Criterion’s May 2011 Assault on Your Wallet

In May, Criterion is bringing us three more new titles paired with four Blu-ray upgrades, and one of the more eclectic mixes they’ve done in a while.

MAY 3rd

Fat Girl (2001) Blu-ray Upgrade

Catherine Breillat’s movie was very controversial upon release, specifically due to depictions of underage sex (and nudity). That isn’t the most shocking thing in the movie by far, and if anyone spoils it in the comments, I’ll ban them. The plot finds an introverted, overweight girl going on vacation with her family, including her older sister, who has no issues hooking up with a guy in the same room as her little sis. Not one that I’ve re-watched since I got the original DVD as a blind buy. It’s an interesting look at absent parenting and adolescent sexuality, and not gratuitously explicit, but I can’t see myself queueing it up very often. So far as I understand it, the French title, A ma soeur, more literally translates to “To My Sister”, which makes more sense to me, having seen it. Extras include:

  • High-definition digital restoration (with DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition)
  • Behind-the-scenes footage from the making of Fat Girl
  • Two interviews with director Catherine Breillat, one conducted the night after the film’s world premiere at the 2001 Berlin Film Festival, the other a look back at the film’s production and alternate ending
  • French and U.S. theatrical trailers
  • Plus: A booklet featuring an essay by film scholar Ginette Vincendeau, a 2001 interview with Breillat, and a piece by Breillat on the title

Smiles of a Summer Night (1955) Blu-ray Upgrade

The film that helped lift Ingmar Bergman out of a near-suicidal depression ends up one of the lighter films in his filmography. The supplemental materials aren’t too extensive, but they interlink nicely with the releases of The Seventh Seal and Fanny and Alexander. Note that the booklet includes Pauline Kael’s review of the film:

  • Digital restoration (with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition)
  • Video introduction to the film by director Ingmar Bergman
  • Video conversation between Bergman scholar Peter Cowie and writer Jörn Donner, executive producer of Fanny and Alexander
  • Original theatrical trailer
  • PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by theater and film critic John Simon and a 1961 review by film critic Pauline Kael

May 10th

Something Wild (1986) DVD & Blu-ray

Jonathan Demme’s early career kidnap comedy was shot in Tallahassee, Florida. One of my favorite college memories was meeting him at SXSW and telling him I was with the campus film series at Florida State, to which he responded, “In Tallahassee? That’s my second favorite city in the world!”. Jeff Daniels plays a yuppie businessman who gets kidnapped by the free-spirited Melanie Griffith in one of my favorite road trip movies. This is yet another happy result of Criterion’s partnership with MGM. Cover art by Sam SMith (who did the iconic Hausu last fall). Extras include:

  • New, restored digital transfer, supervised by director of photography Tak Fujimoto and approved by director Jonathan Demme, with DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition
  • New video interviews with Demme and writer E. Max Frye
  • Original theatrical trailer
  • PLUS: A booklet featuring a new essay by film critic David Thompson

May 17th

Pale Flower (1964) DVD & Blu-ray

I previewed this cracking Japanese New Wave yazuka drama here. An excerpt:

“Director Masahiro Shinoda is one of the biggest names from the Japanese New Wave, alongside Shohei Imamura and Nagisa Oshima. Shinoda was born into privilege in the 30′s, became jaded after the war, and dedicated his artistic life to finding how Japanese culture brought itself into ruin by getting into and losing WWII.”

“His breakthrough film, Pale Flower, finds a yazuka freshly-released from jail only to find his gang has merged with their main rival. He falls for a gambler with a face to kill for. Shinoda likes to encapsulate Pale Flower as “a day in the life of an assassin”. It’s a great film that stands up well on its own in addition to the historical importance it holds relative to the yazuka films that would follow it.”

