Minbo: The Gentle Art of Japanese Extortion (Juzo Itami, 1992)

The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films presents Minbo: The Gentle Art of Japanese Extortion.

criterion logoThe upscale Hotel Europa wants to attract government meetings and international summits, but it is infested with gangsters who extort millions from it through cons, intimidation, and implied violence.  Unable to tolerate the exploitation any more, the Hotel hires feisty attorney Mahiru Inoue (Nobuko Miyamoto) to advise the hotel’s inexperienced anti-yakuza task force, made up of a lowly accountant (Yasuo Daichi) and a bell boy (Takehiro Murata), and expel the gangsters once and for all.  Jûzô Itami’s classic underdog story is a feel-good comedy gem and a brave statement against the semi-official corruption tolerated by the Japanese public, a message that would make the filmmaker himself a target of yakuza violence.

Disc Features:

  • New 2K digital restoration, with 5.1 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray
  • Introduction by Nobuko Miyamoto, star of Minbo and wife of filmmaker Jûzô Itami
  • New interview with journalist Jake Adelstein on Minbo, the Japanese yakuza, and the death of Jûzô Itami
  • Rubber Band Pistol, Itami’s debut short film
  • Theatrical teasers and trailer
  • New English subtitle translation
  • PLUS:  A booklet featuring a new essay by Jonathan Rosenbaum

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Symbol (Hitoshi Matsumoto, 2009)

“Ultimately creative, laugh out loud funny and leaving you in a slightly bedazzled trance.” – Niels Matthijs, TWITCH

Drafthouse Films LogoA Mexican wrestler called Escargot Man broods over an ominous feeling.  Is it his upcoming match with his younger, stronger opponent Tequila Joe or something deeper?  Meanwhile, a man with mop-top hair and polka-dot pajamas (Hitoshi Matsumoto) awakens in a sealed white room, faced with an array of unusual switches that might provide his means of escape or may just drive him mad with frustration.  Reveling in low-brow comedy and physical humour, the unforeseeable connection between the two worlds is eventually revealed in spectacularly astounding fashion.  Hitoshi Matsumoto plays triple duty as writer, director, and star to this laugh out loud examination of cause and effect, producing “a candy coated, Japanese game show version of a Franz Kafka short story” (Todd Brown, Twitch).  Side-splitting and mind-blowing, Symbol is a film experience that defies description and categorization.

Special Features:

  • Making-of featurette with optional commentary by filmmaker and star Hitoshi Matsumoto
  • Deleted and extended scenes
  • Thearical Trailer
  • 16-page booklet of photos, promotional art, and an essay by Todd Brown

“That Stinks!” Edition – Package Includes:

  • Symbol on Blu-ray or Standard DVD featuring over 2 hours of bonus material
  • High quality 720p HD Digital Download of the Film Available on Street Date
  • 27″ x 40″ Reversible Poster
  • Limited Edition “Escargot Man” Luchador Mask

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Beggars of Life (William A. Wellman, 1928)

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

criterion logoFollowing his Best Picture win at the inaugural Academy Awards, William A. Wellman made Beggars for Life, an adaptation of Jim Tully’s best-selling classic of hobo literature.  This gripping drama casts cinema icon Louise Brooks as a girl on the lam after killing her lecherous adoptive father.  Dressed in boy’s clothes, she navigates through the dangerous tramp underworld with the help of a handsome and devoted drifter (Richard Arlen) and encounters the dangerous, but warm-hearted hobo legend Oklahoma Red (Wallace Beery).  Loaded with stunning visuals and empathetic performances, this dark, realistic drama is Brooks’ best American film, Paramount’s first foray into synchronized sound, and a masterpiece of late-silent era feature films.

Disc Features:

  • New digital restoration, created in collaboration with the George Eastman House
  • Four musical scores: a piano score by silent film accompanist Steve Sterner, a pan-temporal score by Daryl Fleming and the Public Domain, one by Neil Brand and skiffle band The Dodge Brothers and a Wurlitzer score by organist Jim Riggs, all presented as uncompressed stereo soundtracks on the Blu-ray edition
  • Introduction by documentary filmmaker Ken Burns
  • Audio commentary by film historian Richard Koszarski
  • Jim Tully: The Most Hated Man in Hollywood, a new interview program with Tully biographers Mark Dawidziak and Paul J. Bauer
  • New interview with William Wellman Jr. on his director father and the making of the film
  • PLUS: A booklet featuring new essays by film critic Mark Kermode and filmmaker John Sayles, a collection of reviews on the film’s release curated by Thomas Gladysz of the Louise Brooks Society, and Jim Tully’s original novel, reprinted specially for this release.

