Behind the Microphone

NFBFans of the Criterion Collection’s array of music documentaries will find a number of films by the National Film Board of Canada to appreciate. Presented here a pair of great shorts made by four of the NFB’s most prolific filmmakers that provide absorbing views on the artist, their work, and the business that surrounds them. From the zeitgeist that swarms around Paul Anka to the self-effacing ruminations of Leonard Cohen, Lonely Boy (Wolf Koenig and Roman Kroitor, 1962) and Ladies and Gentlemen… Mr. Leonard Cohen (Don Owen and Donald Brittain, 1965) are captivating portraits of two popular Canadian performers.

As per the NFB:

This short film portrays the story of singer Paul Anka, who rose from obscurity to become the idol of millions of adolescent fans around the world. Taking a candid look at both sides of the footlights, this film examines the marketing machine behind a generation of pop singers. Interviews with Anka and his manager reveal their perspective on the industry.

As per the NFB:

This informal black-and-white portrait of Leonard Cohen shows him at age 30 on a visit to his hometown of Montreal, where the poet, novelist and songwriter comes “to renew his neurotic affiliations.” He reads his poetry to an enthusiastic crowd, strolls the streets of the city, relaxes in his three-dollar-a-night hotel room and even takes a bath.

Road Games (Richard Franklin, 1981)

ONE GAME KILLS TIME – THE OTHER KILLS PEOPLE!

AV_Inferno_DVD_.inddStacey Keach is Pat Quid, an eccentric trucker who plays games to keep his sanity on long hauls through the desolate Outback.  With his pet dingo keeping him company, Quid creates imaginary lives for the people he sees on the road – families, hitchhikers, cyclists.  A mysterious green van picking up young female hitchhikers arouses the trucker’s suspicions, leading Quid to the conclusion that its driver may be a maniac killer butchering women across Australia.  A free-spirited hitchhiker (Jamie Lee Curtis) joins Quid in his game of detective, but when the killer raises their stakes, the game becomes personal and fun turns to fear.

Director Richard Franklin packs plenty of wry humor and Hitchcockian suspense into this psychological shocker that was nominated for four Australian Film Institute Awards and remains one of the most surprising thrillers of the 1980s.

Special Features:

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Bloody Spear at Mount Fuji (Tomu Uchida, 1955)

The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films presents Bloody Spear at Mount Fuji.

criterion logoAlready established and celebrated as an exemplary filmmaker in the 1920s and 1930s, Tomu Uchida returned to Japanese cinemas after a near decade-long absence in Manchuria to make Bloody Spear at Mount Fuji, a compassionate tale about a lowly lancer named Gonpachi (Chiezô Kataoka) who travels with his young samurai master and another servant to Edo along the Tokaido road, repeatedly encountering the same peasant travelers.  A community is gradually formed between them as they become familiar with each other and their personal struggles despite the class barriers that separate them.  Made with assistance of fellow filmmakers Yasujirô Ozu, Kenji Mizoguchi, Daisuke Itô, and Hiroshi Shimizu, Bloody Spear at Mount Fuji is a picaresque story that deftly blends humor and drama to reveal the contradictory nature of Japanese society and stands as one of master director Tomu Uchida’s greatest films.

Disc Features:

  • High-definition digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition
  • New video interviews with critics Tadao Sato, David Bordwell, and Kristin Thompson
  • Trailer
  • New and improved English subtitle translation
  • PLUS: A booklet featuring a new essay by scholar Tony Rayns and an excerpt from Donald Richie’s essay “Rediscovering the Work of Tomu Ichida” written for the 2004 Tokyo FILMeX International Film Festival.

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The Hitcher (Robert Harmon, 1986)

THE TERROR STARTS THE MOMENT HE STOPS

AV_Inferno_DVD_.inddWhile driving in heavy rain on a deserted road, Jim Halsey (C. Thomas Howell) pulls over to pick up a hitchhiker (Rutger Hauer).  Halsey quickly regrets his decision to stop as the hitcher puts a knife to Jim’s throat and tells him to pass a car on the side of the road.  Its occupants have already been brutally slaughtered by the ominous stranger.  Now a bloody game cat-and-mouse is about to be played out on these desolate stretches of Texas highway, and every car that passes, and every soul that drives those roads, will have death, destruction, and mayhem along for the ride.

TERROR ALERT!  The Hitcher is a stretch for actress Jennifer Jason Leigh, especially when she’s tied between two vehicles headed in opposite directions!

