What’s leaving Criterion at the end of May

As usual, a lot of great films (and some bad ones) will disappear from The Criterion Channel at the end of the month. Here are some of the better ones that will disappear, including several films directed by Lina Wertmüller.

Full recommendations

A Seven Beauties (1975)

Lina Wertmüller’s 1975 masterpiece is a Holocaust film, an examination of Italian machismo, and a witheringly sad and disturbing drama. It’s also a very funny slapstick comedy. Wertmüller’s muse, Giancarlo Giannini, stars as a charming but somewhat dense egomaniac. We learn about his pre-war life in flashbacks, where he dresses smart and guards the virtue of his seven sisters. But during the war, he deserts the Italian army and ends up in a concentration camp. Here he discovers something much more important than honor – survival. Read my Blu-ray review.

A Design for Living (1933)

Impeccable credentials occasionally pay off. Design for Living is every bit as good as you’d expect from Ernst Lubitsch directing a Ben Hecht screen adaptation of a Noel Coward play. Of course, it also helps to have a great cast. Best friends Gary Cooper and Fredric March both want the beautiful and sexy Miriam Hopkins. She wants both. Edward Everett Horton plays the disapproving bluenose. A very funny and sexy pre-code charmer.

A The Band Wagon (1953)

If Singin’ in the Rain is the best musical Hollywood ever created, The Band Wagon is a very close second. A satire on the clash between serious art and frivolous entertainment, held together by great songs, masterful choreography, and comedy that never feels forced. Astaire’s character, an aging movie star nervously returning to Broadway, is clearly based on Astaire himself.

A Trouble in Paradise (1932)

What’s so fascinating and entertaining about witty, sophisticated crooks that makes us want to root for them? Probably our own desire to get away with it. This near-perfect pre-code screwball proves that whatever it is, it works. Yet another deliciously amoral Ernst Lubitsch comedy about sex, love, money, and larceny. Starring Miriam Hopkins, Kay Francis, and Herbert Marshall.

A Maurice (1987)

Set in early 20th century England, this Merchant Ivory production concentrates on one man wanting desperately to come out of the closet – at a time when doing so would land him in prison. Maurice (James Wilby) meets Clive (Hugh Grant) in college, and they fall in love. They must hide the nature of their “friendship.” Clive eventually reconciles to a conventional married life, but Maurice, now a successful stockbroker, can’t bring himself to the do the same. Stiff upper lips abound, with real emotions bubbling up when they can no longer be contained.

A- Wattstax (1973)

The Staple Singers, The Bar-Kays, Kim Weston, and Isaac Hayes give great performances to excited audiences and well-placed cameras. Best of all, a not-yet-famous Richard Pryor adds his own very funny asides.

B+ Million Dollar Legs (1932)

Before the Marx Brothers created Freedonia, Jack Oakie and W.C. Fields birthed the absurd nation of Klopstokia, where all women are named Angela and all men George. Better yet, all the citizens are extremely strong and athletic – even if few of them look it. To fill their treasury, the good citizens go to Los Angeles to win the Olympics. Don’t expect anything that makes sense. Exceptionally silly and hysterically funny.

B+ Love and Anarchy (1973)

The political turns personal in Lina Wertmüller’s moving tragicomedy about a country bumpkin who comes to Rome to assassinate Mussolini, and finds love in an upscale whorehouse. Once again, Giannini stars, but this time, massive freckles and bad hair hide his good looks. The story starts out funny, becomes surprisingly romantic, but never strays from an intense sadness. Read my Blu-ray review.

Other films probably worth watching

If my opinions are enough, you can peruse all the films that will disappear on June 1.