The Criterion Collection has announced its offerings for the last month of the year, with one contemporary title (“Heart of a Dog”) mixed in with the classic (“Roma,” “The Asphalt Jungle,” “The Exterminating Angel”) fare. Check out the covers for the new additions below, as well as synopses for each carefully chosen film.
A group of high-society friends are invited to a mansion for dinner and inexplicably find themselves unable to leave in “The Exterminating Angel” (“El ángel exterminador”), a daring masterpiece from Luis Buñuel (“Belle de jour,” “The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie”). Made just one year after his international sensation “Viridiana,” this film, full of eerie, comic absurdity, furthers Buñuel’s wicked takedown of the rituals and dependencies of the frivolous upper classes.
“Heart of a Dog” marks the first feature film by multimedia artist Laurie Anderson in over thirty years. A cinematic tone poem that flows from a sustained meditation on death and other forms of absence, the film seamlessly weaves together thoughts on Tibetan Buddhism, reincarnation, the modern surveillance state, and the artistic lives of dogs, with an elegy for the filmmaker’s beloved rat terrier, Lolabelle, at its heart. Narrated by Anderson with her characteristic wry wit, and featuring a plaintive, free-form score by the filmmaker, the tender and provocative “Heart of a Dog” continues Anderson’s five-decade career of imbuing the everyday with a sense of dreamlike wonder.
In a smog-choked city somewhere in the American Midwest, an aging criminal mastermind, newly released from prison, hatches a plan for a million-dollar jewel heist and draws a wealthy lawyer and a cherry-picked trio of outlaws into his carefully devised but inevitably doomed scheme. Anchored by an abundance of nuanced performances from a gifted ensemble-including a tight-jawed Sterling Hayden (“Dr. Strangelove”) and a sultry Marilyn Monroe (“Some Like It Hot”) in her breakout role-this gritty crime classic by John Huston (“The Maltese Falcon”) climaxes in a meticulously detailed anatomy of a robbery that has reverberated through the genre ever since. An uncommonly naturalistic view of a seamy underworld, “The Asphalt Jungle” painstakingly depicts the calm professionalism and toughness of its gangster heroes while evincing a remarkable depth of compassion for their all-too-human fragility, and it showcases a master filmmaker at the height of his powers.
Travelogue, memoir, and outrageous cinematic spectacle converge in this kaleidoscopic valentine to the Eternal City, composed by one of its most iconic inhabitants. Leisurely one moment and breathless the next, this urban fantasia by Federico Fellini (“8 1/2,” “La dolce vita”) interweaves recollections of the director’s young adulthood in the era of Mussolini with an impressionistic portrait of contemporary Rome, where he and his film crew are gathering footage of the bustling cityscape. The material delights of sex, food, nightlife, and one hallucinatory ecclesiastical fashion show are shot through with glimmers of a monumental past: the Colosseum encircled by traffic, ancient frescoes unearthed in a subway tunnel, a pigeon-befouled statue of Caesar. With a head-spinning mix of documentary immediacy and extravagant artifice, “Roma” penetrates the myth and mystique of Italy’s storied capital, a city Fellini called “the most wonderful movie set in the world.”