The missing person is the greatest motif of the mystery story. Even if the murder story is more common (and perhaps the majority of missing-person stories become murder stories in the fullness of time) the missing-person story contains more questions: not just who did it, but what did they do? What really happened? Is the missing person dead, captured, tortured, or did they even just leave of their own accord? The relationship between the missing and those looking for them can be complicated and fascinating. In one line of The Vanishing, Rex Hofman, after years of looking for the long-missing
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A woman's disappearance creates a terrible bond between the man who took her, and the one who lost her.
Its a thin line between exploitation and art.
Normally I’d say that the space between True Art and exploitation is wide and wandering, but if The Night Porter teaches us anything, it's that the line is actually pretty thin. It's story is pure sleaze - A Nazi SS officer reunites with his former concentration-camp prisoner thirteen years after the war. A sadomasochistic love affair ensues. But in the hands of director Liliana Cavani, it becomes something more - a meditation on love, guilt, and redemption. It reminds me a bit of Boxcar Bertha, a typical Roger Corman B-Grade flick elevated by the talents and artistic brilliance of a
Frank Capra's romantic comedy classic shines in new Criterion release.
It’s hard to imagine now, but there was a time in cinematic history when romantic comedies were extremely rare. That all started to change, for better or worse, with the 1934 release of this Frank Capra gem. The film went on to sweep the five major Oscar categories, netting statues for stars Clark Gable, Claudette Colbert, director Capra, and screenwriter Robert Riskin, cementing its status as a Hollywood classic. That classic is now 80 years old and was showing its age, so its recent meticulous restoration and new release on Blu-ray offers a completely refreshed take on the film. Colbert
Tati's own brilliantly satirical spin on the mechanical age
As we film buffs know the works of Chaplin, Godard, Dreyer, and Antonioni, we are able to see their versions of the stormy side of human nature, but no one in film history has quite of an effect on presenting the dark side of the mechanical age as legendary French director, Jacques Tati, whose classics somehow tend to get lost in the shuffle, especially talking about movie history. In a way, Tati is the "French Chaplin," since Chaplin's own Modern Times described the new harsh reality of the 1930s Depression era, while adding comical touches to surface the difficult situation.
Some Christmas present options for the cinephile in the family.
In December, Criterion offers new 2K digital restorations of Liliana Cavani's bizarre love story, The Night Porter, and Terry Gilliam’s time-travel fantasy, The Time Bandits. It also welcomes to the collection Todd Haynes' acclaimed second feature, Safe. The latest addition to the Eclipse Series is Kinoshita and World War II, a five-film set of Japanese director Keisuke Kinoshita's early work, which includes collects Port of Flowers, The Living Magoroku, Jubilation Street, Army, and Morning for the Osone Family The Night Porter (#59) out Dec 9 in Blu-ray & DVD Editions In this unsettling drama from Italian filmmaker Liliana Cavani (Ripley’s
Bob Fosse’s crowning directorial achievement shines in the Criterion spotlight.
Joe Gideon is tired. Tired of women, tired of choreography, tired of drugs, and yet inexplicably driven to continue pursuing all of them, to the detriment of his health. As a legendary Broadway director, he’s at his peak but so burned out that he struggles to remind himself “it’s showtime” as he drugs himself awake each day for more rehearsals leading up to the debut of his new musical. As Gideon, Roy Scheider nails the world-weary lead character, especially impressive given that he was directed by the character’s thinly veiled inspiration, Bob Fosse. Fosse’s immense talent for choreography is on
Get your Xmas shopping for the movie fan in your life done a month early.
In November, the Criterion Collection offers a new restoration of Michelangelo Antonioni's L’avventura. Debuting in the collection are two westerns by Monte Hellman The Shooting / Ride in the Whirlwind, two classic comedies in Frank Capra's It Happened One Night and Sydney Pollack's Tootsie and a collection of 14 documentaries in Les Blank: Always For Pleasure. The Shooting / Ride in the Whirlwind (#734/735) out Nov 14 in Blu-ray & DVD Editions In the mid-sixties, the maverick American director Monte Hellman conceived of two westerns at the same time. Dreamlike and gritty by turns, the two films would prove their
Psychological thriller spins a tale without darkness.
