sweetie.jpg
  • Avenue Pictures Productions / Criterion
  • Campion riffing on Manet's Le Déjeuner sur l'Herbe
I would've mentioned this sooner, but I just found out about it Friday by way of the monthly Criterion Collection newsletter: during the World Cup, they—and their streaming partner, Hulu—are offering a selection of films from the competing countries for free.

The promotion began last week, and they've been highlighting a different country each day. The films are available for one week, and no country will appear twice (a subscription to Hulu Plus, which offers access to 700 Criterion titles, costs $7.99 a month).

It was through one of their free-film promotions that I finally caught up with Agnes Varda's Cléo from 5 to 7, a nouvelle vague classic I'd been meaning to see for years (it was worth the wait). The funny thing is that I still had dial-up back then, so the film kept stopping for long periods of time before starting up again, so it took me literally days to watch it. I can be ridiculously patient at times—and the exact opposite at others—but this inconvenience did little to diminish my enjoyment; I just switched to some other task whenever it would stop (I've had high-speed internet for awhile now, but I still miss those smaller phone bills).

The Criterion films currently on offer: Jane Campion's Sweetie (Australia), Kim Ki-young's The Housemaid (South Korea), and Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne's La Promesse (Belgium).* I haven't seen Sweetie and I've only seen Im Sang-soo's Housemaid remake, but La Promesse, the 1996 award-winner from the Dardennes, is a knockout. Their harrowing narrative about undocumented workers will never grow old (and recalls Pietro di Donato's Christ in Concrete, which features a similar construction accident). All three expire in a few days.

* Since I wrote this on Saturday, they added four more films, including Knife in the Water.

The Criterion Cup runs through July 13. Click here for the full details.