Criterion Announces April 2019 Releases

I pity the fool who doesn't find something to buy this month.
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You'd be a fool to miss out on these April releases from Criterion.  New to the collection are Jan Němec's Diamonds of the Night, Elia Kazan's A Face in the Crowd, Jackie Chan's Police Story and Police Story 2, and Gillian Armstrong's My Brilliant Career.  Two by Jim Jarmusch are getting a Blu-ray upgrade: Stranger Than Paradise and Night on Earth.  Read on to learn more about them.

Stranger Than Paradise (#400) out Apr 9

With this breakout film, Jim Jarmusch established himself as one of the most exciting voices in the burgeoning independent-film scene, a road-movie poet with an affinity for Americana at its most offbeat. Jarmusch follows rootless Hungarian émigré Willie (John Lurie), his pal Eddie (Richard Edson), and his visiting sixteen-year-old cousin Eva (Eszter Balint) as they drift from New York’s Lower East Side to the snowy expanses of Lake Erie and the drab beaches of Florida, always managing to make the least of wherever they end up. Structured as a series of master-shot vignettes etched in black and white by cinematographer Tom DiCillo, Stranger Than Paradise is a nonchalant masterpiece of deadpan comedy and perfectly calibrated minimalism. The director-approved special features are:

  • High-definition digital restoration, supervised and approved by director Jim Jarmusch, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack
  • Permanent Vacation (1980, 75 minutes), Jarmusch’s first full-length feature, presented in a high-definition digital restoration supervised by the director
  • Kino ’84: Jim Jarmusch, a 1984 German television program featuring interviews with cast and crew from Stranger Than Paradise and Permanent Vacation
  • Some Days in January, 1984, a behind-the-scenes Super 8 film by Tom Jarmusch
  • U.S. and Japanese trailers
  • PLUS: A booklet featuring Jarmusch’s 1984 “Some Notes on Stranger Than Paradise,” critics Geoff Andrew and J. Hoberman on Stranger Than Paradise, and author and critic Luc Sante on Permanent Vacation

Night on Earth (#401) out Apr 9

cc Night on Earth.jpgFive cities. Five taxicabs. A multitude of strangers in the night. Jim Jarmusch assembled an extraordinary international cast of actors (including Gena Rowlands, Winona Ryder, Armin Mueller-Stahl, Beatrice Dalle, and Roberto Benigni) for this quintet of transitory tales of urban displacement and existential angst, all staged as encounters between cabbies and their fares. Spanning time zones, continents, and languages, Night on Earth winds its course through scenes of uproarious comedy, nocturnal poetry, and somber fatalism, set to a moody soundtrack by Tom Waits. Jarmusch’s lovingly askew view of humanity from the passenger seat makes for one of his most charming and beloved films, a freewheeling showcase for the cosmopolitan range of his imagination. The director-approved special features are:

  • High-definition digital restoration, supervised and approved by director Jim Jarmusch, with 2.0 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack
  • Selected-scene commentary from 2007 featuring director of photography Frederick Elmes and location sound mixer Drew Kunin
  • Q&A with Jarmusch from 2007, in which he responds to questions sent in by fans
  • Belgian television interview with Jarmusch from 1992
  • PLUS: A booklet featuring essays by authors and critics Thom Andersen, Paul Auster, Bernard Eisenschitz, Goffredo Fofi, and Peter von Bagh, and the lyrics to Tom Waits’s original songs from the film

Diamonds of the Night (#969) out Apr 16

cc Diamonds of the Night.jpgWith this simultaneously harrowing and lyrical debut feature, Jan Němec established himself as the most uncompromising visionary among the radical filmmakers who made up the Czechoslovak New Wave. Adapted from a novel by Arnošt Lustig, Diamonds of the Night closely tracks two boys who escape from a concentration-camp transport and flee into the surrounding woods, a hostile terrain where the brute realities of survival coexist with dreams, memories, and fragments of visual poetry. Along with visceral camera work by Jaroslav Kučera and Miroslav Ondříček—two of Czechoslovak cinema’s most influential cinematographers—Němec makes inventive use of fractured editing, elliptical storytelling, and flights of surrealism as he strips context away from this bare-bones tale, evoking the dizzying plight of consciousness lost in night and fog. The special features are:

