Marriage Story is the Pick of the Week

Noah Baumbach's marvelous portrait of a marriage reaching its not-so-simple end tops a new week of interesting releases.
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As I pointed out in my recent review for Marriage Story, director Noah Baumbach's soulful and deeply intense 2019 film, is an incredibly rich and sublimely acted portrait of a very broken marriage consisting of two people who realize that their journey together has really run its course. Like Kramer vs. Kramer, The Squid and the Whale (also directed by Baumbach), and Scenes from a Marriage, the film (at times funny and brutal) refuses to take sides, because Charlie and Nicole Barber (beautifully played by both Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson) both have logical viewpoints. Charlie, a New York theater director, is consumed by his work, while Nicole, his actress wife, wants to break free and find her own voice. You understand why Charlie is the way he is, and why Nicole is the way she is. You don't condemn them for the choices they make, and how they behave when they do so. You feel frustration and pain for the both of them, which Baumbach captures so truthfully, actually unlike many films about broken partnerships. 

Being a recent film, I was so glad that Criterion saw the importance and sheer realism of Baumbach's film, by giving it an incredible release, with worthy supplements including a new actors program with interviews by Driver, Johansson, Laura Dern, Ray Liotta, Alan Alda, and Julie Hagerty; a new filmmakers program about the production featuring interviews with Baumbach, editor Jennifer Lame, production designer Jade Healy, costume designer Mark Bridges, and producer David Heyman. There's also a new making-of program with behind-the-scenes footage; new interviews with composer Randy Newman and Baumbach about the music score; new program with Baumbach taking a tour of a key location from the film; and trailers. Some great notes by novelist Linn Ullmann (daughter of Liv Ullmann and Ingmar Bergman) are included as well. This is a true must-have release for a film that will be regarded as one of the great films about marriage ever made.

Other notable releases:

Taste of Cherry (Criterion): The late master filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami's soulful tale of an Iranian man who searches for someone to quietly bury him under a cherry tale after he commits suicide. Read Steve Geise's review.

Spartacus (4K): Stanley Kubrick's 1960 epic classic starring the late, great Kirk Douglas as the titular slave who leads a violent revolt against the Imperial Rome.

Airplane: The classic 1980 disaster movie parody starring Robert Hays as an ex-pilot who must take over an airliner after the entire flight crew succumbs food poisoning. 

Ghost: The 1990 romantic drama starring the late Patrick Swayze as a man who gets shot and killed, who comes back as a ghost and teams up with fake psychic to uncover the truth about his murder and save his love (Demi Moore) from a similar fate.

Mephisto: An Oscar-winning drama about an actor who finds unexpected success and mixed blessings because of his role in a Faustian play, as the Nazis take over in pre-WWII Germany. As his friends and associates flee the Nazi terror, he finds that his best peformance is keeping up appearances for his new, sadistic patrons.

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