I sat down to write this upon the day of hearing of the passing of Robin Williams. He took a big chance in a serious role in the Christopher Nolan 2002 remake of this 1997 Norwegian film. Nolan's follow-up to Memento was a dark tale of madness. The movie poster shows the dark silhouetted faces of Al Pacino and Robin Williams. That is all you need to know about the differences between these films. Insomnia as directed by Erik Skjoldbjaerg is unblinkingly bright. So much so that it hurts. There was never a doubt in my mind it would be
A great film that should be watched and revered by any serious cinephile
Everyone agrees that Ingmar Bergman is one of the greatest director’s of world cinema. Almost no one disagrees that his films can be difficult to watch and even more so to understand. I’ve long held the theory than when Americans say that they do no like foreign language films they really just don’t like Bergman. Even if they’ve never heard his name or watched his films, his style of intellectual, arty, often-incomprehensible cinema is exactly the sort of thing that turns people off from non-Hollywood movies. I’ll admit that while I do hold the director in the highest esteem, and
Which one are you most interested in owning?
In October, the Criterion Collection offers new digital restorations of Orson Welles' F for Fake documentary and George Sluizer’s Dutch thriller, The Vanishing. They also add to the collection John Ford's take on Wyatt Earp and the O.K. Corral, My Darling Clementine, and Federico Fellini's international breakthrough, La dolce vita. Last but not least, The Complete Jacques Tati is a six-film set that collects previous Criterion titles, Monsieur Hulot’s Holiday, Mon oncle, PlayTime, and Trafic My Darling Clementine (#732) out Oct 14 in Blu-ray & DVD Editions John Ford takes on the legend of the O.K. Corral shoot-out in this
Bergman outdoes himself with an influential tale of identical madness.
In my own opinion, no other film in history has garnered so much critical analysis as Ingmar Bergman's 1966 masterpiece, Persona. It remains a film unlike no other that continues to one of the most chilling, strange, and metaphysical films ever made. Is it a film about two women's psychological neurosises? Or, is it a tale about the switching of personal identities? Maybe it's both, or something much creepier. Whatever it is, it remains one of my favorite films of all-time, one that I constantly watch, especially to uncover its many smoldering mysteries. It also a study of transcendental acting,
This 40-year-old documentary feels as relevant today as ever, and is one that I will not soon forget.
The Academy Award-winning Hearts and Minds is the most riveting war documentary I have ever seen. The raw footage and the interviews that director Peter Davis has collected here tell an incredible story. And while it would seem to be an impossible task to tell the story of the war in Vietnam without taking sides, much of Hearts and Minds is beyond politics. The most gripping material in this film comes from the people who never had a voice, the Vietnamese themselves. What are the politics of watching your son being shot by the very soldiers who are there to
Go back to (film) school with these upcoming releases.
In September, David Lynch makes his debut in The Criterion Collection with his memorable feature-length debut, Eraserhead. Two adaptations of classic literature also get added to the Collection: Roman Polanski's take on Shakespeare's Macbeth and Jack Clayton's The Innocents, based on Henry James’s The Turn of the Screw. Available for the first time in the U.S. on DVD or Blu-ray is Serge Bourguignon's Sundays and Cybèle, the 1962 Academy Award winner for Best Foreign Language Film. Last but not least, Rainer Werner Fassbinder's Ali: Fears Eats the Soul gets a high-definition upgrade to Blu-ray. Eraserhead (#725) out September 16 in
Iranian filmmaker creates vision of Japanese intimacy.
Iranian filmmaker Abbas Kariostami has spent a lifetime constructing films meant to blur the line between creator and audience. Emerging in the 1960s during the first new wave in Iranian cinema, Kariostami received international acclaim following the Iranian Revolution with a series of films more reflective of life under the newly imposed Islamic rule, including The Koker Trilogy and its depiction of life in the Middle Eastern countryside. Over the past decade he has abandoned traditional filmmaking techniques in favor of suppler, more compassionate approaches evident in 2012’s Like Someone in Love. Set in Japan—one of only two movies Kariostami
By removing any pointless embellishments and focusing on the action, Siegel weaves a tale that is as authentic as can be.
Directed by Don Siegel, the 1954 movie Riot in Cell Block 11 offers a gritty, authentic look at the prison system and the chaos behind a riot. The picture was shot in Folsom State Prison in California with several real inmates and guards filling in background roles. Producer Walter Wanger had also been in jail and relied on his experiences to charge his passion for the film. Now presented by the good people at Criterion Collection, Riot in Cell Block 11 sheds light on an issue that still doesn’t get a lot of press. The treatment of the convicts forms
Risi's film is simultaneously breezily fun and slyly satiric, a film full of immediate pleasures and more thought-provoking asides.
