Well, It Finally Happened!

I’ve long feared the hazard of imagining a Criterion release of a given film only to have the Collection announce it mid-month as a forthcoming title, thereby leaving my research and writing wasted. Alas, that day has finally arrived with the Criterion Collection announcing Edmund Goulding’s Nightmare Alley as a May 2021 release, leaving my work over the past couple of weeks sunk. Nightmare Alley may be MMC!’s favourite film noir of all time and it’s a timely choice with Guillermo del Toro’s remake scheduled to arrive later this year. Criterion’s other announcements for May 2021 are equally superb – a stand-alone edition of Ahmed El Maanouni’s Trances, the iconic and star-studded Fast Times at Ridgemont High, the tantalizingly salacious Merrily We Go to Hell, and Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s Flowers of Shanghai featuring an absolutely gorgeous cover treatment!

MMC!’s intended discussion of Nightmare Alley attended to the film’s fascinating production history, its horror noir adjacency, and to the distinctive manner by which the film explicitly dealt with film noir’s organizing force: fate. For the curious, I’ve provided below a glimpse of what an MMC! package of Nightmare Alley might have looked like (minus that partially drafted discussion of the film).

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David Byrne’s American Utopia (Spike Lee, 2020)

The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films presents David Byrne’s American Utopia.

Deeply reflective and exceptionally high-spirited, David Byrne’s theatrical concert American Utopia stormed Broadway with the ex-Talking Head’s mix of iconic music and quirky ideas. With a collection of eleven talented musicians, singers, and dancers supporting him and informed by the work of James Baldwin, Janelle Monáe, Hugo Ball, and Kurt Schwitters, the show plucked at the connections between us and aimed to start making sense of it all. With director Spike Lee commemorating the show for the screen, David Byrne’s American Utopia transforms the stage production into an immersive, dynamic cinema experience that radiates with astounding performances, inventive contemporary dance, and political urgency. A clarion call for protest, compassion, and shared responsibility and a new masterpiece among concert films, David Byrne’s American Utopia is the life-affirming rock-doc arriving at precisely the right time, ready to burn down the house.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

  • 4K digital master, approved by director Spike Lee and David Byrne, with 5.1 surround DTS-HD Master Audio Soundtrack on the Blu-ray
  • Start Making Sense, a roundtable conversation with Lee, Byrne, musician Janelle Monáe, and critic Ashley Clark
  • One Fine Day, a new program of interviews with Lee, Byrne, and the film’s cast of performers
  • Slippery People, a conversation between choreographer Annie-B Parson and cinematographer Ellen Kuras
  • Remain in Light, an exploration of American Utopia stage design and its innovative lighting
  • Promotional discussions featuring Lee and Byrne
  • Meet the Band, introductory videos for the cast and crew
  • Additional performance of “Hell You Talmbout”
  • Trailer and teaser
  • English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
  • PLUS: An essay by film critic Robert Daniels

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Bait (Mark Jenkin, 2019)

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

Martin (Edward Rowe) is a cove fisherman without a boat. His brother has repurposed their father’s vessel as a tourist tripper catering to vacationers and stag parties. Their childhood home has been sold for London money and transformed into a summer getaway, displacing Martin to public housing above the harbor. As Martin resists the erosion of local traditions and industries, the summer season brings increasing tensions between the locals and newcomers to a boiling point, leading to tragic consequences. Stunningly shot on a vintage 16mm camera using monochrome Kodak stock, Mark Jenkin’s Bait is a timely and funny, yet poignant film that gets to the heart of a community facing up to unwelcome change.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

  • 4K digital master, approved by director Mark Jenkin, with 5.1 surround DTS-HD Master Audio Soundtrack on the Blu-ray
  • Alternate score performed by Cornish musician Gwenno, with introduction by Jenkin and Gwenno
  • Audio commentary with Jenkin and critic Mark Kermode
  • Bait Q&A with director Mark Jenkin, a conversation with Jenkin and Kermode recorded at the BFI Southbank in London
  • New interviews with Jenkin and star Ed Rowe
  • A behind-the-scenes film shot by students of Falmouth University’s School of Film & Television
  • Dear Marianne, Jenkin’s 2016 short film about a Cornishman’s travels in Ireland
  • The Essential Cornishman, Jenkin’s 2016 short film set in the mythical Cornish west and paying tribute to the spontaneous prose of the Beats
  • The Road to Zennor, Jenkin’s 2017 short travelogue to a small coast near St. Ives
  • Two archival short films set in the Cornwall region, Scenes on the Cornish Riviera (1912) and The Saving of Bill Blewitt (1936)
  • Trailers
  • PLUS: Jenkin’s Silent Landscape Dancing Grain 13 Manifesto and an essay by film critic Chloe Lizotte