  • New 4K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
  • Interview from 2009 with director Jan Němec
  • A Loaf of Bread, Němec’s 1960 student thesis film, based on a short story by Arnošt Lustig
  • Arnošt Lustig Through the Eyes of Jan Němec, a short documentary on Lustig from 1993
  • New interview with film programmer Irena Kovarova
  • New video essay on the film’s stylistic influences by scholar James Quandt
  • New English subtitle translation
  • PLUS: An essay by film critic Michael Atkinson

A Face in the Crowd (#970) out Apr 23

cc A Face in the Crowd.jpgA Face in the Crowd chronicles the rise and fall of Larry “Lonesome” Rhodes (Andy Griffith), a boisterous entertainer discovered in an Arkansas drunk tank by Marcia Jeffries (Patricia Neal), a local radio producer with ambitions of her own. His charisma and cunning soon shoot him to the heights of television stardom and political demagoguery, forcing Marcia to grapple with the manipulative, reactionary monster she has created. Directed by Elia Kazan from a screenplay by Budd Schulberg, this incisive satire features an extraordinary debut screen performance by Griffith, who brandishes his charm in an uncharacteristically sinister role. Though the film was a flop on its initial release, subsequent generations have marveled at its eerily prescient diagnosis of the toxic intimacy between media and politics in American life. The special features are:

  • New, restored 4K digital transfer, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
  • New interview with Ron Briley, author of The Ambivalent Legacy of Elia Kazan
  • New interview with Andy Griffith biographer Evan Dalton Smith
  • Facing the Past, a 2005 documentary featuring actors Andy Griffith, Patricia Neal, and Anthony Franciosa; screenwriter Budd Schulberg; and film scholars Leo Braudy and Jeff Young
  • Trailer
  • PLUS: An essay by critic April Wolfe and a 1957 New York Times Magazine profile of Andy Griffith

Police Story/Police Story 2 (#971 & #972) out Apr 23

cc Police Story 1 and 2.jpgThe jaw-dropping set pieces fly fast and furious in these breathtakingly inventive action comedies, two smash hits that made Jackie Chan a worldwide icon of daredevil spectacle. The director/star/one-man stunt machine plays Ka-Kui, a Hong Kong police inspector whose methods are, ahem, unorthodox; the phenomenal Maggie Cheung, in a star-making role, plays his much-put-upon girlfriend, May. Packed wall-to-wall with astoundingly acrobatic fight choreography, epic explosions, charmingly goofball slapstick, and awesomely 1980s electro soundtracks, Police Story and Police Story 2 set a new standard for rock-’em-sock-’em mayhem that established Chan as a performer of unparalleled grace and daring and would influence a generation of filmmakers, from Hong Kong to Hollywood. The special features are:

  • New 4K digital restorations of Police Story and Police Story 2
  • Alternate 5.1 surround and English-dubbed soundtracks for both films
  • Hong Kong-release version of Police Story 2, presented in a high-definition digital transfer for the first time
  • New programs on Chan’s screen persona and action-filmmaking techniques featuring author and New York Asian Film Festival cofounder Grady Hendrix
  • Archival interviews with Chan and actor and stuntman Benny Lai
  • Television program from 1964 detailing the rigors of Peking-opera training, akin to the education that Chan received as a child
  • Chan stunt reel
  • Trailers
  • New English subtitle translations
  • More!
  • PLUS: An essay by critic Nick Pinkerton

My Brilliant Career (#973) out Apr 30

cc My Brilliant Career.jpgFor her award-winning breakthrough film, director Gillian Armstrong drew on teenage author Miles Franklin’s novel, a celebrated turn-of-the-twentieth-century Australian coming-of-age story, to brashly upend the conventions of period romance. Headstrong young Sybylla Melvyn (Judy Davis, in a star-making performance), bemoans her stifling life in the backcountry, where her writerly ambitions receive little encouragement, and craves independence above all else. When a handsome landowner (Sam Neill), disarmed by her unruly charms, begins to court her, Sybylla must decide whether she can reconcile the prospect of marriage with the illustrious life’s work she has imagined for herself. Suffused with generous humor and a youthful appetite for experience, My Brilliant Career is a luminous portrait of an ardently free spirit. The director-approved special features are:

  • New 2K digital restoration, approved by director Gillian Armstrong, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
  • Audio commentary from 2009 featuring Armstrong
  • New interview with Armstrong
  • Interview from 1980 with actor Judy Davis
  • New interview with production designer Luciana Arrighi
  • Trailer
  • PLUS: An essay by critic Carrie Rickey

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