I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang (Mervyn LeRoy, 1932)

The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films presents I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang.

criterion logoBased on I Am a Fugitive from a Georgia Chain Gang!, the autobiographical book of chain gang escapee Robert E. Burns, Mervyn LeRoy’s uncompromising and starkly realistic 1932 drama, about an out of work veteran twice railroaded into the hell of a Georgia chain gang, still has the power to shock. Paul Muni commands the screen in a brilliantly lived-in performance as a man whose only prospect is a life perpetually on the run, and the film’s gritty realism spares no anger at a cruel and unjust legal system. Eighty years later, I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang remains the studio era’s greatest social message film and it stands as a crucial turning point for Warner Bros., Paul Muni, Robert E. Burns, and the American prison system.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

  • New 4K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
  • Audio commentary from 2005 by film historian Richard B. Jewell
  • Vintage musical short 20,000 Cheers for the Chain Gang!
  • The Man Who Broke 1,000 Chains, a 1987 TV movie starring Val Kilmer and adapting Robert E. Burns’ I Am a Fugitive from a Georgia Chain Gang
  • Theatrical trailer
  • English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
  • PLUS: A new essay by TCM film historian and author Scott McGee

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Orders (Michel Brault, 1974)

The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films presents Orders.

criterion logoStraddling fiction and documentary reconstruction, Michel Brault’s Orders is a gripping reenactment of the roundup and imprisonment of ordinary Québécois citizens during the October Crisis of 1970, when Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau imposed martial law following the political kidnappings of a British diplomat and a government minister by the secessionist Front de libération du Québec. Nearly 500 people were arrested, imprisoned, and questioned during this period before eventually being released without any charges ever being brought against them. Brault, who won the Best Director’s Award at the 1975 Cannes Film Festival for Orders, interviewed 12 detainees and recorded 50 hours of material to base this harrowing portrait of the Crisis, drawing upon his pivotal contributions to the direct cinema and cinema vérité movements during its filming. Now restored 40 years after its explosive debut at Cannes, Orders is an understated examination of the erosion of democratic values that foresees the rise of the permanent state of emergency.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

  • Restored high-definition digital transfer, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
  • Interviews with director Michel Brault and actors Jean Lapointe, Claude Gauthier, and Louise Forestier
  • On Screen – Les Ordres, a one hour television documentary on the film for Canadian television
  • Les raquetteurs, Brault’s landmark short film that launched Quebec’s direct cinema movement
  • Le direct avant la lettre, Denys Desjardins’ 2005 documentary on the direct cinema movement
  • The October Crisis: 50 Years Onscreen, a discussion on Orders with actors Claude Gauthier and Louise Forestier, filmmaker Mathieu Denis, and documentarian Félix Rose (son of FLQ member Paul Rose)
  • Action: The October Crisis of 1970 and Reaction: A Portrait of a Society in Crisis, two documentaries by Robin Spry utilizing extensive archival footage
  • Trailers
  • PLUS: New essays by Quebec film scholar André Loiselle and Canadian art critic and historian David Silcox

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Shunji Iwai’s White Films – Fantasia International Film Festival

The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films presents Shunji Iwai’s White Films – Love Letter, April Story and hana & alice.

criterion logoFew filmmakers capture the wonder and angst of young adulthood like Japanese writer-director Shunji Iwai. With the hazy, sentimental lens of his regular cinematographer Noboru Shinoda, Iwai’s early feature films explore pivotal moments in teenage life through the mundane challenges of the everyday. Audiences quickly embraced Iwai’s treatment of grief and love with his smash debut Love Letter, about a woman rediscovering her late fiancé through letters exchanged with his former classmate. Linked by their cold introductions, Iwai and Shinoda’s subsequent films – 1998’s April Story, about a shy girl’s move to university, and 2004’s romantic con-job hana & alice – trace the changing times as much as the changing hearts of their characters, and collapse style and substance into lyrical poetry. These “White Films” express Shunji Iwai’s unique view on young love and loneliness and exemplify the dreamy landscapes he nostalgically maps in his films.

SPECIAL EDITION COLLECTORS’ SET FEATURES:

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Simon & Garfunkel: Songs of America (Charles Grodin, 1969)

The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films presents Simon & Garfunkel: Songs of America.

criterion logoDirected by their friend Charles Grodin and airing almost two months before the release of Bridge Over Troubled Water, Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel’s 1969 television special Simon & Garfunkel: Songs of America previewed their landmark album and shows the two on stage, in the studio, and on a concert tour across a turbulent country. The documentary follows the duo in cinéma verité style while interspersing footage of the social movements that defined a nation growing more aware, more sophisticated, and more complex. The special’s initial sponsor infamously balked at footage of Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers, the Poor People’s March on Washington, and the recently slain Martin Luther King, Jr., President John F. Kennedy, and Senator Robert F. Kennedy. Though unpopular at the time, Songs of America has become an enduring portrait of an era and of Simon & Garfunkel as artists, with incisive commentary provided by iconic songs like “America,” “The Boxer,” “Scarborough Fair,” “Mrs. Robinson,” “The Sound of Silence,” “El Cóndor Pasa (If I Could),” and “Bridge Over Troubled Water.”

