Criterion’s July Assault on Your Wallet

In July, Criterion is adding three new films to their Collection alongside three major Blu-ray upgrades, spanning various genre and countries. Criterion also announced that they are offering Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times at a 50% discount with coupon code MODERN as supplies last through April 17th.

JULY 12th

Naked (1993) Blu-ray Upgrade

After releasing Topsy Turvy this month, Criterion is giving the HD bump to Mike Leigh’s 1993 Cannes award winner (for Best Director and Actor for David Thewlis). If you only know Thewlis from Harry Potter, you owe yourself a look at this to really see him tear it up here. He plays a man who refuses to commit and does so with a cold, vicious edge. This one includes new (and in my mind greatly-improved) cover art, like Beauty and the Beast below.

Extras include:

  • Restored high-definition digital transfer, supervised and approved by director Mike Leigh, withDTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition
  • Audio commentary by Leigh and actors David Thewlis and Katrin Cartlidge
  • Exclusive video interview with director Neil LaBute
  • An episode of the BBC program The Art Zone in which author Will Self interviews Leigh
  • The Short and Curlies, a short comedy from 1982 directed by Leigh and starring Thewlis, with audio commentary by Leigh
  • Original theatrical trailer
  • PLUS: A booklet featuring essays by film critics Derek Malcolm and Amy Taubin


Beauty and the Beast (1946) Blu-ray Upgrade

New cover art, HD video, and uncompressed HD audio are all good things for this early Criterion release (spine number 6!), which they’ve already remastered and re-released once previously on DVD. Cocteau’s version of Beauty and the Beast regularly edges the Disney favorite form the 90’s for people who’ve actually seen both. This release leaves only one of Criterion’s first ten releases (that’s still in print) not on Blu-ray: A Night to Remember.

Extras include:

  • High-definition digital transfer from restored film elements, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack
  • Composer Philip Glass’s opera La Belle et la Bête, presented in 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio as an alternate soundtrack
  • Two commentaries: one by film historian Arthur Knight and one by writer and cultural historian Sir Christopher Frayling
  • Screening at the Majestic, a 1995 documentary featuring interviews with cast and crew
  • Interview with cinematographer Henri Alekan
  • Rare behind-the-scenes photos and publicity stills
  • Film restoration demonstration
  • Original trailer, directed and narrated by director Jean Cocteau, plus restoration trailer from 1995
  • PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by film critic Geoffrey O’Brien, a piece on the film by Cocteau, excerpts from Francis Steegmuller’s 1970 book Cocteau: A Biography, and an introduction to Glass’s opera by the composer

The Music Room (1959) DVD & Blu-ray

Renaissance man Satyajit Ray (who was a fiction writer, designer, film critic and so on) was considered one of the great 20th century auteurs. Regardless, even arthouse movie-going, PBS tote bag-owning, BBC sitcom-watching western audiences may not recognize his name at a glance. He won over 30 Indian National Film Awards throughout his career, and was awarded an honorary Oscar in 1991, the year before his death.

If I were to compare the plot of The Music Room to a recent Criterion release, it’d be The Secret of the Grain, which also focuses on a patriarch struggling with supporting his family at his own expense. Even though the respective dads are at opposite ends of the social spectrum, their struggle is strikingly similar. Indian cinema isn’t all Bollywood noise just like all American cinema isn’t just Hollywood noise, regardless of how defeaning either can be at times.

The extras are terrific, including both a feature doc about the director’s career (which will help as a primer for those new to his work), and an interview with Mira Nair (Monsoon Wedding, Mississippi Masala), among other things.

Extras include:

  • New digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition
  • Satyajit Ray (1984), a feature documentary by Shyam Benegal that chronicles Ray’s career and includes interviews with the filmmaker, family photographs, and extensive clips from his films
  • New interview with filmmaker Mira Nair
  • New interview in which Ray biographer Andrew Robinson discusses the making of The Music Room and the film’s cultural significance
  • Excerpt from a 1981 French roundtable discussion with Ray, film critic Michel Ciment, and filmmaker Claude Sautet
  • New and improved English subtitle translation
  • PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by critic Philip Kemp as well as reprints of a 1963 essay by Ray and a 1986 interview with the director about the film’s music


High and Low (1963) Blu-ray Upgrade

Kurosawa’s next to last film with Toshiro Mifune (before a major falling out between the two) features the legendary actor playing a wealthy businessman in a kidnapping thriller. Criterion previously remastered this one (like Beauty and the Beast) once before on DVD. It’s hard to pick favorites out of Kurosawa’s 30+ film career, but this one ranks high on my list.

Extras include:

  • New, restored high-definition digital transfer with original four-track surround sound
  • Audio commentary featuring Akira Kurosawa scholar Stephen Prince
  • A 37-minute documentary on the making of High and Low, created as part of the Toho Masterworksseries Akira Kurosawa: It Is Wonderful to Create
  • Rare video interview with actor Toshiro Mifune, conducted by TV talk-show host Tetsuko Kuroyanagi
  • New video interview with actor Tsutomu Yamazaki, who plays the kidnapper
  • Theatrical trailers from Japan and the U.S.
  • New and improved English subtitle translation
  • PLUS: A booklet featuring a new essay by critic Geoffrey O’Brien and an on-set account by Japanese film scholar Donald Richie

Léon Morin, Priest (1961) DVD & Blu-ray

Jean-Paul Belmondo teamed with director Jean-Pierre Melville (Le SamouraiLe Cercle Rouge) to play a priest trying to bring a wayward, promiscuous woman back on the straight and narrow. All of the women in the village want him, but he won’t stray…or will he? Or won’t he? For those more familiar with Melville’s gangster/crime films, this is a refreshing look at his talent with any subject matter you could imagine. Adding this film, Criterion has far more of Melville’s movies in print than they don’t. That makes me hope they lock down his whole filmography before long.

Extras include:

  • New high-definition digital restoration (with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition)
  • Archival interview with director Jean-Pierre Melville and actor Jean-Paul Belmondo
  • Visual essay by French film scholar Ginette Vincendeau
  • Original theatrical trailer
  • PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by critic and novelist Gary Indiana

Life During Wartime (2010) DVD & Blu-ray

Todd Solondz ranks among the most divisive filmmakers I’m aware of, since I’ve had countless conversations with friends where no one comes out in the middle on him. They either adore or despise his films, nothing in-between. His post-9/11 film, which echoes his Happiness (to which this is a semi-sequel), got a mixed reaction at Toronto last year, but the debate over it kicks it into the “important” category per Criterion’s motto, since so few films are as ballsy. If you hate his films, admire Todd Solondz’s balls. Yes, you read that right.

Extras include:

  • New digital transfer, supervised and approved by director of photography Ed Lachman (with DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition)
  • Ask Todd, an audio Q&A with director Todd Solondz in which he responds to viewers’ questions
  • Making “Life During Wartime,” a new documentary featuring interviews with actors Shirley Henderson, Allison Janney, Michael Lerner, Paul Reubens, Ally Sheedy, and Michael Kenneth Williams, and on-set footage of the actors and crew
  • New video piece in which Lachman discusses his work on the film
  • Original theatrical trailer
  • PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by film critic David Sterritt

More detailed synopses for all these films are now available over on Criterion’s website.

What do you guys think about Criterion’s late summer slate? Love, hate, or something in between? Mortgaging your house to buy them all? Let us know in the comments.