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Five great literary adaptations you can watch on the Criterion Channel right now.

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May 7, 2019, 10:07am

When Filmstruck announced, back in October 2018, that it would be shutting down, cinephiles everywhere were heartbroken: where would we go to experience the greatest collection of art-house and independent cinema from the comfort of our own homes?

But just one cold month later, we rejoiced: Criterion announced they would launch their own service in Spring 2019.

Now, it’s up and running, and it’s truly better than ever, which is great news for those of us who divide every moment of free time between reading books and watching films—the Criterion Channel has plenty of options for us.

Here are a few of my favorite adaptations available now.

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Purple Noon

PURPLE NOON | directed by René Clément
Based on The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith

This is the film that launched the impossibly beautiful Alain Delon into superstardom, and the first time the Patricia Highsmith novel was adapted for the screen. The version on The Criterion Channel is beautiful (in a way that this story probably shouldn’t be), and takes its audience on a seductive, suspenseful journey along the lush coasts of Italy. We are treated to gorgeous views of coastline in full, vibrant color, a classic tale of suspense, and a cast full of actors so stunning you have to wonder whether or not they were made in a factory.

Desert Hearts

DESERT HEARTS | directed by Donna Deitch
Based on Desert of the Heart by Jane Rule

This is truly one of the sweetest movies I’ve ever seen. Deitch’s film was revolutionary in its time, known as the first major film to feature a positive portrayal of lesbian romance and sexuality. And yes, it does have a happy (though perhaps hopeful is a better word) ending!

The Piano Teacher

(LA PIANISTE) THE PIANO TEACHER | directed by Michael Haneke
Based on the novel by Elfriede Jelinek

Isabelle Huppert is the queen of French cinema and complex characters that creep under your skin and linger for years. This film, like the novel it’s based on, follows a middle-age piano teacher who falls into an obsessive and inappropriate sexual relationship with one of her students. Isabelle Huppert’s performance elevates her role in what could simply be a pulpy thriller to a quiet and shocking character study, exploring the fallout of inherited trauma.

Berlin Alexanderplatz

BERLIN ALEXANDERPLATZ | directed by Rainer Werner Fassbinder
Based on the novel by Alfred Döblin

Who doesn’t love to immerse themselves in a 15-hour epic revolving around personal rehabilitation in a time of political turmoil? There’s no denying the controversial nature of this one, but like any Fassbinder film, it is compulsively watchable with characters and stories you will never quite forget. And if a 15-hour film sounds like too much, the New York Review of Books released a new English translation of the original novel last year.

Stalker

STALKER | directed by Andrei Tarkovsky
Based on the novel Roadside Picnic by Boris and Arkady Strugatsky

One of the most profound existential journeys ever committed to film, Tarkovsky’s Stalker takes one professor and one writer deep into “The Zone,” which supposedly contains one room that will grant those who visit it their most secret desires. Silence permeates much of the films run-time, but when there is dialogue the characters engage in philosophical discussions that go places we as the audience might not ever dare to. These discussions are nerve-rattling, and the final shot of the film has stuck with me for years.

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