What’s leaving Criterion at the end of September

At the end of every month, The Criterion Channel removes some of their films to make room for more. Here are some of the films that will go away at the end of August:

Full recommendations

A Raging Bull (1980)

Martin Scorsese put a cap on 70’s cinema with this study of boxer Jake La Motta. It isn’t an easy film to watch; the experience is akin a fierce pummeling. But it’s worth it. Robert De Niro gives one of the great physical performances in cinema, changing from a taut athlete to a man who has let himself go. He’s also making things difficult for the people close to him. Scorsese and cinematographer Michael Chapman make brilliant use of black and white, allowing us to experience the emotional brutality of the fights.

A- Valley Girl (1983)

The investors just wanted another teenage sexploitation comedy, but director Martha Coolidge turned Valley Girl into a semi-classic – a very funny update of Romeo and Juliette. It may also be the first movie to show hippies as conscientious and loving parents. The film stars Nicolas Cage in his first major role (before he got weird) and makes some of the best use of rock ‘n’ roll ever in a movie that isn’t about music.

A- Bad Day at Black Rock (1955)

While everyone else was working hard to fill the new, giant Cinemascope screen, director John Sturges and cinematographer William C. Mellor saw how effective it was to keep it empty. Spencer Tracy stars as a one-armed stranger who comes to a small desert town after World War II and discovers how far people will go to keep a secret.

A- Leave Her to Heaven (1945)

Gene Tierney’s “woman who loves too much” isn’t the typical film noir femme fatale, seducing men to their doom in her quest for material ends. She doesn’t need material things, but she needs her man (Cornel Wilde) so desperately she can’t bear the thought of sharing him with friends or family. And she’s willing to do anything to keep him to herself. Tierney gets top billing, but the real star of Leave Her to Heaven is Technicolor–a rarity for 40s noir–that helps capture the many scenic locations.

A- What We Left Unfinished (2019)

Afghanistan had a strong film industry when the Soviet Union controlled the country, but it was destroyed when fundamentalist Islam replaced fundamentalist Communism. Afghan American filmmaker Mariam Ghani helped preserve and digitize many films from that era – some of them never completed. Ghani’s entertaining documentary offers somewhat nostalgic, often funny, and occasionally tragic stories about the making and survival of these movies. Also, the movie clips within the documen contain worse acting than an MST3K marathon. You can read my fuller report.

B+ House of Bamboo (1955)

Here’s an early Technicolor/CinemaScope noir from Sam Fuller. Robert Stack stars as an American who comes to Japan with possibly illegal motives. He gets involved with a gang of well-dressed Yankee crooks led by Robert Ryan (who steals the picture). It’s an entertaining story, with great location footage that captures a Japan that’s both exotic and grimy – only ten years after Hiroshima.

B Through the Night (2020)

Some 20 years ago, Deloris “Nunu” Hogan and her husband Patrick set up Dee Tots, a 24-hour childcare center. Unfortunately, we need such businesses in the USA. Loira Limbal’s documentary has two important points to make – that we need better ways to deal with childcare, and that Hogan is a very special person. But much of the film’s message is overpowered by the sheer joy of watching young, adorable children. My big problem: I wish Limbal had included interviews with former Dee Tots children. Read my full review

C- Last Year at Marienbad (1961)

Many consider this film a major masterpiece; I don’t. Slow and pretentious, Alain Resnais’ Very Important European Art Film gives you almost no information about the people onscreen (I hesitate to call them characters) and no reason whatsoever to care if they live or die. But the film is visually striking and technically dazzling, and if you’re willing to meet it halfway, it has a certain hypnotic charm. Too bad it refuses to meet you halfway. See my essay.

Other films probably worth watching

You can also check out all of the films that will go away at the end of September.

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