Criterion's Release of Two Days, One Night is the Pick of the Week

This week brings us a timely drama from Belgium, a terribly reviewed comedy from Hawaii, a serious documentary, and a gory zombie show.
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My DVD/Blu-ray collection is divided up into a few different categories.  There are TV shows, foreign films, my main collection, and then the Criterions.  I mention this because over the last week I’ve had two different sets of people over to the house admiring my collection who had no idea what the Criterion Collection was.  They were both movies lovers with decent collections themselves, not some noobs with only a couple of Disney flicks in their home library.  It was shocking to me that they hadn’t heard of Criterion.  In the small, nerdy world in which I tend to live, Criterion holds a vaulted place in our hearts, minds, and home theatres.  I quickly gave them a little lecture on how amazing Criterion is bringing some of the best and interesting foreign and arthouse films into our homes while at the same time presenting them in their best possible picture and audio quality and usually complimenting them with all sorts of extras that give the film buff context and insights.

I probably scared them off with some of that, but I’m ridiculously passionate about this little niche video-distribution company.  I’m not the only one either, there is a rabid fanbase on Reddit and Tumblr and you can find any number of blogs and websites dedicated to the films released by Criterion.  People spend years of their lives trying to watch every film in the collection and sometimes spend enormous amounts of money buying films from the collection than have gone out of print.  It really is kind of an addictive obsession.  So much so that I have to force myself not to simply pick whatever the company is releasing on a given week for this column.

Normally, I try to limit Criterion to only being picked a few times a year.  Alas, for the second week in a row, I’m choosing a Criterion release which is against my rules, but frankly there just isn’t much else coming out that excites me.  My favorite thing about Criterion is that they release a lot of older, foreign films that would otherwise be difficult to find on home video, and they clean them up to (near) perfection.  My second favorite thing is that they release newer, somewhat obscure films and put a spotlight on them so that an American audience can enjoy them when they might not have heard of them otherwise.

This is where Two Days, One Night comes in (also an excuse).  The excuse is that I had originally picked the Criterion release of Kurosawa’s masterful Throne of Blood.  I wrote a slightly different version of the first 2-1/2 paragraphs of this column then started to suspect that Throne of Blood had already been released in Blu-ray on Criterion and thus this must be a re-release.  This suspicion became reality and I knew I needed to scrap it as my pick.  They’ve done this to me before and I can’t really say why.  I’m guessing that Throne of Blood was initially released in their brief flirtation with releasing both the Blu-ray and DVD in what they were calling dual-format (which just meant that they came in the same box instead of two separate ones).  It didn’t take long for them to scrap that concept and I think they are now re-releasing the popular ones separately now.  Whatever the reason, its very obnoxious from a new release stand-point.

But back to Two Days, One Night.  Marion Cotillard stars in this Belgian/French/Italian flick where she stars as a factory worker who is sent home for a couple of days after a nervous breakdown.  While she’s gone, the management realizes that they can talk the rest of the workers into working slightly longer each day and cover the work.  They offer a bonus to make this a permanent move and Cotillard’s character suddenly has to convince her fellow workers to say no.

That is an incredibly timely concept, and I’ve loved Cotillard in everything I’ve seen her in.  My wife adores French films and we lived in the area of Belgium where it was filmed for a bit.  And it's a typical looking Criterion release which is to say - brilliant.  All of which adds up to Two Days, One Night becoming my Pick of the Week, even if it comes in slightly slanted.

Also out this week that looks interesting:

Citzenfour:  A documentary about Edward Snowden.  Director Laura Poitras was there with him in Hong Kong while he was releasing the documents that made him famous.  It has gotten great reviews.

Aloha:  Bradley Cooper, Emma Stone, Rachel McAdams, Bill Murray, John Krasinski, and Alec Baldwin in a film directed by Cameron Crowe set in Hawaii.  Should have been a modern classic.  Judging by its reviews, it's a stinking pile of coconut dung.  Which kind of draws it to me even more.

The Walking Dead: Season 5:  I’ve never been smitten by this zombie show as the millions of minions have.  I’m actually somewhere still in season three with no advancement in sight.  It is an incredibly flawed series starting with writers who never seem to know where they are going.  Still, I do love me some zombies eating bloody guts by the truck load so I’ll keep (slowly) plugging away.

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