Tuesday, May 14, 2019

An art house theatre in your computer

I encourage anyone who really loves film to sign up for The Criterion Channel. The Criterion Channel is an offshoot of the esteemed Criterion Collection, the archive of arguably the most important genre, auteur and foreign films of the past century. The Criterion Channel was born from the ashes of FilmStruck which was, excuse me, struck from the internet after a corporate rearrangement by parent WarnerMedia late last year. It was only available in the US anyway. The Criterion Channel, which launched last month, is available in Canada. I joined as a charter member (having been a subscriber to FilmStruck) and pay only $89.99 US annually. For first time subscribers I believe the price is $10.99 US monthly but an annual sub is discounted at 25% or $99.99. But even if the price is a little more this service is a bargain. This, folks, is the ideal art film lovers’ website, or shall we say, paradise. Where else can you have a library of more than 1000 films – assuming more will increasingly be added -
with some of the most famous names in independent and auteur filmmaking? There is Godard, Fellini, Hitchcock, Truffaut, Haneke, Chaplin, Bergman, Bier, Rossellini, Eisenstein, Wenders, Fassbinder, Lynch, Antonioni, Soderbergh, Malle, Campion, von Trier, Bresson, Kurosawa, Rohmer – well, you get the picture. Personally, I haven’t had it this good since the late lamented Canadian DVD film service zip.ca folded in 2014. But while zip.ca dug deep into auteur and foreign films – much more so than the comparatively bland Netflix - it was a general movie subscription service. The Criterion Channel by contrast is exclusively art house…..This past weekend, for example, I watched Adua and Her Friends (1960) by Antonio Pietrangeli, an Italian director I’d never heard of before. The film was a wonderful story of a group of four prostitutes trying to make a clean break from the trade and starring the inimitable Simone Signoret and Marcello Mastroianni. I also finally watched Agnes Varda’s Cléo from 5 to 7 (1962), perhaps Varda’s – who just died in March at age 90 – most famous film. And I revisited the Claude Chabrol thriller from 1995 La cérémonie starring Sandrine Bonnaire, Isabelle Huppert and Jacqueline Bisset…..The Criterion Channel is a feast, available in Canada and the US, and truly a bargain given that you now have an art house theater in your computer.

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