The comedy of Dino Risi’s road movie Il Sorpasso hums along beautifully, just like the gorgeous Lancia Aurelia convertible one of its main characters drives. A prime example of the Commedia all’italiana movement that evolved partly as a response to Neorealism, Risi’s film is simultaneously breezily fun and slyly satiric, a film full of immediate pleasures and more thought-provoking asides. It also features two great performances from Vittoria Gassman as the uninhibited Bruno and Jean-Louis Trintignant as shy law student Roberto, who gets roped into a road trip crisscrossing Rome and its surrounding areas after Bruno comes into his apartment
For film buffs and those interested in movie history, it is essential.
As a self-confessed film buff, I have to admit that my knowledge is severely lacking when it comes to silent films. I’ve seen a couple of Charlie Chaplin movies, some Buster Keaton shorts, The Passion of Joan of Arc, and Nosferatu. That’s about it. I’ve tried a few others like The Birth of a Nation and about half of Metropolis. The thing is, I generally find silent films difficult to watch. Like various kinds of great art, silent films take a certain amount of education and practice to appreciate. Decades of fast-paced, dialog-driven movies have led me to expect a
Kurosawa and Mifune team up for another classic.
A long time ago in a country far, far away, esteemed director Akira Kurosawa filmed a grand adventure that took the unorthodox approach of framing the action through the perspective of the lowliest of peasants rather than gallant heroes. While those sniveling peasants eventually encounter and join a noble warrior and a princess in hiding, their initial misadventures add a light and comedic touch to a story that could have easily been staged as a conventional epic drama. George Lucas readily admits to being influenced by the film as a basis for the original Star Wars, drawing a direct parallel
Kurosawa uses Shakespeare's King Lear to make a statement about mankind and the folly of war.
Ran is Kurosawa’s last masterpiece from a man who made many. He made three more films afterwards, but none came close to the size and scope of Ran. Financing had been hard for Kurosawa to raise in his later years. Since Red Beard in 1965, he was making one film every five years and at the age of 75, Ran was quite likely to be his last, so he pulled out all the stops to make as glorious a spectacle and a statement as he could, and he succeeded mightily. He returned to Shakespeare, transporting the story’s setting to 16th
"The only crime is pride." ― Sophocles, Antigone
From his debut as a director with Sanshiro Sugata (1943) through to Red Beard (1965), director Akira Kurosawa averaged releasing one film a year. That's an impressive run even before taking into account how many were widely acclaimed the world over. However, Kurosawa began to have trouble raising money for projects with Japanese studios. He headed to the United States but didn't complete a film. The winter weather derailed his attempt to shoot The Runaway Train and then, according to Donald Richie's account in The Films of Akira Kurosawa, he got himself fired from Tora! Tora! Tora!likely due to clashes
Forget that summer vacation. You are going to be spending that money on Criterion discs.
This June finds The Criterion Collection delivering an impressive roster of titles. Out June 7 Douglas Sirk's All That Heaven Allows (#95) stars Jane Wyman as a wealthy widow torn between following her heart for a younger man (Rock Hudson) of lesser means and the expectations that her children and society place upon her. The new edition comes with: New 2K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray Audio commentary featuring John Mercer, coauthor of Melodrama: Genre, Style, Sensibility, and film scholar Tamar Jeffers-McDonald Rock Hudson’s Home Movies (1992), a groundbreaking essay film about the actor by Mark
Roman Planski's Tess is a beautifully shot adaptation of Thomas Hardy's novel about Victorian England.
Tess is an unforgettable film, and one of the finest of Roman Polanski’s career. The fact that it lost to Ordinary People for Best Picture surprises me, but the movie was not completely ignored by the Academy. Tess was nominated in six categories, and won in three: Art Direction, Cinematography, and Costume Design. In watching the newly released Criterion Blu-ray, I believe that it holds an additional appeal today that may not have been apparent back in 1979. Thirty-five years later, Tess is more than just a great movie. It is an example of a filmmaking style that seems to
There's a lot more than first meets the eye to King of the Hill.
