Criterion’s August Assault on Your Wallet

More Kubrick and Polanski join the Collection, along with a great modern Korean film. They pay tribute to Jean Vigo and Koreyoshi Kurahara with a pair of box sets. Cocteau’s Orpheus, Battle of Algiers, and If… get Blu-ray upgrades. Read on for more details.


The Battle of Algiers (1966) Blu-ray Upgrade

Criterion’s massive 3-DVD monster set, much like the Seven Samurai one before it, spans two Blu-rays since it’s just too big for one Blu-ray disc. The movie dramatizes the 1950’s French occupation of Algeria, and it’s a true tour de force.

Supplements include:

-High-definition digital transfer, supervised by director of photography Marcello Gatti (with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition)
-Gillo Pontecorvo: The Dictatorship of Truth, a documentary narrated by literary critic Edward Said
-Marxist Poetry: The Making of “The Battle of Algiers,” a documentary featuring interviews with Pontecorvo, Gatti, composer Ennio Morricone, and others
-Interviews with Spike Lee, Mira Nair, Julian Schnabel, Steven Soderbergh, and Oliver Stone on the film’s influence, style, and importance
-Remembering History, a documentary reconstructing the Algerian experience of the battle for independence
-“États d’armes,” a documentary excerpt featuring senior French military officers recalling the use of torture and execution to combat the Algerian rebellion
-“The Battle of Algiers”: A Case Study, a video piece featuring U.S. counterterrorism experts
-Gillo Pontecorvo’s Return to Algiers, a documentary in which the filmmaker revisits the country after three decades of independence
-Production gallery
-Theatrical and rerelease trailers
-PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by film scholar Peter Matthews, excerpts from Algeria’s National Liberation Front leader Saadi Yacef’s original account of his arrest, excerpts from the film’s screenplay, a reprinted interview with cowriter Franco Solinas, and biographical sketches of key figures in the French-Algerian War


The Killing (1956) DVD & Blu-ray
also includes Killer’s Kiss (1955)

No, this has nothing to do with the hot new TV show. Killing is Kubrick’s third film, and the one that immediately precedes Paths of Glory (which Criterion released last October). It joins Paths, Killer’s Kiss, and Fear and Desire as the only Kubrick films not controlled by Warner Bros. in the US. Killing is often overshadowed by Paths when critics analyze Kubrick’s early work, but this new edition from Criterion will probably open it up to new appreciation. This crackerjack robbery/heist movie deserves it. The most prominent extra, missed by most outlets reporting the August slate, is that Criterion packed Kubrick’s second feature, Killer’s Kiss, on the same Blu-ray.

Supplements include:

-New high-definition digital restoration (with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition)
-New video interview with producer James B. Harris
-Excerpts of interviews with actor Sterling Hayden from the French television series Cinéma cinémas
-New video interview with film scholar Robert Polito about writer Jim Thompson and his work on The Killing
-Restored transfer of Stanley Kubrick’s 1955 noir feature Killer’s Kiss
-New video appreciation of Killer’s Kiss with film critic Geoffrey O’Brien
-Theatrical trailers
-PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by film historian Haden Guest and a reprinted interview with Marie Windsor on The Killing

Cul de Sac (1966) DVD & Blu-ray

Another third film, Cul de Sac follows Polanski’s Repulsion, which Criterion released in 2009. Featuring a suspense plot reminiscent of the plays of Pinter and Beckett, this title has long been rumored for Criterion release.

Supplements include:

-New digital restoration, approved by director Roman Polanski (with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition)
-Two Gangsters and an Island, a 2003 short documentary about the making of Cul-de-sac, featuring interviews with Polanski, producer Gene Gutowski, and cinematographer Gil Taylor
-Interview with Polanski from 1967
-Theatrical trailers
-PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by film critic David Thompson


Secret Sunshine (2007) DVD & Blu-ray

Criterion’s first Korean release is a 2007 film whose lead actress won an award that year at Cannes. A widowed piano teacher moves herself and her child to the country town where her late husband grew up. I have friends who have watched imported copies of this movie upwards of three times. If you aren’t paying attention to modern Korean cinema, you’re missing out big-time.

Supplements include:

-New digital transfer, supervised and approved by director Lee Chang-dong and cinematographer Cho Yong-kyu (with DTS-HD Master Audio on the Blu-ray edition)
-New interview with Lee
-On the Set of “Secret Sunshine,” a video piece featuring interviews with actors Jeon Do-yeon and Song Kang-ho, as well as behind-the-scenes footage
-U.S. theatrical trailer
-New and improved English subtitle translation
-PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by film critic Dennis Lim

Eclipse Series 28: The Warped World of Koreyoshi Kurahara
Intimidation (1960)
The Warped Ones (1960)
I Hate But Love (1962)
Black Sun (1964)
Thirst for Love (1967)

Kurahara is best known for his 1983 film Antarctica (which was remade somewhat recently as Eight Below). This mix of his films from the 60’s is diverse indeed, including trademark Japanese New Wave movies (Intimidation and The Warped Ones), a Preston Sturges-influence road comedy (I Hate But Love), what Criterion calls an “anti-buddy” movie (Black Sun), and a psychological drama (Thirst for Love). As always, this Eclipse set has no extras but features short essays in the front cover of each disc. Eclipse is Criterion’s unsung badass sidekick that deserves more credit.


