Well, as listeners of the podcast are well aware of, we love Netflix here on CriterionCast. Specifically we love the ability to watch movies quickly and easily without having to wait for a disc to be delivered to our mailboxes. While I personally long for the day that Netflix begins offering all of the bonus materials, along with commentaries on their streaming films, it is a treat to have these incredible films available in an instant.
As promised, here are the latest additions to Netflix’s Watch Instantly collection of Criterion Collection films.
The descriptions of the films have been taken from their product pages over on Criterion.com, you can find links directly to Criterion alongside each item.
Toshiro Mifune is unforgettable as Kingo Gondo, a wealthy industrialist whose family becomes the target of a cold-blooded kidnapper in Akira Kurosawa’s highly influential High and Low (Tengoku to jigoku). Adapting Ed McBain’s detective novel King’s Ransom, Kurosawa moves effortlessly from compelling race-against-time thriller to exacting social commentary, creating a penetrating portrait of contemporary Japanese society. Criterion is proud to present High and Low in an all-new high-definition digital transfer.
Hailed as one of the finest films ever made, legendary director FranÃ§ois Truffaut’s early masterpiece Jules and Jim charts the relationship between two friends and the object of their mutual obsession over the course of twenty-five years. Jeanne Moreau stars as Catherine, the alluring and willful young woman whose enigmatic smile and passionate nature lure Jules (Oskar Werner) and Jim (Henri Serre) into one of cinema’s most captivating romantic triangles. An exuberant and poignant meditation on freedom, loyalty, and the fortitude of love, Jules and Jim was a worldwide smash upon its release in 1962 and remains as audacious and entrancing today.
Toshiro Mifune swaggers and snarls to brilliant comic effect in Akira Kurosawa’s tightly paced, beautifully composed Sanjuro. In this sly companion piece to Yojimbo, the jaded samurai Sanjuro helps an idealistic group of young warriors weed out their clan’s evil influences, and in the process turns their image of a ‘proper’ samurai on its ear. Less brazen in tone than its predecessor but just as engaging, this classic character’s return is a masterpiece in its own right, now presented in a new high-definition digital transfer.
One of the most beloved movie epics of all time, Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai (Shichinin no samurai) tells the story of a sixteenth-century village whose desperate inhabitants hire the eponymous warriors to protect them from invading bandits. This three-hour ride’”featuring legendary actors Toshiro Mifune and Takashi Shimura’”seamlessly weaves philosophy and entertainment, delicate human emotions and relentless action into a rich, evocative, and unforgettable tale of courage and hope.
An American spinster’s dream of romance finally becomes a bittersweet reality when she meets a handsome’”but married’”Italian man while vacationing in Venice. Katharine Hepburn’s sensitive portrayal of the lonely heroine and Jack Hildyard’s glorious Technicolor photography make Summertime an endearing and visually enchanting film.
A young man begins an obsessive search for his girlfriend after she mysteriously disappears during their sunny vacation getaway. His three-year investigation draws the attention of her abductor, a seemingly mild-mannered professor who, in truth, harbors a diabolically clinical and calculating mind. When the kidnapper contacts the man and promises to reveal his lover’s fate, The Vanishing unfolds with intense precision, culminating in a genuinely chilling finale that has unnerved audiences around the world.
Nicolas Roeg’s mystical masterpiece chronicles the physical, spiritual, and emotional journey of a sister and brother abandoned in the harsh Australian outback. Joining an Aborigine boy on his walkabout’”a tribal initiation into manhood’”these modern children pass from innocence into experience as they are thrust from the comforts of civilization into the savagery of the natural world.
The incomparable Toshiro Mifune stars in Akira Kurosawa’s visually stunning and darkly comic Yojimbo. To rid a terror-stricken village of corruption, wily masterless samurai Sanjuro turns a range war between two evil clans to his own advantage. Remade twice, by Sergio Leone (A Fistful of Dollars) and Walter Hill (Last Man Standing), this exhilarating genre-twister remains one of the most influential and entertaining films ever produced. Criterion is proud to present this Kurosawa favorite in a new, high-definition digital transfer.
My Life as a Dog tells the story of Ingemar, a working-class twelve-year-old sent to live with his uncle in a country village when his mother falls ill. Once there, Ingemar finds refuge from his misfortunes and unexpected adventure with the help of the town’s warmhearted eccentrics. A bittersweet evocation of the struggles and joys of childhood, this film features an incredibly mature and unaffected performance by lead actor Anton Glanzelius.
In July 1969, the space race ended when Apollo 11 fulfilled President Kennedy’s challenge of ‘landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth.’ No one who witnessed the lunar landing will ever forget it. Al Reinert’s documentary For All Mankind is the story of the twenty-four men who traveled to the moon, told in their words, in their voices, using the images of their experiences. Forty years after the first moon landing, it remains the most radical, visually dazzling work of cinema yet made about this earthshaking event.
