Best of Criterion’s New Releases: April 2024

Movies Lists The Criterion Collection
Best of Criterion’s New Releases: April 2024

Each month, Paste brings you a look at the best new selections from the Criterion Collection. Much beloved by casual fans and cinephiles alike, Criterion has presented special editions of important classic and contemporary films for over three decades. You can explore the complete collection here.

In the meantime, because chances are you may be looking for something, anything, to discover, find all of our Criterion picks here, and if you’d rather dig into things on the streaming side (because who’s got the money to invest in all these beautiful physical editions?) we’ve got our list of the best films on the Criterion Channel. But you’re here for what’s new, and we’ve got you covered.

Here are all the new releases from Criterion, April 2024:

La Haine

Year: 1995
Director: Mathieu Kassovitz
Stars: Vincent Cassel, Hubert Koundé, Saïd Taghmaoui
Runtime: 98 minutes

Writer/director Mathieu Kassovitz’s urgent, hypnotically raw drama, about a day in the lives of three downtrodden young men from immigrant backgrounds (Vincent Cassel, Hubert Koundé and Saïd Taghmaoui) surviving their low income French suburb, begins with a famous joke: “A man falls from a tall building. With every passing floor, he says, ‘So far, so good.’” Whether or not the final shot of La Haine is tragic or inevitable is left to the viewer, but Kassovitz stays nevertheless determined to convey all the details of the harsh reality these kids face every day. The film’s brilliant mix of modern sensibilities with old-school techniques—like its use of split diopter shots to show, at once, both brutality and the intimate reactions to the same—creates in La Haine a sense of the timeless, of an expression of youthful anger and aimless dissent that knows no particular era. —Oktay Ege Kozak

Picnic at Hanging Rock

Year: 1975
Director: Peter Weir
Stars: Rachel Roberts, Dominic Guard, Helen Morse, Vivean Gray, Jacki Weaver
Runtime: 115 minutes

The beauty and terror of the Australian landscape has never felt so exquisitely unknowable on screen as in Peter Weir’s 1975 masterpiece Picnic at Hanging Rock, a key film in the Australian New Wave about the disappearance of several schoolgirls and their teacher during a St. Valentine’s Day outing to the titular volcanic rock formation. As the community searches in vain for answers, Weir’s film offers few, allowing the audience to fill in their interpretations of what might have happened. As members of a colonial outpost in Australia, were the girls vanished into thin air in a retributive act of nature itself? Empowered by their emerging sexuality, did they somehow slip free of a society constructed to repress them? In its absence of explanation, Weir’s uncanny film—like the book that inspired it, by Australian novelist Joan Lindsay—seems to mock the inevitable failures of colonialism and other systems predicated upon subjugation and control. A metaphysical conundrum, a striking Victorian melodrama and an elegant reckoning with mankind’s failure to tame the uncanny, Picnic endures as a work of transcendent ambiguity—even as it also realizes, through its unresolved central mystery, a kind of ambiguous transcendence.—Isaac Feldberg

Werckmeister Harmonies

Year: 2000
Director: Béla Tarr, Ágnes Hranitzky
Stars: Lars Rudolph, Peter Fitz, Hanna Schygulla
Runtime: 145 minutes

In his nearly 40 years of making films, Hungarian director Béla Tarr has released some of the most gorgeous, arresting images ever put to screen. Yet, one need only casually glance at his films’ average running times and hear the term “glacial pacing” to quickly go running for the hills. But for those with the patience and fortitude to endure Tarr’s brand of highly left-field experimentations, there’s much beauty to be found in his technique—particularly in his use of lingering long takes. One of the best examples comes at the beginning of Werckmeister Harmonies, his 2000 follow-up to the seven-hour magnum opus Sátántangó. The film depicts life in a small Hungarian town that soon begins to collapse when a traveling circus rides in lugging a dead whale (don’t ask). This shot, which acts as the film’s climax, is probably the closest thing you’ll get to a Tarr-directed action scene. And, like the rest of the film, it’s as beautiful as it is dreary.—Mark Rozeman

I Am Cuba

Year: 1964
Director: Mikhail Kalatozov
Stars: Sergio Corrieri, Salvador Wood, José Gallardo, Jean Bouise, Luz María Collazo
Runtime: 135 minutes

In the early ‘60s, the USSR commissioned several filmmakers to travel down to Cuba. Their plan was to make a documentary about the Cuban Revolution for the sake of promoting international socialism. Vexed by the vibrant culture of Cuba, however, the filmmakers took the project in a slightly different direction and began experimenting with lengthy tracking shots and offbeat mise-en-scène. While neither the Russians nor the Cubans were happy with the end result, the anthology film became a treasured document among film fans for its technical innovation. One of the film’s most notable shots, for example, has the camera rising above a large crowd and subsequently floating high above the streets. This shot was accomplished via the camera operator’s rudimentary, pre-Steadicam vest and an assembly line of technicians who would hook and unhook the operator’s vest to various pulleys and cables that spanned floors and building rooftops. Dangerous? Horribly. Worth it? Most definitely.—Mark Rozeman


Year: 1991
Director: Nancy Savoca
Stars: River Phoenix, Lili Taylor
Runtime: 93 minutes

The cultural moment that Nancy Savoca’s Dogfight exists on the cusp of belies an intimate encounter unflinchingly remembered. Though Lance Corporal Eddie Birdlace (River Phoenix) meets aspiring folk singer Rose Fenny (Lili Taylor) the day before JFK’s assassination, and the day before he’s shipped out for a much longer stint in Vietnam than he’s bargained for, their relationship is one of timelessly warm and adorably clumsy details about young adults just beginning to see through the world’s ways. Not bad considering Eddie only picks Rose up in hopes of winning his squad’s Ugliest Date Contest. While Bob Comfort’s script can plod heavily, cursing in combat boots taken from his own Marine experience, its larger themes about two disparate youths offer Savoca and her stars ample space to find something beautiful. Wandering a wet, dark, often sparse San Francisco before it became a hippie hub, Phoenix’s unruly jarhead and Taylor’s tentative (yet steely) waitress forge a lovely one-night relationship. Their loneliness, disaffection and low social status forge them together despite conflicting politics and personalities. Intense physical chemistry seals their connection, sweet kisses hesitantly and then hungrily accompanying a funhouse cacophony. That same close-knit chaos puffs out its chest when Dogfight focuses its feminist gaze on Eddie’s military pals, pigs all around but ones that can subconsciously sense that they’re on their way to the slaughterhouse. While its political commentary is less consistent than the bonds Savoca creates between her characters, Dogfight blends so many clear-eyed facets of youthful confusion and youthful certainty that its romance (and its folk-filled soundtrack) becomes its own trenchant observation of the forces tugging on American youths.—Jacob Oller

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