Every month the Criterion Collection releases a selection films deemed culturally or artistically significant in Blu-ray and DVD editions supplemented with extras that give context or an inside look at the film's creation. Plus, along with being consistently excellent films, the uniform design of the cases look great on your shelf. This month, Criterion releases an absolute classic with Akira Kurosawa's Rashomon, as well as Michael Cimino's Heaven's Gate, Pier Paolo Pasolini's Trilogy of Life (featuring The Decameron, Arabian Nights, and The Canterbury Tales), and Jean-Luc Godard's contemporary satire, Weekend. Additionally, this month marks the release of the 37th volume of the Eclipse Series with the four horror films of Shochiku.
Trilogy of Life
In the early 1970s, the great Italian poet, philosopher, and filmmaker Pier Paolo Pasolini (Salò, or The 120 Days of Sodom) brought to the screen a trio of masterpieces of premodern world literature—Giovanni Boccaccio’s The Decameron, Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales, and The Thousand and One Nights (often known as The Arabian Nights)—and in doing so created his most uninhibited and extravagant work, which he titled his Trilogy of Life. In this brazen and bawdy
triptych, the director set out to challenge consumer capitalism and celebrate the uncorrupted human body while commenting on contemporary sexual and religious mores and hypocrisies. His scatological humor and rough-hewn sensuality leave all modern standards of decency behind; these are physical, provocative, and wildly entertaining films, all extraordinarily designed by Dante Ferretti (Hugo) and featuring evocative music by Ennio Morricone (Days of Heaven).
Pasolini weaves together stories from Giovanni Boccaccio’s fourteenth-century moral tales in this picturesque free-for-all. The Decameron explores the delectations and dark corners of an earlier and, as the filmmaker saw it, less compromised time. Among the chief delights are a young man’s exploits with a gang of grave robbers, some randy nuns who sin with a strapping gardener, and Pasolini’s appearance as a pupil of the painter Giotto, at work on a massive fresco. One of the director’s most popular films, The Decameron, transposed to Naples from Boccaccio’s Florence, is a cutting takedown of the pieties surrounding religion and sex.
1971 • 111 minutes • Color • Monaural • In Italian with English subtitles • 1.85:1 aspect ratio
The Canterbury Tales
Eight of Geoffrey Chaucer’s lusty tales come to life on-screen in Pasolini’s gutsy and delirious The Canterbury Tales, which was shot in England and offers a remarkably earthy re-creation of the medieval era. From the story of a nobleman struck blind after marrying a much younger and ultimately promiscuous bride to a climactic trip to a hell populated by friars and demons (surely one of the most outrageously conceived and realized sequences ever committed to film), this is an unendingly imaginative work of merry blasphemy, framed by Pasolini’s portrayal of Chaucer himself.
1972 • 111 minutes • Color • Monaural • In Italian with English subtitles • 1.85:1 aspect ratio
Pasolini traveled to Africa, India, and the Middle East to realize this ambitious cinematic treatment of a handful of the stories from the legendary The Thousand and One Nights. This is not the fairy-tale world of Scheherazade or Aladdin or Ali Baba—instead, the director focuses on the more erotic tales, ones of desire, betrayal, and atonement, framed by the story of a young man’s quest to reconnect with his beloved slave girl. Full of lustrous sets and costumes and stunning location photography, Arabian Nights is a fierce and joyous exploration of human sensuality.
1974 • 130 minutes • Color • Monaural • In Italian with English subtitles • 1.85:1 aspect ratio
SPECIAL EDITION COLLECTOR’S SET FEATURES
• New high-definition digital restorations of all three films, with uncompressed monaural soundtracks on the Blu-ray editions
• New visual essays by film scholars Patrick Rumble and Tony Rayns on The Decameron and Arabian Nights, respectively
• New interviews with art director Dante Ferretti and composer Ennio Morricone about their work with Pasolini, and with film scholar Sam Rohdie on The Canterbury Tales
• The Lost Body of Alibech (2005), a forty-five-minute documentary by Roberto Chiesi about a lost sequence from The Decameron
• The Secret Humiliation of Chaucer (2006), a forty-seven-minute documentary by Chiesi about The Canterbury Tales
• Via Pasolini, a documentary in which Pasolini discusses his views on language, film, and modern society
• Pier Paolo Pasolini and the Form of the City (1974), a sixteen-minute documentary by Pasolini and Paolo Burnatto about the ancient Italian cities Orte and Sabaudia
• Deleted scenes from Arabian Nights, with transcriptions of pages from the original script
• Pasolini-approved English-dubbed track for The Canterbury Tales
• New English subtitle translations
• PLUS: A booklet featuring essays by critic Colin MacCabe; Pasolini’s 1975 article “Trilogy of Life Rejected”; excerpts from Pasolini’s Berlin Film Festival press conference for The Canterbury Tales; and a report from the set of Arabian Nights by critic Gideon Bachmann
A visionary critique of American expansionism, Heaven’s Gate, directed by Oscar winner Michael Cimino (The Deer Hunter), is among Hollywood’s most ambitious and unorthodox epics. Kris Kristofferson (Lone Star) brings his weathered sensuality to the role of a Harvard graduate who has relocated all the way to Wyoming as a federal marshal; there, he learns of a government-sanctioned plot by rich cattle barons to kill the area’s European settlers for their land. The resulting skirmish is based on the real-life bloody Johnson County War of 1892. Also starring Isabelle Huppert (White Material) and Christopher Walken (The Deer Hunter), Heaven’s Gate is a savage and ravishingly shot demystification of western movie lore. This is the full director’s cut, letting viewers today see Cimino’s potent original vision.
