Criterion Announces February 2019 Releases

Criterion sets the bar high this month.
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The groundhog says Criterion will add four new titles to the collection.  They are Ingmar Bergman’s Shame, Henri-Georges Clouzot’s La vérité, Luchino Visconti's Death in Venice, and Charles Burnett's To Sleep with Anger.  Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s fifteen-hour Berlin Alexanderplatz is getting a Blu-ray upgrade.  Read on to learn more about them.

Shame (#961) out Feb 5

Ingmar Bergman’s Shame is at once an examination of the violent legacy of World War II and a scathing response to the escalation of the conflict in Vietnam. Max von Sydow and Liv Ullmann star as musicians living in quiet retreat on a remote island farm, until the civil war that drove them from the city catches up with them there. Amid the chaos of the military struggle, vividly evoked by pyrotechnics and by Sven Nykvist’s handheld camera work, the two are faced with impossible moral choices that tear at the fabric of their relationship. This film, which contains some of the most devastating scenes in Bergman’s oeuvre, shows the impact of war on individual lives. The special features are:

  • New 2K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
  • Interviews with director Ingmar Bergman and a brief excerpt from a press conference for the film, recorded in 1967 and ’68 for Swedish television
  • New interview with actor Liv Ullmann
  • An Introduction to Ingmar Bergman, a 1968 documentary made during the film’s production, featuring an extensive interview with Bergman
  • PLUS: An essay by critic Michael Sragow

La vérité (#960) out Feb 12

cc La verite.jpgBeautiful, troubled Dominique Marceau (Brigitte Bardot) came to bohemian Paris to escape the suffocation of provincial life, only to wind up in a courtroom, accused of a terrible crime: the murder of her lover (Sami Frey). As the trial commences and the lawyers begin tangling over Dominique’s fate, Henri-Georges Clouzot’s Oscar-nominated La vérité delves into her past, reconstructing her struggle to find a foothold in the city. What emerges is a nuanced portrait of an impulsive young woman misunderstood and mistreated by those around her, and of her ultimately tragic affair with an up-and-coming conductor. With an astonishing performance by Bardot, Clouzot’s affecting and intricately constructed film—a huge late-career success for the French master—renders a harsh verdict against a hypocritical and moralistic society. The special features are:

  • New 4K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
  • Le scandale Clouzot, a sixty-minute documentary from 2017 on director Henri-Georges Clouzot
  • Interview from 1960 with Clouzot
  • Interview with actor Brigitte Bardot from the 1982 documentary Brigitte Bardot telle qu’elle
  • New English subtitle translation
  • PLUS: An essay by film scholar Ginette Vincendeau

Berlin Alexanderplatz (#411) out Feb 12

cc Berlin Alexanderplatz.jpgRainer Werner Fassbinder’s fifteen-hour Berlin Alexanderplatz, based on Alfred Döblin’s great modernist novel, was the crowning achievement of a prolific director who, at age thirty-four, had already made over thirty films. Fassbinder’s immersive epic follows the hulking, childlike ex-convict Franz Biberkopf (Günter Lamprecht) as he attempts to “become an honest soul” amid the corrosive urban landscape of Weimar-era Germany. With equal parts cynicism and humanity, Fassbinder details a mammoth portrait of a common man struggling to survive in a viciously uncommon time. The special features are:

  • High-definition digital restoration by the Rainer Werner Fassbinder Foundation and Bavaria Media, supervised and approved by director of photography Xaver Schwarzenberger, with DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray
  • Two documentaries by Rainer Werner Fassbinder Foundation president Juliane Lorenz: one from 2007 featuring interviews with the cast and crew, the other from 2006 on the restoration
  • Hans-Dieter Hartl’s 1980 documentary Notes on the Making of “Berlin Alexanderplatz”
  • Phil Jutzi’s 1931 feature-length film of Alfred Döblin’s novel, from a screenplay cowritten by Döblin himself
  • Interview from 2007 with Peter Jelavich, author of “Berlin Alexanderplatz”: Radio, Film, and the Death of Weimar Culture
  • PLUS: A book featuring an essay by filmmaker Tom Tykwer, reflections on the novel by Fassbinder and author Thomas Steinfeld, and an interview with Schwarzenberger

Death in Venice (#962) out Feb 19

cc Death in Venice.jpgBased on the classic novella by Thomas Mann, this late-career masterpiece from Luchino Visconti is a meditation on the nature of art, the allure of beauty, and the inescapability of death. A fastidious composer reeling from a disastrous concert, Gustav von Aschenbach (Dirk Bogarde, in an exquisitely nuanced performance) travels to Venice to recover. There, he is struck by a vision of pure beauty in the form of a young boy (Björn Andrésen), his infatuation developing into an obsession even as rumors of a plague spread through the city. Setting Mann’s story of queer desire and bodily decay against the sublime music of Gustav Mahler, Death in Venice is one of cinema’s most exalted literary adaptations, as sensually rich as it is allegorically resonant. The special features are:

  • New 4K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
  • Luchino Visconti: Life as in a Romance, a 2008 documentary about Visconti, featuring actors Burt Lancaster, Silvana Mangano, and Marcello Mastroianni; filmmakers Francesco Rosi and Franco Zeffirelli; and others
  • Alla ricerca di Tadzio, a 1970 program on Visconti’s efforts to cast the role of Tadzio
  • New program featuring literature and cinema scholar Stefano Albertini
  • Interview from 2006 with costume designer Piero Tosi
  • Excerpt from a 1990 program about the music in Visconti’s films, featuring Bogarde and actor Marisa Berenson
  • Television broadcast from 1971 in which Visconti discusses the film
  • Visconti’s Venice, a short 1970 behind-the-scenes documentary featuring Visconti and Bogarde
  • Trailer
  • PLUS: An essay by critic Dennis Lim

To Sleep with Anger (#963) out Feb 26

cc To Sleep with Anger.jpgA slow-burning masterwork of the early 1990s, this third feature by Charles Burnett is a singular piece of American mythmaking. In a towering performance, Danny Glover plays the enigmatic southern drifter Harry, a devilish charmer who turns up out of the blue on the South Central Los Angeles doorstep of his old friends. In short order, Harry’s presence turns a seemingly peaceful household upside down, exposing smoldering tensions between parents and children, tradition and change, virtue and temptation. Interweaving evocative strains of gospel and blues with rich, poetic-realist images, To Sleep with Anger is a sublimely stirring film from an autonomous artistic sensibility, a portrait of family resilience steeped in the traditions of black mysticism and folklore. The director-approved special features are:

  • New, restored 4K digital transfer, approved by director Charles Burnett, with 2.0 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray
  • New interview program featuring Burnett, actors Danny Glover and Sheryl Lee Ralph, and associate producer Linda Koulisis
  • A Walk with Charles Burnett, a new hour-long conversation between Burnett and filmmaker Robert Townsend that revisits Burnett’s films and shooting locations
  • Short video tribute to Burnett produced for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Governors Awards ceremony in 2017
  • PLUS: An essay by critic Ashley Clark

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