AgnÃ¨s Varda eloquently captures Paris in the sixties with this real-time portrait of a singer (Corinne Marchand) set adrift in the city as she awaits test results of a biopsy. A chronicle of the minutes of one woman’s life, Cléo from 5 to 7 is a spirited mix of vivid vérité and melodrama, featuring a score by Michel Legrand (The Umbrellas of Cherbourg) and cameos by Jean-Luc Godard and Anna Karina.
Margot Kidder is Danielle, a beautiful model separated from her Siamese twin, Dominique. When a hotshot reporter (Jennifer Salt) suspects Dominique of a brutal murder, she becomes dangerously ensnared in the sisters’ insidious sibling bond. A scary and stylish paean to female destructiveness, De Palma’s first foray into horror voyeurism is a stunning amalgam of split-screen effects, bloody birthday cakes, and a chilling score by frequent Hitchcock collaborator Bernard Herrmann. Criterion is proud to present Sisters in a new Special Edition.
At a village railway station in occupied Czechoslovakia, a bumbling dispatcher’s apprentice longs to liberate himself from his virginity. Oblivious to the war and the resistance that surrounds him, this young man embarks on a journey of sexual awakening and self-discovery, encountering a universe of frustration, eroticism, and adventure within his sleepy backwater depot. Wry and tender, Academy Awardâ„¢-winning Closely Watched Trains is a masterpiece of human observation and one of the best-loved films of the Czech New Wave.
Pipe-smoking Monsieur Hulot, Jacques Tati’s endearing clown, takes a holiday at a seaside resort where his presence provokes one catastrophe after another. Tati’s wildly funny satire of vacationers determined to enjoy themselves includes a series of precisely choreographed sight gags involving dogs, boats, and firecrackers. The first entry in the Hulot series is a masterpiece of gentle slapstick.
Brimming with action while incisively examining the nature of truth, Rashomon is perhaps the finest film ever to investigate the philosophy of justice. Through an ingenious use of camera and flashbacks, Kurosawa reveals the complexities of human nature as four people recount different versions of the story of a man’s murder and the rape of his wife. Toshiro Mifune gives another commanding performance in the eloquent masterwork that revolutionized film language and introduced Japanese cinema to the world.
Five young men linger in a postadolescent limbo, dreaming of adventure and escape from their small seacoast town. They while away their time spending the lira doled out by their indulgent families on drink, women, and nights at the local pool hall. Federico Fellini’s second solo directorial effort (originally released in the U.S. as The Young and the Passionate) is a semiautobiographical masterpiece of sharply drawn character sketches: Skirt chaser Fausto, forced to marry a girl he has impregnated; Alberto, the perpetual child; Leopoldo, a writer thirsting for fame; and Moraldo, the only member of the group troubled by a moral conscience. An international success and recipient of an Academy AwardÂ® nomination for Best Original Screenplay, I vitelloni compassionately details a year in the life of a group of small-town layabouts struggling to find meaning in their lives.
The film that catapulted Bergman to the forefront of world cinema is the director’s richest, most humane movie. Traveling to receive an honorary degree, Professor Isak Borg (masterfully played by the veteran Swedish director Victor SjÃ¶strÃ¶m), is forced to face his past, come to terms with his faults, and accept the inevitability of his approaching death. Through flashbacks and fantasies, dreams and nightmares, Wild Strawberries captures a startling voyage of self-discovery and renewed belief in mankind.
A girl mysteriously disappears on a yachting trip. While her lover and her best friend search for her across Italy, they begin an affair. Antonioni’s penetrating study of the idle upper class offers stinging observations on spiritual isolation and the many meanings of love. Criterion is proud to present this milestone of film grammar in a double-disc special edition.
A general and a princess must dodge enemy clans while smuggling the royal treasure out of hostile territory with two bumbling, conniving peasants at their sides; it’s a spirited adventure that only Akira Kurosawa could create. Acknowledged as a primary influence on George Lucas’s Star Wars, The Hidden Fortress delivers Kurosawa’s inimitably deft blend of wry humor, breathtaking action and humanist compassion on an epic scale. The Criterion Collection is proud to present this landmark motion picture in a stunning, newly restored Tohoscope edition.
In 1971, the small African nation of Uganda was taken over by self-styled dictator General Idi Amin Dada, beginning an eight-year reign of terror that would result in the deaths of hundreds of thousands. In this chilling yet darkly comic documentary, director Barbet Schroeder turns his cameras on the infamous tyrant, revealing the dynamic, charming, and appallingly dangerous man whose fanatical neuroses held an entire nation in their grip. Made with the full support and participation of the infamous dictator, General Idi Amin Dada provides a candid and disturbing portrait of one of the 20th century’s most notorious figures.
