave of French films. A tenant of this school of filmmaking is that the film can rival the novel in honesty and artistic power (and therefore validity). The year before the screening and the great success of this film in Cannes, the director was banned from the festival for having deplored the commercialism of Cannes. The French New Wave and 400 Shots by extension – sought to lead by example in elevating films as literary vehicles. These are noble things, their intentions, but the result is a great coming-of-age drama that feels honest instead of pompous, with great Parisian photography to match.
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Available: January 1 | Realized by: Andrei Tarkovsky | Written by: Arkady Strugatsky, Boris Strugatsky
Discard: Alexander Kaidanovsky, Anatoly Solonitsyn, Alisa Freindlich
In a cordoned-off section of the Russian wilderness known as the Zone, the Writer, Scientist, and Stalker go in search of a bunker with a wish-granting room. This is the plot of the psychedelic sci-fi drama stalker. The film begins presented in washed out sepia. As our travelers go about their dull, regular lives of industrial toil, we discover their grim status quo. Once they break through the blockade around the area and reach the otherworldly woods, the color sets in and the weirdness begins. The Stalker takes the scientist and writer into a world that isn’t theirs, but that’s exactly what they want, for better or for worse. Temporal shifts, orthodox religious imagery, twisted reality, and danger await. The tone is discouraged, the forces are supernatural, and the less spoiled the details, the better. From the opening credits, creates a hypnotic mood but manages to keep its strangeness dramatically anchored throughout.
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Seven Samurai (1954) / Throne of Blood (1957)
Available: January 1 | Realized by: Akira Kurosawa | Written by: Akira Kurosawa, Shinobu Hashimoto, Hideo Oguni/ Shinobu Hashimoto, Ryūzō Kikushima, Akira Kurosawa, Hideo Oguni
One is an adaptation of Shakespeareit is macbeth, we are an original idea. Both present themselves from their opening credits as high-stakes historical fables that will marry almost operatic, militaristic scores with iconic samurai imagery. Seven Samurai is the store of a village, haunted by bandits, which must rely on a group of samurai to both defend themselves and teach them how to defend themselves. Like the director’s Rashomon, there’s a bit of nihilism to the morality at play. Samurai aren’t portrayed as inherently heroic characters, but like the kind of villains you have to take down other villains. Not the kind of men you want otherwise. At over three hours, it’s an epic, full of action, thoughtful writing, and three-dimensional characters.
throne of blood is delivered in much the same language, but is a simpler tragedy. The rhythms and narrative hooks of macbeth like a story are such a powerful engine that Akira KurosawaManagement flies with it. He’s extremely good at setting a mood, and the gravity he establishes makes it clear that our ambitious hero and his equally ambitious wife are on their way to trouble. No matter what that ethereal female spirit said to our hero, things don’t seem to be going well. Taken in tandem, these two films don’t sum up Akira Kurosawa, but they do say a lot about what he’s capable of.
Watch Seven Samurai on the Criterion Channel
Watch Throne of Blood on the Criterion Channel
The best new movies on The Criterion Channel in January 2023 – CNET – ApparelGeek