ORDER IN THE COURT! – The Classic Courtroom Movies Blogathon

courtroom-banner-trialCompliments of Theresa at Cinemaven’s Essays from the Couch and Lesley at Second Sight Cinema, “Order in the Court! – The Classic Courtroom Movies Blogathon” is scheduled to be heard with opening arguments on June 10 and closing statements by June 13, 2016.  Testimony will be given by a wide variety of experts speaking on films from the ambivalent silent and early sound eras, the varied works of the 1930s-1950s, the golden age of heroic legal cinema from the 1950s-1960s, and the conflicted portrayals from the 1970s and on.  Many MMC! favourites are already scheduled for discussion, including Fury (Fritz Lang, 1936), The Winslow Boy (Anthony Asquith, 1948), Adam’s Rib (George Cukor, 1949), Witness for the Prosecution (Billy Wilder, 1957), Inherit the Wind (Stanley Kramer, 1960), To Kill a Mockingbird (Robert Mulligan, 1962), The Verdict (Sidney Lumet, 1982), My Cousin Vinny (Jonathan Lynn, 1992), and Criterion Collection titles like 12 Angry Men (Sidney Lumet, 1957), Anatomy of a Murder (Otto Preminger, 1959), and Divorce Italian Style (Pietro Germi, 1961).

MMC! will celebrate George Seaton’s wonderful Miracle on 34th Street (1947), a Christmas movie that actually wasn’t and a deceptively insightful work on the relationship between legal-thinking and justice-making.  Big thanks to Theresa for the invitation!

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A Matter of Life and Death (Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, 1946)

The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films presents A Matter of Life and Death.

criterion logoAs his plane is going down in flames, doomed World War II pilot, Squadron Leader Peter Carter (David Niven) meets over the radio the love of his life, an American radio operator named June (Kim Hunter).  He miraculously survives the crash and the pair commence their romance, but Carter is troubled with a life-threatening brain injury treated by a village doctor (Roger Livesey) and a heavenly collector (Marius Goring) intent on escorting his errant soul to the other side.  Originally designed as a propaganda piece to promote better relations between Britain and the United States, Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s A Matter of Life and Death became an English classic featuring delightful performances by its cast, accomplished Technicolor cinematography by Jack Cardiff, and spectacular production design by Alfred Junge.

Disc Features:

  • New 4K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
  • Audio commentary by film historian Ian Christie
  • Martin Scorsese on A Matter of Life and Death
  • Thelma Schoonmaker Powell and Grover Crisp on AMOLAD and its restoration
  • Interview with cinematographer Jack Cardiff
  • A Matter of Fried Onions, Diane Broadbent Friedman on the medical foundation of AMOLAD
  • Behind the scenes footage, filmed during a visit to Denham Studios by Canadian soldiers
  • “The King and the Stars,” a Front Page newsreel by British Pathé on the 1946 Royal Command Film Performance screening, along with unused and unissued footage of the event and the press reception
  • New interview with author J. K. Rowling and actor Daniel Radcliffe in appreciation of the film
  • Two Lux Radio Theatre productions from 1947 (starring Ray Milland, Ann Blyth, and Nigel Bruce) and 1955 (starring David Niven and Barbara Rush)
  • The Hedda Hooper Show – This is Hollywood‘s 30-minute radio adaptation, starring David Niven, Kim Hunter, and Vincent Price
  • Screen Director’s Playhouse radio production from 1951, starring Robert Cummings and Julia Adams
  • Kinescope of the “Stairway to Heaven” TV adaptation for Robert Montgomery Presents, starring Richard Green, Jean Gillespie, and Bramwell Fletcher
  • Parody sketch from Big Train, featuring Simon Pegg, Kevin Eldon, Mark Heap, and Amelia Bullmore
  • Gallery of sketches and stills of Alfred Junge’s production designs
  • Sequence shot for Powell and Pressburger’s unmade The White Cockade, starring David Niven and Pamela Brown
  • PLUS: A booklet featuring behind the scenes photos, the script, and new essays by film critics Dave Kehr, Robert Horton, and Mark Kermode

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A Wife Confesses (Yasuzo Masumura, 1961)

Eclipse LogoIn this complex and pessimistic melodrama, young Ayako Takigawa (Ayako Wakao) stands trial for the murder of her intolerable husband during a mountaineering accident.  Flashbacks of the incident reveal Ayako suspended between her spouse below and the young man she secretly loves who struggles to hold their safety line from above.  By cutting her husband’s rope, she saves herself and the young man, allows her husband to fall to his death, and breaches her cultural duties as both a climber and a wife.  Wakao beautifully reconciles the competing desires of love, sex, and death within her tortured character, while director Yasuzo Masumura skillfully crafts a noir-infused tale of dark passions and claustrophobic oppression.

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The Wives of Yasuzo Masumura

Eclipse is a selection of lost, forgotten, or overshadowed classics in simple affordable editions.  Each series is a brief cinematheque retrospective for the adventurous home viewer.

