Posted Tuesday, Feb. 15, 2011, at 4:33 PM
If, like me, you have significant gaps in your cinematic knowledge, you'll be pleased to hear that Hulu has just announced it will begin streaming films from the blue-chip Criterion Collection. There are 150 titles available today , including The 400 Blows , Seven Samurai , and the aforementioned Breathless . Eventually, Criterion's entire library will make it onto the site, including "movies that have been difficult or impossible to find on video in any format," writes Hulu executive Eugene Wei:
Le Silence de la Mer
, by one of my favorite directors, Jean-Pierre Melville. The extended filmography of Kenji Mizoguchi. Early shorts by Chaplin.
L'Assassin Habite au 21
, Henri-Georges Clouzot's first feature.
Criterion's famous supplemental features will be added over time, as well. (Currently, as the A.V. Club
, you can watch many of the company's films via sites like Mubi.com or Netflix's Watch Instantly, but they won't match the depth and breadth of Hulu's total offerings.)
To access all the films, you have to subscribe to the premium Hulu Plus service, which runs eight bucks a month. With that you also get access to a deeper library of other shows, as well as the ability to stream material on your iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, or Android phone . (So if a teeny-tiny version of Yojimbo doesn't offend you, you can spend your next long bus trip doing something edifying.) Regular Hulu users can watch a rotating selection of Criterion films, but they'll come with commercial breaks.
Wondering where to start? Brow Beat asked Slate staffers for their recommendations:
Timothy Noah, senior writer:
Shoot the Piano Player
Ingmar Bergman's The Magic Flute
Tunes of Glory
Smiles of a Summer Night
The Earrings of Madame De...
The Rules of the Game
Laurence Olivier's Richard III
None of these is particularly obscure, but all rank among my favorite films. But almost everything on the Criterion list is at least good.
Emily Calderone, video producer for SlateV :
And a few that aren't currently on offer, but are worth keeping an eye out for in the future:
Lowen Liu, copy editor:
The Third Man . When Criterion cleans up black and white, it's a bigger impact than cleaning up color, because contrast is all, as they say. Orson Welles' shadow!
Jessica Grose, associate editor and managing editor of DoubleX :
Last Days of Disco . Essential viewing for women under 21 because it teaches you that ordering vodka tonics is cliché.
John Swansburg, culture editor:
You can also check out Criterion's own, extensive set of Top 10 lists , where they get filmmakers (Wes Anderson, Jane Campion, Richard Linklater) and other culture creators (Jonathan Lethem, Iron and Wine, Rodarte) to proselytize for their favorites from the collection.