Additions include seven films from Tampopo director Juzo Itami and actress Nobuko Miyamoto, as well as complete Criterion editions of Christian Petzold’s Phoenix and Nagisa Oshima’s Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence!
Wednesday, December 13
Phoenix*: Criterion Collection Edition #809
Christian Petzold’s evocative 2014 drama, set in rubble-strewn Berlin in 1945, is like no other film about post-World War II Jewish-German identity. After surviving Auschwitz, a former cabaret singer (Nina Hoss) has her disfigured face reconstructed and returns to her war-ravaged hometown to seek out her gentile husband, who may or may not have betrayed her to the Nazis. Without recognizing her, he enlists her to play his wife in a bizarre hall-of-shattered-mirrors story that is as richly metaphorical as it is preposterously engrossing. SUPPLEMENTAL FEATURES: a new introduction by critic Imogen Sara Smith; a conversation between director Christian Petzold and actor Nina Hoss; The Making of “Phoenix,” a 2014 documentary featuring interviews with Petzold, Hoss, actors Nina Kunzendorf and Ronald Zehrfeld, and production designer K. D. Gruber; and more.
*Premiering on the Channel this month.
Thursday, December 14
I Am Curious: Criterion Collection Edition #179
Seized by customs upon entry to the United States, subject of a heated court battle, and banned in cities across the United States, Vilgot Sjöman’s I Am Curious – Yellow is one of the most controversial films of all time. This landmark document of Swedish society during the sexual revolution tells the story of a searching and rebellious young woman, and her personal quest to understand the social and political conditions in 1960s Sweden, as well as her bold exploration of her own sexual identity. In celebration of its fiftieth anniversary, I Am Curious – Yellow is presented here with its companion piece I Am Curious – Blue, a parallel film featuring the same characters and in which the lines between documentary and fiction are even further blurred. SUPPLEMENTAL FEATURES: excerpts from director Vilgot Sjöman’s Self Portrait 92, a documentary made for Swedish television; a video introduction by the director; a selected scene audio commentary by Sjöman; and more.
Friday, December 15
Friday Night Double Feature: Fitzcarraldo and Burden of Dreams
The limits of human endurance are put to the test in German iconoclast Werner Herzog’s 1982 Fitzcarraldo, an epic portrait of a rubber baron’s attempts to build an opera house in the Peruvian jungle. The film was the result of a notoriously nightmarish five-year production, glimpses of which are captured in Les Blank’s Burden of Dreams, an unsparing behind-the-scenes look at Herzog’s quest to bring his impossible vision to the screen.
Monday, December 18
Creative Marriages: Juzo Itami and Nobuko Miyamoto
Juzo Itami became the most talked-about Japanese director of the eighties and nineties when he and his wife, actor Nobuko Miyamoto, created a string of audacious movies centered on independent women who were smart and passionate about their work. In the latest installment of Creative Marriages, we’re celebrating their partnership in both life and cinema. Watch their 1985 international breakthrough, Tampopo, a mouth-watering “ramen western” starring Miyamoto as a single mother who becomes a first-class noodle chef with a lot of help from her friends. Also on view is the seriocomic social thriller A Taxing Woman (1987), a box-office smash that staged a frontal attack on the contemporary obsession with making money. You can also check out our previous Creative Marriages programs highlighting Federico Fellini and Giulietta Masina, Roger Vadim and Brigitte Bardot, and Jean Cocteau and Jean Marais.
Tuesday, December 19
Tuesday’s Short + Feature: Time Piece and Tom Jones
Two masters deliver flights of playful cinematic style with their own witty sensibilities. In the Oscar-winning 1963 Tom Jones, British New Wave pioneer Tony Richardson updates Henry Fielding’s picaresque eighteenth-century novel with an ebullient, fourth-wall-breaking irreverence. And in the Oscar-nominated 1965 short Time Piece, which features a parody of one of the most memorable scenes in Tom Jones, legendary puppeteer Jim Henson delivers a fast-paced, rhythmically edited tale of a young man desperately trying to escape the passage of time.
Wednesday, December 20
Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence*: Criterion Collection Edition #535
In this captivating, skewed World War II drama from Nagisa Oshima, David Bowie regally embodies a British officer interned by the Japanese as a POW. Rock star Ryuichi Sakamoto (who also composed this film’s hypnotic score) plays the camp commander, obsessed with the mysterious blond major, while Tom Conti is a British lieutenant colonel who tries to bridge the emotional and language divides between captor and prisoner. Also featuring actor-director Takeshi Kitano in his first dramatic role, Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence(1983) is a multilayered, brutal, at times erotic tale of culture clash, and one of Oshima’s greatest successes. SUPPLEMENTAL FEATURES: The Oshima Gang, a 1983 making-of featurette; video interviews with producer Jeremy Thomas, screenwriter Paul Mayersberg, actor Tom Conti, and actor-composer Ryuichi Sakamoto; and more.