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The War of the Stars: A New Hope Grindhoused (George Lucas/The Man Behind the Mask, 1977/2010)

The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films presents The War of the Stars: A New Hope Grindhoused.

criterion logoA poor orphan working on his uncle’s moisture farm on the remote desert planet Tatooine, Luke Skywalker dreams of becoming a starship pilot like his friend Biggs Darklighter, but when Luke discovers a hidden message for an old hermit, he becomes embroiled in a quest of galactic scale.  Trained in the arcane ways of a lost order of knights by the reclusive Obi-Wan Kenobi, Luke, with the help of a robotic duo and a pair of greedy space pirates, must save a princess from the clutches of the maniacal Darth Vader and destroy an evil Empire’s planet-sized weapon, the Death Star.  The War of the Stars: A New Hope Grindhoused roughs up George Lucas’ sci-fi classic, using an original 16mm print, unused footage, fearsome digital effects, and other surprising additions to recast it in the spirit of 1970s exploitation cinema.

Disc Features:

  • High-definition digital master, with DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition
  • Interactive lexicon cataloging incorporated material
  • Interview with George Lucas
  • Audio commentary by faneditor The Man Behind the Mask
  • Roundtable discussion with Robot Chicken co-founder Seth Green, Robot Chicken: Star Wars cowriter Breckin Meyer, actor and faneditor Topher Grace, Slash Film writer Peter Sciretta, and Fanboys director Kyle Newman
  • Fanmixed, a new interview with legal scholar Lawrence Lessig on fanediting, copyright, and piracy

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Double Feature Fandom: 2 Grindhouse Fanedits by The Man Behind the Mask

The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films presents Double Feature Fandom: 2 Grindhouse Fanedits by The Man Behind the Mask.

criterion logoOriginally conceived as a fan-made double feature re-imagining two classic ’70s blockbusters as B-movie exploitation cinema, The Man Behind the Mask’s JAWS: The Sharksploitation Edit and The War of the Stars: A New Hope Grindhoused are presented here as the first authorized, commercially released fanedit features.  These homemade films mix source material with unused footage, new digital effects, original and appropriated music, and audio and visual content from other films to produce a new viewing experience that elaborates on otherwise familiar content.  Considered two of the best regarded and most entertaining edits produced from within fan subculture, The Man Behind the Mask’s Grindhouse Double Feature is a thoroughly contemporary, decidedly nostalgic, assuredly postmodern tribute to 1970s cinema and to a pair of popularly beloved favorites.

Disc Features:

  • High-definition digital master, with DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray editions
  • Interactive lexicons cataloging material incorporated into each fanedit
  • Interviews with George Lucas and Steven Spielberg
  • Audio commentaries by faneditor The Man Behind the Mask
  • Roundtable discussions with Robot Chicken co-founder Seth Green, Robot Chicken: Star Wars cowriter Breckin Meyer, actor and faneditor Topher Grace, Slash Film writer Peter Sciretta, and Fanboys director Kyle Newman
  • Fanmixed, a new interview with legal scholar Lawrence Lessig on fanediting, copyright, and piracy
  • From Cornell and Conner to Fanedit.org, film scholar Michael Zryd on the found footage film tradition
  • PLUS:  A booklet of essays by cult film scholars Ernest Mathijs and Jamie Sexton.

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Sakuran (Mika Ninagawa, 2006)

“A delicious manga-slash-J-pop twist on the geisha story.” – Matthew Turner, VIEW LONDON

Drafthouse Films LogoSakuran follows the ascent of Kiyoha (Anna Tsuchiya) a rebellious and feisty girl sold to a brothel in the notorious Yoshiwara district of Edo (now Tokyo); a nightlife zone that served both the elites and working classes for hundreds of years.  Kiyoha, headstrong and independent, rises through the ranks of the competitive brothel, initially as a house girl of an established courtesan, learning the trade and eventually becoming Oiran – the preeminent courtesan of the brothel.  Choosy about her customers and defiant to her employers and fellow courtesans, Kiyoha wants to find her own freedom rather than have a rich merchant buy it for her.  Adapted from the Manga comic series by Moyoco Anno and directed by acclaimed fashion photographer Mika Ninagawa with music by J-pop idol Ringo Shiina, Sakuran is a tour de force of new Japanese film and music talent.

Special Features:

  • Audio commentary with director Mika Ninagawa, producer Mitsuru Uda, and actors Anna Tsuchiya and Masanobu Ando
  • Behind the Scenes documentary of the film’s production
  • Making of featurette with cast and crew interviews
  • Production Special reviewing Sakuran‘s debut at the 2007 Berlin Film Festival
  • Publicity and Festival tour 2006-2007, a collection of publicity tour and film festival Q&A sessions
  • This is O-I-RA-N featurette presenting footage of the film at the 2007 Berlin Film Festival and the Hong Kong Asian Film Awards, as well as an interview with the director
  • Deleted scenes
  • Theatrical trailers, teasers, and TV spots
  • 16-page booklet of photos, production stills, and promotional materials

“Cherry Blossom” Edition – Package Includes:

  • Sakuran on Blu-ray or Standard DVD featuring over 4 hours of bonus material
  • High quality 720p HD Digital Download of the Film
  • Instant Download of the Original Motion Picture Soundtrack by Ringo Shiina in Apple MP4
  • 27″ x 40″ theatrical poster
  • Limited Edition “Courtesan Pipe”
  • Moyoco Anno’s original Manga graphic novel Sakuran, published by Vertical Inc.

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