Criterion’s March 2011 Assault on Your Wallet


Yi Yi (2000) Blu-ray

Is a ten-year-old film too young to be considered a classic? In the case of this nearly three-hour-long Taiwanese domestic drama that opens with a wedding and closes at a funeral, absolutely not. The now-deceased Edward Yang’s masterwork follows the trials and tribulations of a family over the course of a year. Yi Yi is one of the crown jewels of the New Taiwan Cinema movement. Previously available from Criterion as a DVD, it’s now on Blu-ray for the first time (with the same extras).

Supplements include:

  • Newly restored digital transfer (with DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition)
  • Audio commentary by writer-director Edward Yang and Asian-cinema critic Tony Rayns
  • Video interview with Rayns about Yang and the New Taiwan Cinema movement
  • U.S. theatrical trailer
  • Optional English subtitle translation by Yang and Rayns
  • PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by Kent Jones and notes from the director

Au revoir les enfants (1987)

Two young boys become the best of pals at a Catholic boarding school once upon a time in Nazi-occupied France. A secret is revealed, and everything is torn apart. One of Louis Malle’s most heart-rending dramas, this title was up for Blu-ray consideration over a year ago in an Amazon poll that Howard’s End eventually won. Like Yi Yi, this one retains the same extras and adds upgraded video & audio.

Supplements include:

  • Restored digital transfer supervised by director of photography Renato Berta (with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition)
  • Video interviews with Louis Malle biographer Pierre Billard and actress Candice Bergen, Malle’s widow
  • Joseph: A Character Study, a profile of the provocative figure from Au revoir les enfants, created by filmmaker Guy Magen in 2005
  • The Immigrant, Charlie Chaplin’s 1917 short comedy, featured in the film
  • Audio excerpts from a 1988 AFI interview with Malle
  • Original theatrical trailer and teaser
  • PLUS: A booklet featuring essays by film critic Philip Kemp and historian Francis J. Murphy


The Times of Harvey Milk (1984)

This title is in good company alongside the groundbreaking docs in the Criterion Collection, since it’s one of the first (and remains among most prominent) documentaries about gay life, in the U.S. or anywhere. For those who never saw this but did see Gus van Sant’s Milk, I envy their discovery of Robert Epstein’s doc that inspired the recent Oscar contender.

Supplements include:

  • Director-approved digital transfer, from the meticulous UCLA Film and Television Archive restoration (with DTS-HD Master Audio on the Blu-ray edition)
  • Audio commentary featuring director Robert Epstein,coeditor Deborah Hoffmann, and photographer Daniel Nicoletta
  • New interview with documentary filmmaker and UC Berkeley professor Jon Else
  • New program about The Times of Harvey Milk and Gus Van Sant’s Milk, featuring Epstein, Van Sant, actor James Franco, and Milk friends Cleve Jones, Anne Kronenberg, and Nicoletta
  • Postscript containing interview clips not used in the film
  • Rare collection of audio and video recordings of Harvey Milk
  • Interview excerpts from Epstein’s research tapes
  • Footage from the film’s Castro Theatre premiere and the 1984 Academy Awards ceremony
  • Panel discussion on Supervisor Dan White’s controversial trial
  • Excerpts from the twenty-fifth anniversary commemoration of Milk’s and Mayor George Moscone’s assassinations
  • Original theatrical trailer
  • PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by film critic B. RubyRich, a tribute by Milk’s nephew Stuart Milk, and a piece on the film’s restoration by the UCLA Film and Television Archive’s Ross Lipman

Eclipse Series 26: Silent Naruse (Flunky, Work Hard/No Blood Relation/Apart From You/Every-Night Dreams/Street Without End [1931-34])

Mikio Naruse is best known for his films focusing on the lives and hardships of women. He was one of the most popular directors of his time, and as the decades have rolled on, he is still considered one of the great masters of early Japanese cinema alongside lauded directors such as Ozu and Mizoguchi. He made over 20 silent films before making the jump to talkies, but only 5 survive. Criterion has put them all in this Eclipse release, which similarly brings strikingly important films to DVD for the first time in the US. No supplements are included, as is customary for Eclipse sets. Below are mini-synopses for each film.

Flunky, Work Hard (1931)
An insurance man tries to make a sale and his rambunctious kid chews scenery on the side. This short is Naruse’s earliest surviving film.

No Blood Relation (1932)
An actress gave up her kid when she hightailed it for Hollywood. Now she’s returned and wants the kid back, and isn’t afraid to use her gangster brother as leverage against the foster mother.

Apart From You (1933)
Naruse won critical praise for this portrait of working women struggling during the Depression.

Every-Night Dreams (1933)
A mother works as a barmaid to support her young son at a time when every day was a struggle.

Street Without End (1934)
A waitress has prospects galore until she is hit by a wealthy man’s car. This is Naruse’s final silent film.


The Mikado (1939)

The first Gilbert and Sullivan show to hit the silver screen is rich with glorious Technicolor visuals and is cast with the members of Richard D’Oyly Carte’s famous Opera Company. The extras include an interview with Mike Leigh (Topsy-Turvy) about the adaptation done here. This completes one of those perfect film + antecedent pairings that Criterion does so well (and unlike anyone else). Mikado marks not only the earliest color Blu-ray, but the earliest color film in the entire collection (a title previously held by The Thief of Baghdad).

Supplements include:

  • Newly remastered digital transfer (with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition)
  • New video interview with Topsy-Turvy director Mike Leigh on The Mikado and its adaptation for the screen
  • New video interview with Mikado scholars Josephine Lee and Ralph MacPhail Jr., tracing the 1939 filmed version of the opera back to its 1885 stage debut
  • More!
  • PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by critic Geoffrey O’Brien

Topsy-Turvy (1999)

Six decades after The Mikado was first put to film came Mike Leigh’s backstage dramatization of the 1885 premiere stage production of Mikado. The film includes one of Jim Broadbent’s breakthrough performances, in addition to turns by Timothy Spall, Lesley Manville, Kevin McKidd, and various other super-talented thespians. I recommend watching this as the second part of a Mikado double feature with a meal break in-between.

Supplements include:

  • Director-approved digital transfer, supervised by cinematographer Dick Pope (with DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition)
  • Audio commentary featuring director Mike Leigh
  • New video conversation between Leigh and the film’s musical director, Gary Yershon
  • A Sense of History, Leigh’s 1992 short film written by and starring actor Jim Broadbent
  • Deleted scenes
  • Featurette from 1999 including interviews with Leigh, stars Broadbent and Allan Corduner, and other cast members
  • Theatrical trailer and TV spots
  • PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by film critic Amy Taubin

What do you guys think of Criterion’s upcoming slate, and what foods would you pair with Mikado/Topsy-Turvy?