Special Features:

  • New high definition digital transfer
  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard DVD Presentation
  • Original Stereo 2.0 and 5.1 Dolby Surround options
  • Optional English SDH subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
  • Introduction by director Christopher Nolan
  • Audio commentary by director Robert Harmon and writer Eric Red
  • Scene-specific audio commentary with Harmon, Red, stars C. Thomas Howell and Rutger Hauer, producer Edward S. Feldman, composer Mark Isham, and cinematographer John Seale
  • The Hitcher – How do these Movies get made?, a 39-minute making-of documentary
  • Gunmen’s Blues, Red’s 1981 short film with optional commentary
  • Telephone, Red’s 1983 short film starring Bud Cort with optional commentary
  • China Lake, Harmon’s 1983 short film starring Charles Napier with director’s introduction
  • The Room, Hauer’s 2001 short film with optional commentary by Hauer
  • Teaser and theatrical trailer
  • Collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Michael Gingold of Fangoria magazine

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Hedwig and the Angry Inch (John Cameron Mitchell, 2001)

The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films presents Hedwig and the Angry Inch.

criterion logoAdapted from the critically acclaimed off-Broadway hit, John Cameron Mitchell’s Hedwig and the Angry Inch tells the story of an “internationally ignored” rock singer and her search for stardom and love.  Born an East German boy named Hansel, Hedwig marries an American G.I. to get over the Berlin Wall to freedom and suffers a botched sex-change operation in the process that leaves her with just a one-inch mound of flesh.  Finding herself high, dry, and divorced in a Kansas trailer park, Hedwig pushes on to form a rock band and encounters a lover/protegé in Tommy Gnosis, a young Christian army brat who eventually leaves her, stealing her songs to become a huge rock star.  Left to stalk Tommy’s stadium tour with her group, the Angry Inch, Hedwig crisscrosses America intent on exposing Gnosis and claiming her rightful position in the pantheon of rock icons.

Disc Features:

  • New, restored 2K digital transfer, supervised by director John Cameron Mitchell and cinematographer Frank G. DeMarco, with 5.1 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition
  • Audio commentary featuring Mitchell and DeMarco
  • Deleted scenes with optional commentary
  • Whether You Like It or Not: The Story of Hedwig, a feature-length documentary on the musical and the film
  • I am Hedwig, new interviews on with Mitchell, Neil Patrick Harris, Andrew Rannells, Michael C. Hall, Darren Criss, and Taye Diggs, the stars of Hedwig‘s Broadway productions
  • Follow My Voice: With the Music of Hedwig, Katherine Linton’s documentary on the lives of four students attending the Harvey Milk School for LGBTQ youth and the recording of Wig in a Box, a tribute album raising funds for the institute operating the school
  • Anatomy of a Scene, a making of featurette on the adaptation of the musical at the Sundance Institute
  • New video appreciation by critic Kim Morgan
  • Theatrical trailer
  • PLUS: An essay by critic Stephanie Zacharek

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Children of Men (Alfonso Cuaron, 2006)

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

criterion logoNo children.  No future.  No hope.  In the year 2027, eighteen years since the last baby was born, disillusioned Theo Faron (Clive Owen) becomes an unlikely champion of the human race when he is asked by his former lover Julian (Julianne Moore) to escort a young pregnant woman out of Britain as quickly as possible.  In a thrilling race against time, Theo will risk everything to deliver the miracle the whole world has been waiting for.  Employing stunningly long takes filmed by the great Emmanuel Lubezki, Alfonso Cuarón’s Children of Men presents a politically charged, near-future dystopia that is all too recognizable from the present day.

Disc Features:

  • New, restored 2K digital film transfer, supervised by cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki and approved by director Alfonso Cuarón, with 5.1 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray
  • A new piece on the making of Children of Men, featuring new interviews with actors Clive Owen, Julianne Moore, Michael Caine, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Clare-Hope Ashitey, co-writer Timothy J. Sexton, Cuarón, and Lubezki
  • The Possibility of Hope, Cuarón’s 27-minute documentary on the issues and theories behind Children of Men
  • Comments by Slavoj Zizek, an extended interview on the film and its adaptation from P. D. James’s novel
  • Theo and Julian, interviews with Clive Owen and Julianne on the development of their characters
  • Under Attack, a behind-the-scenes look at shooting the film’s complicated action sequences
  • Futuristic Design, a review of Children of Men‘s outstanding art direction and world-building
  • Visual Effects: Creating the Baby, an examination of the film’s digital effects
  • A new video piece with scholar James Udden on Children of Men and the long take
  • Quietus “You Decide When” commercial
  • Deleted scenes
  • Gallery of production photos, posters, and promotional art
  • Trailers and TV spots
  • PLUS: A booklet featuring extensive production design artwork, Zizek’s essay “The Clash of Civilizations at the End of History,” and a new essay by film critic Charles Taylor

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