Our Friends in the North (Simon Cellan Jones, Pedr James, and Stuart Urban, 1996)

The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films presents Our Friends in the North.

criterion logoBased on Peter Flannery’s 1982 stage-play, this award-winning BBC mini-series charts the lives of four friends from Newcastle over four decades – Nicky, a radical socialist preoccupied with the class struggle; Tosker, a cocky young man with dreams of celebrity and success; Mary, who struggles with the pressures of marriage and motherhood while pursuing her own professional ambitions; and Geordie, a troubled young man who flees his hometown for London. Over its nine episodes, Our Friends in the North traces the fortunes of an ever-changing England through the break-out performances of Christopher Eccleston, Mark Strong, Gina McKee, and Daniel Craig. The Criterion Collection is proud to present this sprawling milestone in British drama for the first time ever in North America.

Disc Features:

  • New 4K digital restoration, with 2.0 surround DTS-HD Master audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray
  • Interview with Christopher Eccleston and Gina McKee
  • Retrospective with Peter Flannery, producer Charlie Pattison, executive producer Michael Wearing, and directors Pedr James and Simon Cellan Jones
  • New interviews with Christopher Eccleston, Gina McKee, Mark Strong, and Daniel Craig
  • Visual essay by playwright Michael Eaton
  • Complete soundtrack listing with chart history
  • Precis and color stills of the original first episode
  • TV spots
  • PLUS: A booklet featuring essays by film scholar Marcus Hearn and television scholar Robin Nelson

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The Midnight Coterie of Sinister Intruders (Rhys Thomas, 2013)

Criterion Collection devotees should love The Midnight Coterie of Sinister Intruders (2013), a SNL short film by Rhys Thomas. Originally called simply New Horror Trailer, Thomas’ film is a brilliant parody of Wes Anderson‘s distinctive aesthetic reset in the creepy home invasion horror subgenre. This tale of “handmade horror” is the quintessential “homemade bicycle made of antique tuba parts” (thank you Amy Poehler), being so faithful to Anderson’s kitschy style and tone that it might be true if it weren’t a joke. For those looking to unpack Anderson’s particular look and how it is reproduced, we highly recommend Alex Buono’s “How We Did It” blog post which provides exceptional insight on the short film’s making.

Arret Pipi (Maarten Groen, 2015)

MMC! returns to its program of seasonably appropriate short films with Maarten Groen’s Arrêt Pipi (2015), a gialli-inspired commission by VPRO, a Dutch public broadcaster. Sarah (Bo Maerten) and Bram (Benjamin Moen) stop to use a gas station restroom in the woods of Wallonia and find themselves fighting for their lives. This slickly made short is inspired by the urban legend of Aka Manto, a ghost that haunts Japanese washrooms by offering visitors red or blue toilet paper with deadly effect. Arrêt Pipi had a dark, absurdist humour that invigorates its spot-on exercise in genre with a welcome sense of play and vitality.

Island Romance (Donald Ginsberg, 1957)

NFBWith weekend upon us, MMC! thought we might nose around some of the more unusual corners of the National Film Board of Canada. First up is Island Romance (Donald Ginseberg, 1957), a sweetly corny romance between a young man in Prince Edward Island and a girl visiting from Winnipeg. The short originally aired as an episode of the CBC television series Perspective, which replaced the popular On the Spot documentary series. Perspective aimed to blend documentary and fiction and was typically shown on Sunday afternoons, although the series was subject to frequent time slot changes. Perspective was a popular program, but was eventually replaced by the seminal Direct Cinema documentary series Candid Eye.

This merger of documentary and fiction makes Island Romance an unusual watch. Ginsberg’s presents an innocently saccharine tale of young love in the 1950s, but its quaintly chaste nature seems to take odd turn when local islander Danny (Daniel MacDonald) finds his efforts to woo the vacationing Jean (Iris Krangle) frustrated by her love for Canadian history and regional culture. Danny would like nothing better than a quiet moment with Jean, but seems in frequent competition with the tales of fishermen, literary landmarks like Green Gables, and historic events like Confederation and historical furniture like the chair of the country’s first Prime Minister. Viewers of Island Romance are not likely to expect a love triangle between Danny, Iris, and the Ministry of Tourism, but the film may be better for it by providing a little “WTF” in an otherwise picturesque story of G-rated summer lovin’. (And for those keeping track, Island Romance is peculiarly accurate in its details – Winnipeg’s newspaper is the Free Press and its most affluent neighbourhood is called Tuxedo.)

As per the NFB:

This short fictional film features the picturesque seaside landscape of Prince Edward Island as the setting for a summer romance between a girl from Winnipeg and a young fisherman from North Rustico, PEI. The young couple visits historic and scenic sites such as Government House in Charlottetown and Cavendish, of Green Gables fame. The film is a classic summertime romance and a nostalgic visit to the delightfully sun-soaked PEI of the past.

The Log Driver’s Waltz (John Weldon, 1979)

NFBThere is no better place to start this survey of the National Film Board of Canada than with The Log Driver’s Waltz (John Weldon, 1979), one of the Canada Vignettes and a ubiquitous short for Canadian television watchers in the 1980s and ’90s.  The Canada Vignettes were a series of shorts that served as interstitial programming to Canadian TV networks and were designed to promote Canadian culture.  The Log Driver’s Waltz has since become an indelible part of Canadian culture itself and its folk song has consequently become a commonly known tune for Canucks of a certain vintage.

As per the NFB:

This lighthearted, animated short is based on the song “The Log Driver’s Waltz” by Wade Hemsworth.  Easily on the most often requested films in the NFB collection, Kate and Anna McGarrigle sing along to the tale of a young girl who loves to dance and chooses the marry a log driver over his more well-to-do competitor.  Driving logs down the river has made the young man the best dancing partner to be found.

Thy Broad Domain: Essential Works of the NFB

The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films presents Thy Broad Domain: Essential Works of the NFB.

criterion logoFor 75 years, the National Film Board of Canada has been a pioneer in film art, producing and distributing more than 13,000 films and winning more than 5,000 awards. The NFB’s collection represents some of film history’s greatest and most influential works of social documentary, auteur animation, experimental film, web series, and interactive productions. Across an endless of variety of filmmaking techniques, these inventive works represent domestic and international concerns from a distinctly Canadian perspective and provide a cinematic influence still felt today. This collector’s set brings together some of the NFB’s most celebrated films since its establishment under the watchful eye of famed British documentarian John Grierson to its present day innovations in digital media.

Disc Features:

  • New digital restorations, with uncompressed monaural soundtracks on the Blu-ray
  • New introductions and audio commentaries to the films by critic Leonard Maltin, documentary filmmaker Ken Burns, director Guy Maddin, scholars Mick Broderick and Rodney Hill, physician and activist Dr. Helen Caldicott, music scholar Paul Sanden, comedians Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara, and others
  • New and archival interview programs featuring filmmakers including Kaj Pindal, Ishu Patel, Cynthia Scott, Terre Nash, Cordell Barker, and Katerina Cizek
  • New and archival documentaries on the making of these films, including Alter Egos, Laurence Green’s hour-long documentary on the making of Chris Landreth’s Ryan
  • PLUS: A booklet featuring a foreword by Government Film Commissioner Claude Joli-Coeur and essays by film scholars Gary Evans, André Loiselle, Gene Walz, and Zoë Druick

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