Best New Movies on The Criterion Channel in February 2022

Each month, Criterion Channel subscribers know they can expect a slew of new classics both vintage and contemporary, and this February is no different in that regard. As it is also Black History Month, the February lineup sees the addition of works featuring Harry Belafonte, Sidney Poitier and more, as well as extensive collections of feature films, documentaries and short films from a variety of artists from different eras. Let’s look at seven of the best entries to check out this month.

The Story of a Three Day Pass (1968)


the story of a three day pass

Available: February 1st

Directed by: Melvin Van Peebles

Written by: Melvin Van Peebles

To throw: Harry BairdNicole Berger

In the early 1960s, frustrated by his inability to establish himself as a Hollywood filmmaker (after directing a few well-received shorts), the Chicago native Melvin Van Peebles moved to Europe, eventually ending up in France, where he learned the language and wrote a novel titled Permission. He will then obtain a grant from the Center du Cinéma Français to adapt this novel to his first feature film, The story of a three-day pass. Featuring the British actor Harry Bairdit tells a bittersweet tale of interracial love and bigotry, and its emotion, biting humor and cunning would be just the start of the director’s famed and inevitable Hollywood career.

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Running on Empty (1988)


running empty1988

Available: February 1st

Directed by: Sidney Lumet

Written by: Naomi Foner

To throw: Christine Lahti, Judd Hirsch, Martha Plimpton, River Phoenix, Steven Hill

the New York one Sidney Lumet already had a busy career (including five Oscar nominations) before he started working on Runs empty, and had developed a reputation as a sensitive artist capable of obtaining sensitive and naturalistic performances from his actors. The fact that he was able to work with a nuanced and visceral actor like Phoenix River before his untimely death is a gift not just for fans of both artists, but for movie fans in general. Empty tells the story of two parents on the run after bombing a napalm lab to protest the Vietnam War. Phoenix plays their teenage son with eyes on dating Julliard, and the film explores the strains and stress such a dream places on his family, who live a life driven by the need to escape capture. It’s romantic, sad and intense, and more than worthy of the attention given to it.


The Learning Tree (1969)


the learning tree

Available: February 1st

Directed by: Gordon Parks

Written by: Gordon Parks

To throw: Kyle Johnson, Estelle Evans, Alex Clarke, Dana Elcar, Richard Ward, Mira Waters

The learning tree was one of the first films protected by the National Preservation Board of the Library of Congress. It is the first major studio film directed by an African-American, who was only three years younger than 60 when it was released (the aforementioned studio was Warner Bros.). Although he would go on to direct the much more culturally splashy film Treethis coming-of-age tale is highly conflicted in its own way, telling an autobiographical story filled with observations of manhood, friendship, love, violence and crime in the post-war American Midwest. civil war.

Hive (2021)


hive 2021

Available: February 8


Directed by: Blerta Basholi

Written by: Blerta Basholi

To throw: Yllka Gashi, Çun Lajçi, Aurita Agushi

Kosovo’s official submission for the Oscars 2022, Hive tells the story of a woman who goes into business after the disappearance of her husband during the Kosovo war. It’s a David and Goliath social drama in which women must defy the expectations placed on them by their society, and it won all three major awards when it debuted at Sundance, meaning it not only has things to say, but he knows how to deliver that message in a way the audience can appreciate. It’s a nice, modern offering as good as many of the most talked about dramas that competed for Best International Feature Film this year, and even better than a few of them.

Citizen Ruth (1996)


citizen-ruth-kelly-preston-laura-dern
Image via Miramax Films

Available: February 10

Directed by: Alexander Payne

Written by: Alexander Payne, Jim Taylor

To throw: Laura Dern, Swoosie Kurtz, Kelly Preston, Burt Reynolds, Kurtwood Smith, Mary Kay Place, Tippi Hedren

This month, Criterion has collections that celebrate Alan Arkin and Douglas Sirk, as well as the previously mentioned Van Peebles. The only other actor with his own movie playlist on the service is Laura Dern, and this next entry returns to it. Before his director does the Reese Witherspoon/Matthew Broderick black comedy Election, and the Sandra Oh– featuring an indie-adjacent hit Next to (his $109 million haul on a $16 million budget is a very Blumhouse-ian feat for comedy-drama) he directed this film, his very first. Citizen Ruth is the Juno of his year, sharing the will to provoke of this film and some of its subjects, but with a DNA of his own. Plus, Laura Dern puts on one of her typically engaged performances.


Death on the Nile (1978)


death-on-the-nile_1978

Available: 12 February

Directed by: John Guillermin

Written by: Anthony Schaffer

To throw: Peter Ustinov, Jane Birkin, Lois Chiles, Bette Davis, Mia Farrow, Jon Finch, Olivia Hussey, Angela Lansbury, Maggie Smith, David Niven

If you’ve read box office receipts recently, the title of this movie will sound familiar. Gal Gadot and Kenneth Branagh just put on a production of this Agatha Christie detective novel for the post-Knives out age. Its 1970s predecessor is an expected star affair, and it’s not hard to imagine Rian Johnson be directly inspired by not only this film, but its working prequel Murder on the Orient Expressreleased just four years before it (and directed by Sidney Lumet!). Peter Ustinov is a subtle protagonist in a mystery filled with very big personalities.


bird metamorphosis

Available: February 28

Directed by: Catarina Vasconcelos

Written by: Catarina Vasconcelos

To throw: Manuel Rosa, Ana Vasconcelos, Henrique Vasconcelos, Inês Melo Campos, João Móra

This year at the Oscars, the feature/documentary hybrid to beat is To fleethe animated drama about an Afghan refugee in Denmark with a complicated past. the Bird metamorphosis came just a few years ago, and it’s equally a creative burst of beautifully rendered personal storytelling and the almost tactile feeling of being transported somewhere else, taking on someone else’s emotions. This is the first feature film by the Portuguese director Catarina Vasconcelos, which premiered at the Berlin Film Festival in February 2020, making it the second anniversary of its director’s major introduction to the festival. It reaches the history of the Vasconcelos family on an epic scale. In doing so, he explores ideas about mortality and love and the S-capital Self. It’s a reminder that films can be many kinds of art at once, and documentaries can open up avenues of learning without being clinical or overly academic.



movies-to-watch-criterion-channel-november-2021
Here’s what’s new on Criterion Channel in February 2022

From Douglas Sirk melodramas to reggae to cinema, here’s an overview of all the new offerings on Criterion Channel February 2022

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