Toni is the Pick of the Week

An offbeat, underrated character drama from one of the all-time greatest directors starts off a new week of releases.
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When discussing the legendary Jean Renoir, you're talking about one of the most influential filmmakers in the history of cinema. His films were noted for their humanity and strong romanticism that continues to be renowned by famous directors such as Orson Welles, Peter Bogdanovich, Wes Anderson, and Paul Thomas Anderson, among others. He was brilliant at making films about different subject matter, whether it was critiquing the French class (The Rules of the Game), war (Grand Illusion), or film noir (La bete Humaine), he proved that he could really do anything. And with his 1935 portrait of everyday French society, Toni, he tackled love among immigrants just trying to live and survive in the margins of society.

The film tells the story of a love triangle containing the title character (Charles Blavette), an Italian migrant who has explosive affairs with two different women, the faithful Marie (Jenny Helia) and the sultry Josefa (Celia Montalván) that eventually ends in tragedy for everyone involved.

Despite the rather simple premise, Renoir puts his poetic touches to good use with nonprofessional actors, detailed on-location shooting, and much-needed resources from Marcel Pagnol’s Provence studio to create a masterpiece of passionate realism that should be a relevation for all who see it.

Of course, the folks at Criterion understand the film's immediacy by providing great supplements, including a 2006 audio commentary with critics Kent Jones and Philip Lopate; 1961 introduction by Renoir; 1967 episode of Cinéastes de notre temps on Renoir, directed by Jacques Rivette and featuring a conversation with Blavette about the film; and a new video essay about the making of Toni by film scholar Christopher Faulkner. There is also a new essay by film critic Ginette Vincendeau as well. If you're an admirer or diehard Renoir enthusiast, then this release is definitely a must have. Read Mat Brewster's review.

Other releases:

The King of Staten Island: Judd Apatow directs Pete Davidson in a funny and thoughful comedy-drama inspired by Davidson's life and issues with Crohn's disease and the passing of his firefighter father who died during 9/11.  Read my review.

Tales from the Darkside (Scream Factory): A new collector's edition of the 1990 anthology film of three tales of the macabre: a student is tormented by a mummy; the owner of a cat hiring a hitman to kill it; and an artist suffering revenge after witnessing the death of a friend.

The House by the Cemetery (4K): Lucio Fulci's 1981 splatterfest that takes on a whole meaning of the term "haunted house", where a family moves into a New England house that's the setting for a series of gory murders caused by the shocking secret in their basement.

The New York Ripper (4K): Fulci's most controversial film, a 1982 savage horror thriller about a sadistic killer tormenting and murdering women in the Big Apple, and the detectives that are on his trailer.

Pat and Mike: Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn star in their seventh film together as a sports promoter and the tough, athletes instructor he offers to train, which eventually turns into romance.

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