Documentary filmmakers André and Rémy have found an ideal subject in Ben. He is witty, sophisticated, intelligent, well liked’”and a serial killer. As André and Rémy document Ben’s routines, they become increasingly entwined in his vicious program, sacrificing their objectivity and their morality. Controversial winner of the International Critics’ Prize at the 1992 Cannes Film Festival, Man Bites Dog stunned audiences worldwide with its unflinching imagery and biting satire of media violence.
Jean Renoir and Akira Kurosawa, two of cinema’s greatest directors, transform Maxim Gorky’s classic proletariat play The Lower Depths in their own ways for their own times. Renoir, working amidst the rise of Hitler and the Popular Front in France, had need to take license with the dark nature of Gorky’s source material, softening its bleak outlook. Kurosawa, firmly situated in the postwar world, found little reason for hope. He remained faithful to the original with its focus on the conflict between illusion and reality’”a theme he would return to over and over again. Working with their most celebrated actors (Gabin with Renoir; Mifune with Kurosawa), each film offers a unique look at cinematic adaptation’”where social conditions and filmmaking styles converge to create unique masterpieces.
Considered by some to be Akira Kurosawa’s greatest achievement, Ikiru presents the director at his most compassionate’”affirming life through an exploration of a man’s death. Takashi Shimura portrays Kanji Watanabe, an aging bureaucrat with stomach cancer forced to strip the veneer off his existence and find meaning in his final days. Told in two parts, Ikiru offers Watanabe’s quest in the present, and then through a series of flashbacks. The result is a multifaceted look at a life through a prism of perspectives, resulting in a full portrait of a man who lacked understanding from others in life.
Deep within the wind-swept marshes of war-torn medieval Japan, an impoverished mother and her daughter-in-law eke out a lonely, desperate existence. Forced to murder lost samurai and sell their belongings for grain, they dump the corpses down a deep, dark hole and live off of their meager spoils. When a bedraggled neighbor returns from the skirmishes, lust, jealousy, and rage threaten to destroy the trio’s tenuous existence, before an ominous, ill-gotten demon mask seals the trio’s horrifying fate. Driven by primal emotions, dark eroticism, a frenzied score by Hikaru Hayashi, and stunning images both lyrical and macabre, Kaneto Shindo’s chilling folktale Onibaba is a singular cinematic experience.
A mysterious writer of poison-pen letters, known only as Le Corbeau (the Raven), plagues a French provincial town, unwittingly exposing the collective suspicion and rancor seething beneath the community’s calm surface. Made during the Nazi Occupation of France, Henri-Georges Clouzot’s Le Corbeau was attacked by the right-wing Vichy regime, the left-wing Resistance press, the Catholic Church, and was banned after the Liberation. But some’”including Jean Cocteau and Jean-Paul Sartre’”recognized the powerful subtext to Clouzot’s anti-informant, anti-Gestapo fable, and worked to rehabilitate Clouzot’s directorial reputation after the war. Le Corbeau brilliantly captures a spirit of paranoid pettiness and self-loathing turning an occupied French town into a twentieth-century Salem.
Seamlessly interweaving archival war footage and a fictional narrative, Stuart Cooper’s immersive account of one twenty-year-old’s journey from basic training to the front lines of D-Day brings all the terrors and isolation of war to life with jolting authenticity. Overlord, impressionistically shot by Stanley Kubrick’s longtime cinematographer John Alcott, is both a document of World War II and a dreamlike meditation on man’s smallness in a large, incomprehensible machine.
Based on the classic Emile Zola novel, Jean Renoir’s La bÃªte humaine was one of the legendary director’s greatest popular successes’”and earned star Jean Gabin a permanent place in the hearts of his countrymen. Part poetic realism, part film noir, the film is a hard-boiled and suspenseful journey into the tormented psyche of a workingman.
Robert Bresson’s incomparable tale of crime and redemption follows Michel, a young pickpocket who spends his days working the streets, subway cars, and train stations of Paris. As his compulsion grows, however, so too does his fear that his luck is about to run out. Tautly choreographed and crafted in Bresson’s inimitable style, Pickpocket reveals a master director at the height of his powers.
You can also hear our discussion of Pickpocket here.
In his mesmerizing debut feature, twenty-four-year-old director Louis Malle brought together the beauty of Jeanne Moreau, the camerawork of Henri DecaÃ«, and a now legendary score by Miles Davis. A touchstone of the careers of both its star and director, Elevator to the Gallows is a richly atmospheric thriller of murder and mistaken identity unfolding over one restless Parisian night.