*Premiering on the Channel this month.
Thursday, December 21
Observations on Film Art No. 14: Girl Shy – Harold Lloyd Meets Classical Hollywood
The silent comedy might be most famous today for its one-off gags and chases, but by the twenties the form had begun to tell increasingly sophisticated feature-length stories, thanks to such pioneering figures as Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, and Harold Lloyd. In this month’s episode of Observations on Film Art – a Channel-exclusive series that takes a look at great filmmakers’ use of cinematic devices and traditions – scholar David Bordwell unpacks the narrative strategies at play in Lloyd’s comedy of embarrassment Girl Shy(1924), illuminating the film’s implementation of such classical Hollywood devices as psychological characterization and repeated motifs.
Friday, December 22
Friday Night Double Feature: Chéri and Journey to Italy
The work of the French author Colette, celebrated for its evocation of affairs of the heart during the belle epoque, inspired these two tales of precarious romance. Stephen Frears’s seductive period piece Chéri (2009), an adaptation of Colette’s 1920 novel of the same name, tells the story of the years-long relationship between a courtesan (Michelle Pfeiffer) and her peer’s decadent and impressionable son (Rupert Friend). And Robert Rossellini’s modernist drama Journey to Italy (1954), loosely based on Colette’s Duo (1934), observes the mounting tensions between a married British couple (Ingrid Bergman and George Sanders) during a trip to the Neapolitan countryside.
Tuesday, December 26
Tuesday’s Short + Feature: Light Is Calling and My Winnipeg
These two films, both beautifully tactile experiments with film form, make brilliant use of found footage. In his eight-minute film Light Is Calling (2004), Bill Morrison cedes the frame to a scene from a 1926 silent film as it appears on a decomposing film reel, in the process crafting a haunting meditation on the ravages of time; in his beguiling “docu-fantasia” My Winnipeg (2007), Guy Maddin mixes archival footage with his own expressionistic black-and-white material to evoke the weird and wonderful world of his hometown.
Friday, December 29
Friday Night Double Feature: The Apartment and Brief Encounter
With 2018 just around the corner, take a look back at a Hollywood classic whose climax takes place on New Year’s Eve, along with the movie that inspired it. David Lean reached his first great peak with Brief Encounter (1945), starring Celia Johnson and Trevor Howard as refined middle-class lovers who fail to consummate their affair in a borrowed flat when the owner unexpectedly barges in on them. Billy Wilder loved the film, but wondered-who’s the guy who owns the apartment? The result: Wilder’s five-time Oscar winner The Apartment (1960), which casts Jack Lemmon as the shlemiel who gives his key to his superiors for their trysts, and Shirley MacLaine as the elevator girl and executive’s mistress he unexpectedly falls in love with.
Friday, December 29
Weekend: Criterion Collection Edition #635
This scathing satire from Jean-Luc Godard, which celebrates its fiftieth anniversary this week, is one of cinema’s great anarchic works. Determined to collect an inheritance from a dying relative, a bourgeois couple travel across the French countryside while civilization crashes and burns around them. Featuring a justly famous sequence in which the camera tracks along a seemingly endless traffic jam, and rich with historical and literary references, Weekend is a surreally funny and disturbing call for revolution, a depiction of society reverting to savagery, and – according to the credits – the end of cinema itself. SUPPLEMENTAL FEATURES: a video essay by writer and filmmaker Kent Jones; archival interviews with actors Mireille Darc and Jean Yanne, cinematographer Raoul Coutard, and assistant director Claude Miller; and more.
Premiering on the Criterion Channel later this month:
Phoenix, Christian Petzold, 2014
Woman in Witness Protection, Juzo Itami, 1997
A Quiet Life, Juzo Itami, 1995
Tales of a Golden Geisha, Juzo Itami, 1990
The Gentle Art of Japanese Extortion, Juzo Itami, 1992
The Funeral, Juzo Itami, 1984
Rubber Band Pistol, Juzo Itami, 1962
The Last Dance, Juzo Itami, 1995
Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence, Nagisa Oshima, 1983
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