Eclipse LogoBest known for his unsentimental portraits of stubborn individuality bordering on madness, Yasuzo Masumura and his alluring queen Ayako Wakao constructed tales of strong-willed women resisting the repression and abuse of Japanese society.  In these exaggerated tales of obsession and desire set in the restrictive confines of traditional marriage, Masumura explores the tragedy of true love and devotion, the liberating power of eroticism, and the sacrifices demanded by corporate living and Japan’s post-war economic miracle.  Wakao is irresistible in these four films, playing inviolable femme fatales whose sexuality and dedication leave them unmanageable to the culture that surrounds them and cruelly punished for their inability to conform.

The Most Valuable Wife (Saikô shukun fujin)

A formative work between Masumura and Wakao, the Mihara family’s three sons operate a trading company, with the eldest pair already married to daughters of the Nonomiya family, but when the Miharas’ youngest son Saburo (Hiroshi Kawaguchi) and the Nonomiyas’ youngest daughter Kyoko (Wakao) refuse to do the same, they raise the ire of their ambitious siblings.

A Wife Confesses (Tsuma wa kokuhaku suru)

Cited as one of Masumura’s masterpieces and the film that launched Ayako Wakao’s career, Wakao plays a young widow on trial for cutting her uncaring husband’s safety line during a mountaineering holiday and murdering him to pursue the affections of a younger man (Kawaguchi) and collect five million yen from her husband’s life insurance.

Seisaku’s Wife (Seisaku no tsuma)

In this antimilitarist portrait written by Kaneto Shindo and set during the Russo-Japanese war, a sullen woman (Wakao) ostracised in her small farming village falls into a mad, obsessive affair with the town’s favored son (Takahiro Tamura), a relationship that ultimately dooms them both.

The Wife of Seishu Hanaoka (Hanaoka Seishû no tsuma)

This portrayal of true-life physician Hanaoka Seishu (Raizô Ichikawa), the first doctor to use general anesthetic, pits his ardent but suffering wife (Wakao) and his harshly devoted mother (Hideko Takamine) as competitors offering themselves as subjects for his surgical experimentation.

With notes by Jonathan Rosenbaum

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The Devils (Ken Russell, 1971)

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

criterion logoBanned, censored, and suppressed for years, the director’s cut of Ken Russell’s infamous masterpiece depicts the rise and fall of 17th century French priest Urbain Grandier, tried and executed for a series of possessions in Loudon, France.  Masterful performances by Oliver Reed as Grandier and Vanessa Redgrave as Sister Jeanne, Urbain’s hunchbacked nemesis, are matched by Russell’s audacious direction and contributions by Derek Jarman, David Watkin, and Sir Peter Maxwell Davies.  Mixing political and religious commentary with transgressive, cinematic spectacle, The Devils is proudly presented here, for the first time for home viewing, as Russell originally intended, restored with previously cut footage and uncompromised by past controversies.

Disc Features:

  • New 4K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
  • New audio commentary featuring filmmaker Guillermo del Toro and film critic Richard Crouse
  • New audio commentary featuring film critic Mark Kermode and editor Mike Bradsell
  • Hell on Earth: The Desecration and Resurrection of The Devils, Paul Joyce’s hour-long, 2002 documentary made for TV and presented by Mark Kermode
  • New interviews with actresses Vanessa Redgrave and Gemma Jones and actors Murray Melvin and Dudley Sutton on the filming of The Devils
  • New interview with composer Sir Peter Maxwell Davies on the music of The Devils
  • Video appreciations by David Cronenberg, Alex Cox, Guillermo del Toro, Terry Gilliam, John Landis, Joe Dante, Lloyd Kaufman, and Mitch Davis
  • Excerpts from Saskia Baron’s 1995 made-for-TV documentary, Empire of the Censors
  • Original theatrical trailer
  • PLUS: A booklet featuring selected reviews from The Devils‘ release and a new essay by Russell biographer Joseph Lanza

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Lenny (Bob Fosse, 1974)

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

criterion logoBob Fosse’s first non-musical film confirmed his cinematic talents, creating a grim biopic of controversial stand-up comedian Lenny Bruce that is both heavily romanticized and harshly unsentimental.  Dustin Hoffman stars in this relentless depiction of Bruce’s battle with the Establishment authorities that condemned his stage act as obscene and the comedian’s downward spiral from countercultural vanguard to junkie burnout.  Supported by a Cannes-winning performance by Valerie Perrine as Bruce’s stripper wife, Bruce Surtees’ rich black and white cinematography, and Julian Barry’s adaptation of his own Broadway play, Fosse’s Lenny was a commercial and critical success that garnered six Academy Award nominations and eulogized the career of one of America’s great champions of free speech.

Disc Features:

  • New 4K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
  • Scene-specific audio commentary featuring editor Alan Heim and Lenny Bruce’s daughter, Kitty Bruce
  • New interviews with Dustin Hoffman, Valerie Perrine, Stanley Beck, Alan Heim, and Fosse biographer Sam Wasson
  • Lenny Bruce: Swear to Tell the Truth, Robert B. Weide’s 1998 documentary featuring narration by Robert De Niro
  • Video appreciation by comedian Marc Maron
  • New interview with Stand-Up! record label owner Dan Schlissel and lawyer Bart Torvi on Bruce legacy in comedy and obscenity law
  • Theatrical trailer
  • PLUS: A booklet featuring a new essay by filmmaker Damon Maulucci and Dick Schaap’s tribute to Bruce for Playboy Magazine.

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