Although vastly different in theme, tone, and character, this week’s free Criterion films on Hulu all look to "tickle the mathematically minded cinephile." Whether you’re preferences lie in French New Wave classics, Japanese historical dramas, or early Lynchian masterpieces, there’s a wonderful selection of films to choose from. So if you spent your weekend in the theater weepingly gazing at Terrence Malick’s To the Wonder, embedded in Shane Carruth’s Upstream Color, or left pale by Brandon Cronenberg’s Antiviral, here are some fantastic and rare films to watch from the comfort of your laptop. Enjoy.
This acclaimed historical drama from 1974 takes on the issue of Japanese women forced into prostitution, and stars the brilliant Kinuyo Tanaka (The Ballad of Narayama) as an elderly woman relating the tragic story of her past to a reporter. Though it was nominated for a best-foreign-language-film Oscar, Sandakan No. 8 has never been available on DVD or Blu-ray in the U.S.
This affectionate paean to young love is also a frank examination by Akira Kurosawa of the harsh realities of postwar Japan. During a Sunday trip into war-ravaged Tokyo, Yuzo and Masako look for work and lodging, as well as affordable entertainments to pass the time. Reminiscent of Frank Capra’s social-realist comedies and echoing contemporaneous Italian neorealism, One Wonderful Sunday touchingly offers a sliver of hope in dark times.
In 2 or 3 Things I Know About Her (2 ou 3 choses que je sais d’elle), Jean-Luc Godard beckons us ever closer, whispering in our ears as narrator. About what? Money, sex, fashion, the city, love, language, war: in a word, everything. Among the legendary French filmmaker’s finest achievements, the film takes as its ostensible subject the daily life of Juliette Janson (Marina Vlady), a housewife from the Paris suburbs who prostitutes herself for extra money. Yet this is only a template for Godard to spin off into provocative philosophical tangents and gorgeous images.
David Lynch’s one-minute grotesque and wonderful animated film that consists of six loops shown on a sculptured screen of three human shaped figures (based on casts of Lynch’s own head as done by Jack Fisk) that intentionally distorted the film. Lynch’s animation depicted six people getting sick: their stomachs grew and their heads would catch fire.
Agnès 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.
This first feature by the legendary Hideo Gosha is among the most beloved chanbara (sword-fighting) films. An origin-story offshoot of a Japanese television phenomenon of the same name, Three Outlaw Samurai is a classic in its own right. A wandering, seen-it-all ronin (Tetsuro Tamba) becomes entangled in the dangerous business of two other samurai (Isamu Nagato and Mikijiro Hira), hired to execute a band of peasants who have kidnapped the daughter of a corrupt magistrate. With remarkable storytelling economy and thrilling action scenes, this is an expertly mounted tale of revenge and loyalty.
This Technicolor spectacular, directed by Zoltán Korda, is considered the finest of the many adaptations of A. E. W. Mason’s classic 1902 adventure novel about the British empire’s exploits in Africa, and a crowning achievement of Alexander Korda’s legendary production company, London Films. Set at the end of the nineteenth century, The Four Feathers follows the travails of a young officer (John Clements) accused of cowardice after he resigns his post on the eve of a major deployment to Khartoum; he must then fight to redeem himself in the eyes of his fellow officers (including Ralph Richardson) and fiancée (June Duprez). Featuring music by Miklós Rózsa and Oscar-nominated cinematography by Georges Périnal and Osmond Borradaile, The Four Feathers is a thrilling, thunderous epic.
One of the most thrilling movie epics of all time, 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 from Akira Kurosawa—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.
Mikhail Romm’s 1962 Soviet black-and-white drama film about nuclear particle physics, Soviet scientists (physicists) and their relationship.
An impoverished artist discovers he has purchased a winning lottery ticket at the very moment his creditors come to collect. The only problem is, the ticket is in the pocket of his coat…which he left at his girlfriend’s apartment. . . who gave the coat to a man hiding from the police. . . who sells the coat to an opera singer who uses it during a performance. By turns charming and inventive, René Clair’s lyrical masterpiece had a profound impact on not only the Marx Brothers and Charlie Chaplin, but on the American musical as a whole.