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Bob Dylan: Dont Look Back Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: Glimpses into the Heart of the Artist

Come gather 'round people and watch one of the greatest documentaries ever made.
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By the time Bob Dylan toured England in the Spring of 1965, he’d released five albums (two of which went platinum), scored a couple of number one hits, been covered by such luminaries as Joan Baez and The Byrds, written some of the greatest songs in popular music, and became the voice of a generation. Critics loved him, fans mobbed him, and journalists followed him about, asking him an endless supply of inane questions. Though he started out writing protest songs and was heavily involved in causes such as the anti-war movement and the civil rights movement, by this point

A Special Day Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: Special Performances from Italian Screen Legends

Italian stars Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni play against type in this beguiling drama.
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The setup for this Italian film is deceptively simple, but belies the impact of the performances by its two stars, screen legends Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni. Playing against type, their characters meet by chance in their otherwise vacant apartment building and spend the entirety of the film and their day getting to know each other. Loren is a resigned and harried housewife, tired of the grind of caring for her oaf of a husband and ungrateful brood of kids but unable to find any escape. Mastroianni plays a persecuted journalist about to be shipped off for both his liberal

The Honeymoon Killers Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: A Striking Portrait of Isolation

A one-and-done feature from Leonard Kastle, The Honeymoon Killers subverts expectations of exploitation.
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The only film ever directed by opera composer Leonard Kastle, The Honeymoon Killers wears its influences on its sleeve, but never feels derivative or carbon-copied. The story, based on the real-life “lonely heart” killings by Raymond Fernandez and Martha Beck, is pure exploitation fodder, and while Kastle’s film acknowledges the luridness, it also dabbles in kitchen-sink realism and rhythms of alienation that recall some of the French New Wave. Kastle doesn’t gawk at his twisted subjects, instead opting to make their social and romantic hopelessness deeply felt. The Honeymoon Killers also might have the best backstory of a “one-and-done” filmmaking

Two Days, One Night Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: Devastatingly Beautiful

Marion Cotillard gives an intense, subtle performance in this moving drama.
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In the industrial town of Seraing, Belgium, Sandra (Marion Cotillard) has been on sick leave from her manufacturing job after a nervous breakdown. In her absence, her coworkers realize they can cover her shift by collectively working slightly longer hours. Just as Sandra is ready to return to work, she finds out that the bosses have given her coworkers a choice - they can either return to their normal shifts and have Sandra come back to work, or they can continue working the longer shifts and receive a €1,000 bonus. By accepting the bonus, Sandra will no longer be employed.

The French Lieutenant's Woman Criterion Collection Review: Parallel Tales Rooted in Forbidden Passions

The dual roles played by Meryl Streep and Jeremy Irons provide each of them the opportunity to portray desperation, longing, and tortured vulnerability.
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Based on the John Fowles novel, The French Lieutenant's Woman tells parallel tales rooted in forbidden passions and the complexity of human emotions.Meryl Streep and Jeremy Irons play the central characters in both narratives. The foundational story is set in the Victorian-era where Charles (Irons) is an upper-class English gentleman engaged to Ernestina (Lynsey Baxter). Soon after their engagement, they see a woman, Sarah (Streep), at the end of a jetty in danger of being thrown into the water due to a storm that is brewing. When Charles makes efforts to go help Sarah, Ernestina stops him by explaining that

My Beautiful Laundrette Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: The Film Stands the Test of Time

A groundbreakingly potent depiction of bleak social commentary
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When discussing some of the most influential LGBT films, Stephen Frears' 1985 modern classic My Beautiful Laundrette usually is one of the most talked about, because it doesn't just address the unforunate issues of homophobia, but also the brutal, sometimes tragic aspects of racism, social status, and cultural differences. One of the reasons why it remains such an influential film is because it showcases a same-sex relationship that is both tender and unusual. It is no wonder why this is considered, along side The Grifters and Dangerous Liaisons, one of his very best cinematic creations. The story centers on Omar

Limelight Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: Chaplin's Coda

Age must pass as youth enters.
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My Chaplin journey hasn't been linear. I didn't start with the silent shorts and work my way through The Kid (1921) and onto A Countess From Hong Kong (1967). It was a rambling journey that went forwards and backwards through highlights of his spectacular career with Criterion including Modern Times, The Great Dictator, City Lights, and The Gold Rush. In many ways the other films were reflections and parables of the times Chaplin was living in. The newest Criterion Blu-ray release is Limelight from 1952. It's subtitled "in his human drama" and this film is his most personal story. The