Carlos Saura’s exquisite CrÃa cuervos . . . heralded a turning point in Spain: shot while General Franco was on his deathbed, the film melds the personal and the political in a portrait of the legacy of fascism and its effects on a middle-class family (the title derives from the Spanish proverb: ‘Raise ravens and they’ll peck out your eyes’). Ana Torrent (the dark-eyed beauty from The Spirit of the Beehive) portrays the disturbed eight-year-old Ana, living in Madrid with her two sisters and mourning the death of her mother, whom she conjures as a ghost (an ethereal Geraldine Chaplin). Seamlessly shifting between fantasy and reality, the film subtly evokes both the complex feelings of childhood and the struggles of a nation emerging from the shadows.
With its low budget and lush black-and-white imagery, Gus Van Sant’s debut feature Mala Noche heralded an idiosyncratic, provocative new voice in American independent film. Set in Van Sant’s hometown of Portland, Oregon, the film evokes a world of transient workers, dead-end day-shifters, and bars and seedy apartments bathed in a profound nighttime, as it follows a romantic deadbeat with a wayward crush on a handsome Mexican immigrant. Mala Noche was an important prelude to the New Queer Cinema of the nineties and is a fascinating capsule from a time and place that continues to haunt its director’s work.
‘You will now listen to my voice . . . On the count of ten you will be in Europa . . .’ So begins Max von Sydow’s opening narration to Lars von Trier’s hypnotic Europa (known in the U.S. as Zentropa), a fever dream in which American pacifist Leopold Kessler (Jean-Marc Barr) stumbles into a job as a sleeping-car conductor for the Zentropa railways in a Kafkaesque 1945 postwar Frankfurt. With its gorgeous black-and-white and color imagery and meticulously recreated (if then nightmarishly deconstructed) costumes and sets, Europa is one of the great Danish filmmaker’s weirdest and most wonderful works, a runaway-train ride to an oddly futuristic past.
Wings of Desire is one of cinema’s loveliest city symphonies. Bruno Ganz is Damiel, an angel perched atop buildings high over Berlin who can hear the thoughts’”fears, hopes, dreams’”of all the people living below. But when he falls in love with a beautiful trapeze artist, he is willing to give up his immortality and come back to earth to be with her. Made not long before the fall of the Berlin wall, this stunning tapestry of sounds and images, shot in black and white and color by the legendary Henri Alekan, is movie poetry. And it forever made the name Wim Wenders synonymous with film art.
A pulse-pounding political thriller, Greek expatriate director Costa-Gavras’s Z was one of the cinematic sensations of the late sixties, and remains among the most vital dispatches from that hallowed era of filmmaking. This Academy Award winner’”loosely based on the 1963 assassination of Greek left-wing activist Gregoris Lambrakis’”stars Yves Montand as a prominent politician and doctor whose public murder amid a violent demonstration is covered up by military and government officials; Jean-Louis Trintignant is the tenacious magistrate who’s determined not to let them get away with it. Featuring kinetic, rhythmic editing, Raoul Coutard’s expressive vérité photography, and Mikis Theodorakis’s unforgettable, propulsive score, Z is a technically audacious and emotionally gripping masterpiece.
Disillusioned and exhausted after a decade of battling in the Crusades, a knight (Max von Sydow) encounters Death on a desolate beach and challenges him to a fateful game of chess. Much studied, imitated, even parodied, but never outdone, Bergman’s stunning allegory of man’s search for meaning, The Seventh Seal (Det sjunde inseglet), was one of the benchmark foreign imports of America’s 1950s art-house heyday, pushing cinema’s boundaries and ushering in a new era of moviegoing.
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Far from a conventional biopic, Steven Soderbergh’s film about Che Guevara is a fascinating exploration of the revolutionary as icon. Daring in its refusal to make the socialist leader into an easy martyr or hero, Che paints a vivid, naturalistic portrait of the man himself (Benicio del Toro, in a stunning, Cannes-award-winning performance), from his overthrow of the Batista dictatorship to his 1964 United Nations trip to the end of his short life. Composed of two parts, the first a kaleidoscopic view of the Cuban Revolution and the second an all-action dramatization of Che’s failed campaign in Bolivia, Che is Soderbergh’s most epic vision.
Matteo Garrone’s Gomorrah is a stark, shocking vision of contemporary gangsterdom, and one of cinema’s most authentic depictions of organized crime. In this tour de force adaptation of undercover Italian reporter Roberto Saviano’s best-selling exposé of Naples’ Mafia underworld (known as the Camorra), Garrone links five disparate tales in which men and children are caught up in a corrupt system that extends from the housing projects to the world of haute couture. Filmed with an exquisite detachment interrupted by bursts of violence, Gomorrah is a shattering, socially engaged true-crime story from a major new voice in Italian cinema.