Criterion Made Mine! The Matter of Life and Death Edition

The Criterion Collection’s July announcements are truly stacked – the Palme d’Or-winning initiator of the American independent cinema movement of the 1990s, a classic sports-comedy, Criterion’s long-awaited second King Hu film, and a six-film set commemorating one of cinema’s iconic collaborations – but MMC!‘s most anticipated title is Powell and Pressburger’s A Matter of Life and Death. This is not simply a great film getting a wacky “C,” but a movie that requires me to re-write my all-time top ten Criterion titles. I could use this space to point out that MMC! had this more than two years ago or to partially lament that the CC release lacks a variety of the disc features MMC! canvassed in our imagined edition, but I don’t really care. One of my all time favourite films is coming to the Collection in a new 4K restoration and I couldn’t be happier! Once again movie nerds, you’re welcome.

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Jazz on a Summer’s Day (Bert Stern, 1959)

The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films presents Jazz on a Summer’s Day.

In his sole effort in filmmaking, celebrated fashion photographer Bert Stern surveyed the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival to create a now-classic document of ’50s America and capture some of the most stunning images of live jazz ever brought to the silver screen, featuring performances by Louis Armstrong, Anita O’Day, Thelonius Monk, and Dinah Washington, as well as rock and roller Chuck Berry and gospel icon Mahalia Jackson. Stern, with assistance from editor and co-director Aram Avakian and jazz producer and musical director George Avakian, brings onscreen jazz music from smoky nightclubs to the colorfully sunny days of affluent Rhode Island, infusing these images with his distinctively clear and uncluttered aesthetic. Juxtapozing the Festival with footage of its audience, of life in and around Newport, and of the ongoing America’s Cup yacht races, Jazz on a Summer’s Day immortalizes the breezy cool of the era before it was overtaken by rock music and the tumultuous Sixties.

Disc Features:

  • New 2K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
  • New audio commentary featuring jazz and film critic Gary Giddins and radio host Tom Reney
  • New introduction to the film by Giddins
  • New interview with musician Keith Richards
  • A Summer’s Day, an interactive documentary with director Bert Stern with additional scenes
  • Jammin’ the Blues, photographer Gjon Mili’s 1944 short film with optional audio commentary by Giddins
  • Selection of unreleased performances and footage
  • Stills gallery, featuring the work of renowned photographer Bruce Davidson
  • Optional captions identifying artists and song titles
  • Trailer
  • PLUS: An interview with Stern with John Guida and an essay by historian Arik Devens

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The Temple of Wild Geese (Yuzo Kawashima, 1962)

The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films presents The Temple of Wild Geese.

Ayako Wakao stars as Satoko, mistress to an accomplished artist who passes her along on his death to the lascivious head priest of a prominent Buddhist temple famous for its paintings of wild geese. She is drawn to a melancholy young disciple who also resides at the temple in similar dependence to the priest and who is treated cruelly for his efforts. Fascinated by the pitiable young man and aware of their similarly impoverished upbringings, Satoko seeks him out, slowly drawing him closer to her and unwittingly placing further strain on his tortured soul. Yuzo Kawashima’s film, exquisitely shot by cinematographer Hiroshi Murai, is a sharply observed exploration of moral weakness and a darkly ironic adaptation of Tsutomu Minakami’s 1961 semi-autobiographical novel.

Disc Features:

  • New 4K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
  • New interview with critic, filmmaker, and festival programmer Tony Rayns
  • New program with Eric Nyari on the film and its restoration
  • New English subtitle translation
  • PLUS: An essay by film scholar Irene González-López and Tsutomu Minakami’s original story

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Elegant Beast (Yuzo Kawashima, 1962)

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

In this contemporary melodrama scripted by Kaneto Shindo, director Yuzo Kawashima creates a scathing depiction of greed and hypocrisy in a society facing rapid modernization and Westernization. The small apartment of the Maeda family is transformed by inventive and meticulous cinematography into a claustrophobic battleground where cheating, embezzlement, and corruption are natural occurrences and where the Maedas are turned from swindlers to swindled by a beautiful but mercenary accountant played by Ayako Wakao in a virtuoso performance. Little know outside of Japan, Yuzo Kawashima’s Elegant Beast is an underappreciated masterpiece in filmmaking and a bitter statement on what it took to get ahead in post-war Japan.

Disc Features:

  • New 4K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
  • New interview with critic, filmmaker, and festival programmer Tony Rayns
  • New program with Eric Nyari on the film and its restoration
  • Trailer
  • New English subtitle translation
  • PLUS: An essay by Japanese film scholar Tomoyuki Sasaki

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A Face in the Crowd (Elia Kazan, 1957)

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

Before he brought Mayberry, North Carolina, into American homes and became an icon of moral rectitude as Sheriff Andy Taylor, Andy Griffith burst onto cinema screens as Lonesome Rhodes, a charismatic drifter with a canny, down-home wit and an avaricious taste for status and influence. After charming Arkansas radio reporter Marcia Jeffries (Patricia Neal) and becoming a local media star, Rhodes leverages his growing popularity into national television fame and a trusted position among political and industrial power-brokers. Gradually Rhodes is corrupted by his own success and his laid-back attitude gives way to a monstrous off-camera personality. With stand-out supporting performances by Walter Matthau, Anthony Franciosa, and Lee Remick, director Elia Kazan and screenwriter Budd Schulberg create a roaring statement against grassroots fascism, advertising fakery, and the pernicious influence of television on the political process.

Disc Features:

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Puzzle of a Downfall Child (Jerry Schatzberg, 1970)

The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films presents Puzzle of a Downfall Child.

Based on his own interviews with troubled fashion model Anne St. Marie, Jerry Schatzberg’s Puzzle of a Downfall Child is an unnervingly intimate, narratively-fragmented portrait of a top fashion model in personal and professional decline. Faye Dunaway, fresh from her star-making role in Bonnie and Clyde, delivers a tour-de-force performance as Lou Andreas Sand, once a celebrated model now shored up in an isolated beach house struggling to maintain her partial grasp on reality. Directly influenced by the European art cinema of Alain Resnais, Ingmar Bergman, and Michelangelo Antonioni and boasting a screenplay by acclaimed screenwriter Carole Eastman and supporting performances by Barry Primus, Roy Scheider, and Viveca Lindfors, Puzzle of a Downfall Child is a visionary film emblematic of the disenfranchised subjects, art-film sensibilities, and young, creative filmmakers that made the New American Cinema.

Disc Features:

  • New 4K digital restoration, supervised by director Jerry Schatzberg, with uncompressed monoaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
  • New interviews with Schatzberg and actor Faye Dunaway
  • Alternate opening sequence prepared by the studio
  • New interview with playwright Elisabeth Bouchaud
  • Fashion of a Downfall Child, scholar Drake Stutesman on the film’s costumes and fashion trends
  • Sounds from Across the Ocean, scholar Jay Beck on the film’s sound design
  • Trailer
  • PLUS: An essay by filmmaker and photographer Bruce LaBruce

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