Here is Your Life Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: An Engrossing and Enervating Debut

The first feature film from Swedish filmmaker Jan Troell has its visual merits, but it's bogged down by a leaden narrative.
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A film that’s both engrossing and enervating at turns, Here is Your Life kicked off the feature-film career of Swedish director Jan Troell, an art house sensation in the ’70s with breakthrough duo The Emigrants and The New Land. The multi-talented Troell directed, shot, edited, and co-wrote the screenplay for Here is Your Life, based on one of a series of semi-autobiographical novels by Eyvind Johnson, and though Troell’s camerawork and editing are often inventive, the film never really breaks free from its novelistic shackles. After his father falls ill, teenager Olof (Eddie Axberg) is forced to leave his sickness-ridden

The Killers (1946) / (1964) Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: An Intriguing Double Feature

A great opportunity to see how artists and craftsmen handle the same material and obtain different results.
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Like taking a comparative literature class, The Killers from the Criterion Collection offers a great opportunity to see how artists and craftsmen handle the same material and obtain different results. In this instance, the source is Ernest Hemingway's short story "The Killers," which first appeared in a 1927 issue of Scribner's Magazine. An audio version of the story read by Stacy Keach is available as an extra and it tells of two hitmen who go to a diner looking to kill Ole Andreson, a Swedish boxer who frequents the place. When Ole doesn’t show, the men leave. Frequent Hemingway character

Five Easy Pieces Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: One Easy Role to Nicholson's Stardom

Nicholson breaks out in this early headlining role.
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A year removed from his breakout supporting turn in Easy Rider, Jack Nicholson moved to headliner status in this 1970 character study. Filmed during a time when character studies weren’t exactly prevalent in Hollywood, director Bob Rafelson’s film helped to lead a shift in the industry that paved the way for subsequent ‘70s greats. That’s not to say it holds up well, as it now seems to be a dated relic of a bygone era. Nicholson’s character Bobby Dupea is introduced as a lackadaisical oil-field worker, content to toil away in his job during the day and blow his pay

The Friends of Eddie Coyle Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: Crime, Lowkey, and Unsentimental

Peter Yates' 1973 Crime Drama explores how important, and how expendable, "Friends" can be in Boston's working-class criminal underground.
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Released about a year after Coppola's crime epic, The Godfather, The Friends of Eddie Coyle was seen by some critics as a kind of anti-Godfather when it was released. Both films are about the criminal world and how it suffuses the lives of those in it, but while The Godfather had a sepia-toned romanticism, Peter Yates' film, an adaptation of a George V. Higgins novel, has no room for sentimentality, or glamor. There's not much in the way of violence in the movie, either. It's a crime story, and it's about criminals, and while there's bank robberies, home invasions, gun

Odd Man Out Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: Deft and Thrilling Storytelling

An extremely overlooked masterpiece of personal and spiritual redemption.
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There have been many films about personal and conflicted crisis of conscience, such as American Beauty (1999), The Apostle (1997), and Magnolia (1999). However, as wonderful as these films are, I think that director Carol Reed's unjustly overlooked masterpiece Odd Man Out, easily outdoes them all, especially because of its subtle and sensitive depiction of ordinary people caught up in a web of troubles. This was one of Reed's breakthrough films, not just for its deft and thrilling storytelling, but it was also one of the first to address the circumstances of terrorism in human terms. It was adapted for

A Brief History of Time Criterion Collection Review: A Quirky, Idiosyncratic Tribute

A deep examination of a very complex, but legendary visionary
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Everyone knows the story of Stephen Hawking, the iconic physicist, cosmologist, author, and director of research. They also know that he struggles with a rare form of ALS that has afflicted him over many decades, but the coolest thing is that he doesn't let that unfortunate disease keep him doing his life's work. A Brief History of Time is director Errol Morris' quirky, idiosyncratic tribute to Hawking and his controversial ideas. In terms of Morris' other documentaries, including The Thin Blue Line, Gates of Heaven, and The Fog of War, Brief History ranks up there with those great works, while

The Thin Blue Line Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: A Paradigm Shift