  • New high-definition digital restoration (with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition)
  • New video interview with director Masahiro Shinoda
  • Selected-scene audio commentary by film scholar Peter Grilli, coproducer of Music for the Movies: Toru Takemitsu
  • Original theatrical trailer
  • New and improved English subtitle translation
  • PLUS: A new essay by film critic Chuck Stephens

Diabolique (1955) New DVD & Blu-ray Editions

One of Criterion’s early spine numbers (#35), Diabolique has influenced countless thrillers. Criterion themselves rightly cite Psycho, Peeping Tom, and Repulsion on their refreshed product page for this, their second Henri-Georges Clouzot title to go Blu (after Wages of Fear). The prior edition had no supplements, but this one does. The interview with Bromberg may hint at a future release of Inferno (or so I can hope). Extras include:

  • New digital restoration (with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition)
  • Selected-scene commentary by French-film scholar Kelley Conway
  • New video interview with Serge Bromberg, codirector of Henri-Georges Clouzot’s Inferno
  • New video interview with horror film expert Kim Newman
  • New and improved English subtitle translation
  • PLUS: A booklet featuring a new essay by film critic Terrence Rafferty

May 24th

The Great Dictator (1940) DVD & Blu-ray

Chaplin plays the dual roles of dictator Adenoid Hynkel and a simple Jewish barber to brilliant satiric effect. Chaplin bankrolled this movie himself, and it was his biggest box office success (though it didn’t win any of the five Oscars it was nominated for). It’s often (erroneously) asserted that this is the first time that his Tramp speaks on film, but he technically retired the character in Dictator’s predecessor, Modern Times. He re-uses the hat and cane here, but that’s where the link ends. The cover art, one should note, is done by the brilliant Olly Moss. Extras include:

  • New high-definition digital restoration (with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition)
  • New audio commentary by Charlie Chaplin historians Dan Kamin and Hooman Mehran
  • The Tramp and the Dictator (2001), a documentary narrated by filmmaker Kenneth Branagh and featuring interviews with author Ray Bradbury, director Sidney Lumet, historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr., screenwriter Budd Schulberg, and a host of others
  • Two new visual essays, by Chaplin archivist Cecilia Cenciarelli and Chaplin biographer Jeffrey Vance
  • On-set, color production footage shot by Chaplin’s half-brother, Sydney
  • Deleted scene from Chaplin’s 1919 film Sunnyside
  • Theatrical trailer
  • PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by film critic Michael Wood and a 1940 article by Chaplin on the film

Solaris (1972) New DVD & Blu-ray Editions

I covered this the other day, when Criterion jumped the gun on today’s announcement. The extras stay 100% the same on the new version, the only difference is the video transfer. An excerpt:

“Andrei Tarkovsky’s Solaris is one of the very few Criterion titles that’s been subject to some justified criticism since its original release: the black & white scenes were intended to have a blue tint to them. The release was chock full of enough extras otherwise that most collectors who knew or cared just didn’t mind.”

“If you’ve never seen it and just know that Steven Soderbergh and George Clooney teamed up to remake it a few years ago (to not much financial success), Solaris follows a psychologist who is sent to investigate a space station after mission control starts receiving strange transmissions. He goes up into the void of space and ends up plunging into the depths of his psyche to fascinating effect.”

“If the coloration detail doesn’t bother you and you don’t simply have to have it on Blu-ray [or sam Smith’s lovely new cover art], you can use coupon code RHEYA at checkout on Criterion’s site and get the old 2-disc DVD edition for $13.98. It’s out of stock at the moment, and officially out of print, but they’ll have their remaining copies restocked shortly.”

Extras include:

  • High-definition digital restoration (with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition)
  • Audio essay by Andrei Tarkovsky scholars Vida Johnson and Graham Petrie, coauthors of The Films of Andrei Tarkovsky: A Visual Fugue
  • Nine deleted and alternate scenes
  • Video interviews with actress Natalya Bondarchuk, cinematographer Vadim Yusov, art director Mikhail Romadin, and composer Eduard Artemyev
  • Excerpt from a documentary about Stanislaw Lem, the author of the film’s source novel
  • PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by critic Phillip Lopate and an appreciation by director Akira Kurosawa

Which ones are must-buys for you, in this rare month of seven releases?