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Criterion Made Mine! The Moonstruck Edition

The cover art may not be revealed but Moonstruck is coming to Criterion Collection this November and MMC! is here to take all the credit, having previously proposed the Norman Jewison film as a quasi-valentine to my lovely wife who rightfully adores the movie. Our MMC! edition bears a strong resemblance to the actual Criterion release just announced. Both versions port over the current Blu-ray’s special features, each leaving out the lamentable cooking and food featurette, and both include an interview specifically considering the significance of opera to the film. And so, as always … you’re welcome, cinephiles.

The rest of November’s Criterion slate looks solid with an Essential Fellini box set (More weird packaging!), Jim Jarmusch’s Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai (Coolness!), Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman (Meh!), and Claudia Weill’s Girlfriends (An MMC! favourite discovery from last year!).

And for those waiting for MMC!’s next proposal, a new imagined Criterion edition will arrive before the end of this week and it’ll be British, recent, and widely celebrated!

Ticket of No Return (Ulrike Ottinger, 1979)

The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films presents Ticket of No Return.

The it-girl of the West German art subculture, Tabea Blumenschein, stars as a nameless, silent stranger with a one-way ticket to Berlin and a plan to drink herself to death. While touring high class bars, queer nightspots, and seedy dives, she befriends a struggling homeless woman and runs across a trio of prim, judgemental women known as Social Question, Accurate Statistics, and Common Sense. With Blumenschein’s extravagant costumes and writer/director/cinematographer Ulrike Ottinger’s eye for a city still struggling to lift itself out of the bombed-out depression of World War II, Ticket of No Return is an unforgettably unique tour of Berlin and a deliciously shrewd example of feminist camp.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

  • Restored 4K digital transfer, overseen by director Ulrike Ottinger, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition
  • New interview with Ottinger
  • Berlinfever – Wolf Vostell, Ottinger’s 16 minute short film of a 1973 Happening organized by artist and friend Wolf Vostell
  • Gallery of Ottinger’s workbook used to develop and produce the film
  • Gallery featuring rare behind-the-scenes production photos
  • An excerpt from Gérard Courant’s Cinématon (2009) featuring Ottinger
  • New English subtitle translation
  • PLUS: A new essay by critic Michael Koresky

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The Man Who Stole the Sun (Kazuhiko Hasegawa, 1979)

The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films presents The Man Who Stole the Sun.

Junior high school teacher Makoto Kido attacks a nuclear power plant to steal a plutonium capsule and then succeeds in building an atomic bomb by himself in his apartment. Calling himself “Number 9” and claiming to be a new nuclear power of his own, Kido extorts the government with demands for uninterrupted baseball games and a concert by the then-banned Rolling Stones, even going so far as to appoint his own negotiating partner, hardened police inspector Yamashita. Pitting rock icon Kenji Sawada with legendary tough guy Bunta Sugawara, Kazuhiko Hasegawa’s celebrated Japanese cult film explores the nation’s growing generation gap and the proliferation of nuclear power with black comedy, stylistic invention, and a heavy, controversial premise.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

  • New high-definition digital restoration with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition
  • The Legend is Lebon Video Testimony, an 84-minute documentary on the making of the film, with interviews and on-set footage
  • Walking With the Movie, a tour of the film’s locations with Japanese singer Masaki Ueda
  • Enthusiasm, Talk, Talk, My “Man Who Stole the Sun,” a 35-minute interview of director Kazuhiko Hasegawa by actor Masatoshi Nagase and special effects director Shinji Higuchi
  • 11 p.m. “Wonderful!! Is Julie a Strong Guy Like Genbaku?!,” a 20-minute edited version shown prior to the film’s theatrical released on September 20, 1979
  • Trailer
  • English subtitle translation supervised by screenwriter Leonard Schrader
  • PLUS: A new essay by Japanese film scholar Tony Rayns

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