For those who insist on dividing Steven Soderbergh’s filmography into the reductive “one for me” and “one for them” categories, King of the Hill likely represents Soderbergh’s first foray into mainstream filmmaking. Superficially, they’re right — it was his first studio film and its coming-of-age tale set in Depression-era St. Louis is certainly more accessible than Sex, Lies, and Videotape or Kafka. But — as is generally the case when it comes to Soderbergh — there’s a lot more than first meets the eye to King of the Hill. Sure, there’s some burnished sentimentality in the film; Soderbergh himself admits
It's absolutely worth upgrading to this Criterion disk.
Like most great directors, Wes Anderson has created a very distinctive style for his films. They live in a world that is not quite real. It's a world filled with pastel colors and 1960s rock and roll. Where quirky characters do things that aren’t quite realistic, but neither are they unbelievable. Where every child has parental issues, and every parent is funny, adventurous, and sad. It is a world in which every scene, no matter how small or short, is filled with the tiniest of details, all distinctive to the director’s style. Wes Anderson films are like retro live-action cartoons
Truffaut's Jules and Jim is a brilliant rendering of a love triangly gone awry.
The greatest literature is often inspired by true events, and the story behind Francois Truffaut’s Jules and Jim (1962) is a perfect example. The film is based on the semi-autobiographical novel of the same name, which was written by Henri-Pierre Roche in 1953. Roche was 73 years old at the time Jules and Jim was published, and it was his first book. I think every would-be writer might find that little bit of trivia inspiring, but for Truffaut Jules and Jim was also an irresistible story. His film was hailed as an instant classi, and has just been released as
As unique today as it was when it was released.
By incorporating elements of William S. Burroughs' life into the screenplay, David Cronenberg's Naked Lunch is not a straight adaptation of Burrough's classic Beat novel but more a story about its making. Cronenberg has created a captivating hallucinatory tale reminiscent of the book by retaining some stylistic and thematic elements. In New York City 1953, Bill Lee (Peter Weller) works as an exterminator killing bugs, but his jobs are difficult to complete because his wife Joan (Judy Davis) shoots up the poisonous bug powder. While sitting around with a couple of writer friends, Hank and Martin (stand-ins for fellow Beat
Terence Davies plumbs his Liverpool upbringing in 1992’s brilliantly dense The Long Day Closes, a film that is as much about the transience of growing up as it is about the joy of it. The picture is coated in certain melancholy and, sure to Davies’ style, eschews the linear narrative in favour of shards of memory, music and feeling. Thanks to the good people at Criterion Collection, The Long Day Closes is now available on Blu-ray (there’s a DVD version in the package too). The transfer vividly pulls Davies’ world of gray and brown into focus. The working class environs
La vie de bohème (1992) Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: Aki Kaurismäki Does Tragedy and Comedy Equally Well
Finnish great Aki Kaurismäki spins his tonally flexible take on Paris bohemian life.
The Film Finnish great Aki Kaurismäki’s take on Paris bohemian life, La vie de bohème, doesn’t end well for its characters — how could it? It’s based on Henri Murger’s collection of stories Scènes de la vie de bohème, which provided the basis for opera La Bohème, which in turn inspired Rent, and if you’ve seen anything in this pipeline, you know there’s some consumptive death in the cards. What’s remarkable about Kaurismäki’s version is the balancing act of tones he achieves. Fans will no doubt be familiar with the filmmaker’s canny ability to bring deadpan humor and deep melancholy
A landmark documentary film receives a gorgeous Blu-ray upgrade.
The Film A landmark in documentary filmmaking and possibly the most well known work from the school of direct cinema, the Maysles Brothers’ Grey Gardens is fascinating, hilarious, disturbing and uncomfortable. It’s about as incisive a portrait as you could get of crumbling aristocracy, but it’s even more remarkable as a deeply empathetic, humanist picture of living life in the face of crushing disappointment. The subjects — mother and daughter duo Big and Little Edie Beale, reclusive cousins of Jackie Onassis — are irresistible, and Little Edie’s unabashed showmanship for the camera has understandably made her a cult icon. The
The first dramatic comedy by Chaplin teaches us how to see clearly despite the blinding lights.
The Criterion Collection has returned to the well again this month. They are releasing the fifth film in their Charlie Chaplin series. I've shared my thoughts on Modern Times, The Great Dictator and The Gold Rush in previous reviews. By not releasing the films in chronological order, the exposure to the arc of his career is very disjointed. We've seen the mature Chaplin films including talkies and the final evolution of his Tramp character. Only one has given us a glimpse into the early years of the character - The Gold Rush (1925). I thought it was time to explore