SPECIAL FEATURES:

  • New high-definition digital restoration with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition
  • Robert Ryan’s 1969 introduction to the television special
  • The Harmony Game, Jennifer Lebeau’s 2011 feature-length documentary on the making of Simon and Garfunkel’s Bridge Over Troubled Water album
  • Remembering Chuck, new interviews with Simon and Garfunkel on their personal and professional friendship with Grodin
  • Saturday Night Live sketch from 1977 featuring Charles Grodin, Paul Simon, and Art Garfunkel
  • PLUS: A new essay by rock journalist Ben Fong-Torres

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MMC! Double Feature #37: Tough Times in Japanese Supermarkets

MMC! loves a clever double bill and the Criterion Channel makes them a regular part of its programming. With this in mind, MMC! will be offering some suggested double features of its own and what better way to start than with a pair of great Japanese titles currently available on the Channel!

Yearning (Mikio Naruse, 1964)

One of the best films by one of Japan’s true masters of tragic melodrama, Mikio Naruse’s Yearning features Hideko Takamine as Reiko, a young widow devoted to the family of her husband who died during the Second World War. In his memory, she has rebuilt his family’s grocery store which was virtually destroyed in bombing raids, however a large grocery chain has moved in nearby and business prospects are looking dim. In this knot of traditional values and modern capitalism, Reiko must negotiate the unwanted attention of her young brother-in-law Koji (Yuzo Kayama), his plan to save the business and her place in their family, and her mother- and sisters-in-law who would prefer to disentangle themselves from her and move onto commercial fortune.

Supermarket Woman (Juzo Itami, 1996)

Juzo Itami frequently used his films to cast a critical eye on fragile Japanese masculinity and his 1996 romantic comedy Supermarket Woman is no exception, although he does swap out gangsters for the next worse thing: grocery store businessmen. In this vibrant and quirky story, Goro (Masahiko Tsugawa) is the manager of the struggling grocery store Honest Mart. His business is disorganized and uninspired, and it is under siege by Discount Demon, a rival supermarket undercutting Honest Mart with underhanded tactics. When Goro runs into old classmate Hanako (Itami’s wife and muse Nobuko Miyamoto), he hires the housewife to help him whip Honest Mart into shape and perhaps win this retail war!

Tissues on Aisle !

Both Naruse and Itami are looking to elicit some tears with their respective films, although one aims for sadness and the other hopes for laughs. Looking gorgeous in black and white widescreen thanks to the cinematography of Jun Yasumoto, Yearning pits traditional Japanese values and customs against the spreading ethics of capitalist ruthlessness and the film crushes its protagonist, Reiko, between them. In contrast, Itami’s colourfully comic Supermarket Woman supposes that old ideas of loyalty, honesty, and ingenuity can succeed in business and in life, making it a complimentary palette refresher following Naruse’s impressively wrought tragedy.

Enjoy these two films (and many more) for the low, low price of a Criterion Channel subscription! Just make sure to return your cart to designated collection area when you’re done!

The Triplets of Belleville (Sylvain Chomet, 2003)

The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films presents The Triplets of Belleville.

French whimsy goes through the looking glass in this imaginatively offbeat animated wonder by animator Sylvain Chomet. A boy named Champion trains relentlessly for the Tour de France with the help of his diminutive and club-footed grandmother, Madame Souza, and their overweight dog, Bruno. When race day arrives, Champion and a few of his fellow racers are kidnapped by a pair of square-shouldered henchmen and taken across the ocean to thronging Belleville where they are forced to pedal as part of an illicit gambling operation. Bruno and Mme Souza follow to save their boy and find unlikely help from the renowned Triplets of Belleville, a trio of eccentric music hall stars turned elderly experimental musicians. Filled with twisted imagery and proceeding with the measured pace of a dream, The Triplets of Belleville is a strange, loving, and very French tribute to silent comedy and to bygone eras of traditional animation.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

  • New 4K digital master, approved by director Sylvain Chomet, with 5.1 surround DTS-HD Master Audio Soundtrack on the Blu-ray
  • New audio commentary with Sylvain Chomet
  • New conversation between Chomet and animator Bill Plympton
  • The Making of The Triplets of Belleville, a 36-minute documentary discussing the film’s production
  • The Cartoon According to Sylvain Chomet, a brief discussion with the director on designing his characters
  • Music Video by -M- for “Les Triplettes de Belleville” featuring animation from the film and a short piece on its making
  • Le temps d’un tournage, an interview with Chomet for French television on his earlier work
  • The Triplets As Seen By…, a selection of impressions on the film by animators Bill Plympton and Michel Ocelot, singer -M-, and comedian and cyclist Antoine de Caunes
  • The Old Lady and the Pigeons, Chomet’s 1997 short film about a starving policeman who dresses up like a pigeon to trick an old woman into feeding him
  • Carmen; Chomet’s music video collaboration with Belgian pop star Stromae
  • Chomet’s 2014 “couch gag” for The Simpsons
  • Trailers
  • New English subtitle translation
  • PLUS: A new essay by film critic Michael Sragow and flipbooks with art by Chomet

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