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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A Place in the Sun (George Stevens, 1951)

The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films presents A Place in the Sun.

criterion logoBased on Theodore Dreiser’s landmark novel An American Tragedy, George Stevens’ A Place in the Sun is a swooningly noir-stained melodrama featuring Montgomery Clift as a handsome young man eager to win a place in respectable society. His ambitious dream seems to fall into place when he accepts a job offer from a wealthy relation and falls deeply in love with a beautiful socialite (Elizabeth Taylor), however a secret relationship with a factory girl (Shelley Winters) and her pregnancy threatens his future and inspires his murderous impulses. Called “the greatest movie ever made about America” by Charlie Chaplin, Steven’s film skillfully alternates between affluent, sun-washed romance and shadowy, fateful film noir, crafting an idealized vision of movie love against a sour portrait of the American dream and what lies beneath it.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

  • New 4K digital master with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
  • Audio commentary with George Stevens Jr. and associate producer Ivan Moffat
  • New interview with film critic Imogen Sara Smith
  • George Stevens and His Place in the Sun, a 20-minute documentary on the making of the film
  • George Stevens: The Filmmakers Who Knew Him, archival interviews with Warren Beatty, Frank Capra, Joe Mankiewicz, Rouben Mamoulian, Antonio Vellani, Robert Wise, Alan J. Pakula, and Fred Zinnemann
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • Optional English subtitles
  • PLUS: An essay by film scholar Laurent Jullier

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Criterion Made Mine! The Streetwise Edition

Criterion Streetwise and TinyIt’s another month of Criterion announcements and another example of MMC!’s Collection wishes coming true. This month sees the Criterion Collection announcing the release of Martin Bell’s Streetwise (1984) and Tiny: The Life of Erin Blackwell (2016) in a collected edition. MMC! imagined this release back in 2015 and it’s good to see we accurately predicted the inclusion of some short film work and Cheryl McCall’s 1983 Life magazine article. Once again cineastes, you’re welcome!

Screenings of Masaki Kobayashi’s The Human Condition (1959) were scheduled at MMC! headquarters in April, but those plans will be delayed to June to coincide with the release of Criterion’s blu-grade in June. Also coming in June will be an upgrade of MMC! favourite and past Top Ten entrant Pickup on South Street (Sam Fuller, 1953), a stand-alone release of the excellent Olympic documentary Visions of Eight (1973), Dee Rees’s queer coming-of-age story Pariah (2011), and an electrifying and exhaustive collection – The Signifyin’ Works of Marlon Riggs.

Straight Time (Ulu Grosbard, 1978)

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

In this highly underrated classic of ’70s crime cinema, Dustin Hoffman shrewdly stars as Max Dembo, an ex-con just released from a six-year stretch in prison for armed robbery and struggling to go straight while under the oversight of his smug parole officer. Despite finding a job, a home, and even a girl of his own, Max remains trapped in an unrelenting criminal system until he breaks free with ruthless, criminal abandon and tragic consequences. Adapted from Edward Bunker’s No Beast So Fierce, featuring a score by David Shire, and boasting a terrific supporting cast including Theresa Russell, Harry Dean Stanton, Gary Busey, M. Emmet Walsh, and Kathy Bates, Ulu Grosbard’s Straight Time is a lean and bitter portrait of inevitable recidivism.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

  • New 4K digital master with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition
  • Audio commentary from 2007 with director Ulu Grospard and actor Dustin Hoffman
  • New interviews with actors Hoffman, Theresa Russell, and Kathy Bates
  • Straight Time: He Wrote It For Criminals, a 1978 documentary on writer Edward Bunker and the making of the film
  • Theatrical trailer
  • English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
  • PLUS: An essay by novelist Jonathan Lethem

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