Errol Morris changes the documentary game in 102 minutes.
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Rarely do you watch a film and actually pinpoint where a genre actually changes. You watch Clerks or Pulp Fiction and see where the genre is being moved forward. You can see in Batman and then again in Iron Man where a genre is being reinvigorated. But in 1988, Errol Morris made The Thin Blue Line and the field of documentaries would radically change. I was surprised that it had taken this long for the Criterion Collection to release this important film on Blu-ray. Documentary. The definition for years was simply to "document reality". The popular documentaries were often nature

Gates of Heaven / Vernon, Florida Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: Loving the Absurd

The characters Errol Morris speaks to in his first two films are living embodiments of the old maxim that truth is stranger than fiction.
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“I love the absurd,” says Errol Morris in one of the extras on the new Criterion Collection Blu-ray edition of Gates of Heaven (1978) / Vernon, Florida (1981). These are the first two films from the director of such notable documentaries as The Thin Blue Line (1988), A Brief History of Time (1991), and the Academy Award-winning The Fog of War: Eleven Lesson from the Life of Robert S. McNamara (2003), among others. To call the people he interviews in both of these pictures “absurd” is probably an understatement, but it will do. The characters Morris speaks to are true

An Autumn Afternoon Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: A Master's Final Masterpiece

Yasujiro Ozu left us with one final masterpiece in An Autumn Afternoon, a culmination of many of his favorite themes.
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Before he died of cancer on his 60th birthday in 1963, Yasujiro Ozu left us with one final masterpiece in An Autumn Afternoon, a culmination of many of his favorite themes. The twilight work of many filmmakers often lends itself better to footnotes than introductions, but the remarkably consistent Ozu has a career filled with potential jumping-off points, and his last film is also an excellent first one for Ozu neophytes. I should know — An Autumn Afternoon was my gateway into Ozu’s exquisite cinematic worlds. Frequent collaborator Chishu Ryu stars as Shuhei Hirayama, a widower who comes to accept

Young Mr. Lincoln Criterion Collection DVD Review: Ford's Greatest Overlooked Film

Although it will never be as celebrated as Stagecoach or The Searchers, it is unquestionably one of John Ford's greatest achievements.
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Young Mr. Lincoln (1939) may be the greatest overlooked film John Ford (1894 - 1973) ever made. To call a picture like this “overlooked” would be ridiculous in just about any other case. But Young Mr. Lincoln was one of three movies Ford directed that year. The other two were Drums Along the Mohawk (1939), and Best Picture nominee Stagecoach (1939). Ford’s own films are the competition, and I had no idea of just how good Young Mr. Lincoln was was until a friend gave me the two-DVD Criterion Collection edition of it. The film opens in 1832, where young

The Vanishing (1988) Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: Thriller as Character Study

A woman's disappearance creates a terrible bond between the man who took her, and the one who lost her.
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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

The Night Porter Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: A Nazi Love Story

Its a thin line between exploitation and art.
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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

It Happened One Night Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: The Original Runaway Bride

Frank Capra's romantic comedy classic shines in new Criterion release.
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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

Playtime Criterion Collection Review: Hulot vs. Modernization

Tati's own brilliantly satirical spin on the mechanical age
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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.

Criterion Announces December 2014 Releases

Some Christmas present options for the cinephile in the family.
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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

All That Jazz Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: Lord of the Dance

Bob Fosse’s crowning directorial achievement shines in the Criterion spotlight.
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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

Criterion Announces November 2014 Releases

Get your Xmas shopping for the movie fan in your life done a month early.
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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

Insomnia (1997) Criterion Collection Review: An Influential Thriller

Psychological thriller spins a tale without darkness.
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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

Persona (1966) Criterion Collection Review: An Absolute Must-have

A great film that should be watched and revered by any serious cinephile
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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

Criterion Announces October 2014 Releases

Which one are you most interested in owning?
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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

Persona (1966) Criterion Collection Review: Chilling, Strange, and Metaphysical

Bergman outdoes himself with an influential tale of identical madness.
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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,

Hearts and Minds (1974) Criterion Collection Review: A Riveting Documentary of the Vietnam War

This 40-year-old documentary feels as relevant today as ever, and is one that I will not soon forget.
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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

Criterion Announces September 2014 Releases

Go back to (film) school with these upcoming releases.
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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

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