Orpheus (1950) Blu-ray Upgrade

Previously part of an “Orphic Trilogy” box set (the rights holders pulled the other two), Jean Cocteau’s 1950’s take on the Orpheus/Eurydice myth is bound to look glorious with the updated picture mastering. The box set had barely any extras, so almost everything in the supplements list is brand new to US disc release.

Supplements include:

-New high-definition digital restoration (with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition)
-Audio commentary by French film scholar James Williams
-Jean Cocteau: Autobiography of an Unknown, a 1984 feature-length documentary
-Video piece from 2008 featuring assistant director Claude Pinoteau on the special effects in the film
-40 Minutes with Jean Cocteau, an interview with the director from 1957
-In Search of Jazz, a 1956 interview with Cocteau on the use of jazz in the film
-La villa Santo-Sospir, a 16 mm color Cocteau film from 1951
-Gallery of images by French film portrait photographer Roger Corbeau
-Raw newsreel footage
-Theatrical trailer
-PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by author Mark Polizzotti, selected Cocteau writings on the film, and an essay on La villa Santo-Sospir by Williams

IF… (1968) Blu-ray Upgrade

One of my favorite angry young man films (and films in general, really) gets the big HD upgrade, and if I’m not mistaken, is the first Criterion Blu-ray that has a significant amount of scenes in black & white a well as color.

Supplements include:

-Restored high-definition digital transfer, approved by cinematographer Miroslav Ondříček and assistant editor Ian Rakoff (with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition)
-Audio commentary featuring film critic and historian David Robinson and actor Malcolm McDowell
-Episode of the Scottish TV series Cast and Crew from 2003, featuring interviews with McDowell, Ondříček, Rakoff, director’s assistant Stephen Frears, producer Michael Medwin, and screenwriter David Sherwin
-Video interview with actor Graham Crowden
-Thursday’s Children (1954), an Academy Award–winning documentary about a school for deaf children, by director Lindsay Anderson and Guy Brenton and narrated by actor Richard Burton
-PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by critic David Ehrenstein as well as reprinted pieces by Sherwin and Anderson

The Complete Jean Vigo
A Propos de Nice (1930)
Taris (1931 short)
Zero de Conduite (1933)
L’atalante (1934)

Vigo is considered one of the great influences of the French New Wave. He died of tuberculosis before he turned 30. This set includes the only four films he ever made together in their first official, proper, and uncut US home video release (L’atalante was previously out on DVD from New Yorker).

Nice was considered subversive, but his last two feature films are the ones that would shape world cinema for decades to come. The schoolboy revolt depicted in Conduite would heavily influence The 400 Blows and serve as a template for IF…, which gets Blu-graded the same day this one comes out as no coincidence. Conduite was banned in France from 1933-1946.

L’atalante has been considered one of the greatest films of all time by scholars and critics. It was butchered by its distributor upon original release, and was only restored when an original cut was found by the Italian Film Archive.

As far as Historically Important Cinema, this is one of the biggest releases of the year, like spine number #500 (Rosselini’s War Trilogy) was.

Supplements include:

-New high-definition digital restorations of all of Jean Vigo’s films: À propos de Nice, Taris, Zéro de conduite, and L’Atalante (with uncompressed monaural soundtracks on the Blu-ray edition)
-Audio commentaries featuring Michael Temple, author of Jean Vigo
-Alternate shots from À propos de Nice, featuring footage Vigo cut from the film
-Animated tribute to Vigo by filmmaker Michel Gondry
-Ninety-minute 1964 episode of the French television series Cinéastes de notre temps on Vigo, directed by Jacques Rozier
-Conversation from 1968 between filmmakers François Truffaut and Eric Rohmer on L’Atalante
-Les voyages de “L’Atalante,” Bernard Eisenschitz’s 2001 documentary tracking the history of the film
-Video interview from 2007 with director Otar Iosseliani on Vigo
-New and improved English subtitle translations
-PLUS: A booklet featuring essays by film writers Michael Almereyda, Robert Polito, B. Kite, and Luc Sante

The Criterion Blu-ray of Kubrick’s Paths of Glory costs less than it does during the Barnes & Noble sales. Grab it if you haven’t.

More from me tomorrow, when I review all of Criterion’s May releases in one post!