1980 • 216 minutes • Color • 5.1 surround • 2.40:1 aspect ratio
DIRECTOR-APPROVED SPECIAL EDITION FEATURES
• New, restored transfer of director Michael Cimino’s cut of the film, supervised by Cimino
• New restoration of the 5.1 surround soundtrack, supervised by Cimino, in DTS-HD Master Audio on the Blu-ray edition
• New illustrated audio interview with Cimino and producer Joann Carelli
• New interviews with actor Kris Kristofferson, soundtrack arranger and performer David Mansfield, and second assistant director Michael Stevenson
• The Johnson County War, a video interview with historian Bill O’Neal about the real-life conflict that inspired the film, and its resonance in popular culture
• Trailer and TV spots
• PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by critic and programmer Giulia D’Agnolo Vallan
This scathing late-sixties satire from Jean-Luc Godard (Breathless) is one of cinema’s great anarchic works. Determined to collect an inheritance from a dying relative, a bourgeois couple travel across the French countryside while civilization crashes and burns around them. Featuring a justly famous centerpiece sequence in which the camera tracks along a seemingly endless traffic jam, and rich with historical and literary references, Weekend is a surreally funny and disturbing call for revolution, a depiction of society retreating to savagery, and—according to the credits—the end of cinema itself.
1967 • 104 minutes • Color • Monaural • In French with English subtitles • 1.66:1 aspect ratio
SPECIAL EDITION FEATURES
• New, restored high-definition digital transfer, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition
• New video essay by film critic Kent Jones
• Archival interviews with actors Mireille Darc and Jean Yanne and assistant director Claude Miller
• Excerpt from a French television program on director Jean-Luc Godard, featuring on-set footage of Weekend shot by filmmaker Philippe Garrel
• PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by critic and novelist Gary Indiana
A riveting psychological thriller that investigates the nature of truth and the meaning of justice, Rashomon is widely considered one of the greatest films ever made. Four people recount different versions of the story of a man’s murder and the rape of his wife, which director Akira Kurosawa (Seven Samurai) presents with striking imagery and an ingenious use of flashbacks. This eloquent masterwork and international sensation revolutionized film language and introduced Japanese cinema—and a commanding new star by the name of Toshiro Mifune (Yojimbo)—to the Western world.
1950 • 88 minutes • Black & White • Monaural • In Japanese with English subtitles • 1.37:1 aspect ratio
SPECIAL EDITION FEATURES
• New digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition
• Audio commentary by Japanese-film historian Donald Richie
• Video introduction by director Robert Altman
• Excerpts from The World of Kazuo Miyagawa, a documentary on Rashomon’s cinematographer
• A Testimony as an Image, a sixty-eight-minute documentary featuring interviews with cast and crew
• Archival audio interview with actor Takashi Shimura
• Original and rerelease trailers
• New English subtitle translation
• PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by film historian Stephen Prince; an excerpt from director Akira Kurosawa’s Something Like an Autobiography; and reprints of Rashomon’s two source stories by Ryunosuke Akutagawa, “Rashomon” and “In a Grove”
Eclipse Series 37: When Horror Came to Shochiku
Following years of a certain radioactive rubber beast’s domination of the box office, many Japanese studios tried to replicate the formula with their own brands of monster movies. One of the most fascinating dives into that fiendish deep end was the short-lived one from Shochiku, a studio better known for its elegant dramas by the likes of Kenji Mizoguchi and Yasujiro Ozu. In 1967 and 1968, the company created four certifiably batty, low-budget fantasies, tales haunted by watery ghosts, plagued by angry insects, and stalked by aliens—including one in the form of a giant chicken-lizard. Shochiku’s outrageous and oozy horror period shows a studio leaping into the unknown, even if only for one brief, bloody moment.
FOUR-DVD BOX SET INCLUDES:
The X from Outer Space
When a scientist crew returns from Mars with some space spores that contaminated their ship, they inadvertently bring about a nightmarish Earth invasion—after the spores are analyzed in a lab, one escapes, eventually growing into an enormous, rampaging beaked beast. An intergalactic monster movie from longtime Shochiku stable director Kazui Nihonmatsu, The X from Outer Space was the first in the studio’s short but memorable cycle of horror pictures.
1967 • 88 minutes • Color • Monaural • In Japanese with English subtitles • 2.35:1 aspect ratio
Goke, Body Snatcher from Hell
After an airplane is forced to crash-land in a remote area, its passengers find themselves face-to-face with an alien force that wants to possess their bodies and souls—and perhaps take over the entire human race. Filled with creatively repulsive effects—including a very invasive bloblike life-form—Hajime Sato’s Goke, Body Snatcher from Hell is a pulpy, apocalyptic gross-out.
1968 • 84 minutes • Color • Monaural • In Japanese with English subtitles • 2.35:1 aspect ratio
The Living Skeleton
In this atmospheric tale of revenge from beyond the watery grave, a pirate-ransacked freighter’s violent past comes back to haunt a young woman living in a seaside town. Mixing elements of kaidan (ghost stories), doppelganger thrillers, and mad-scientist movies, Hiroshi Matsuno’s The Living Skeleton is a wild and eerie work, with beautiful widescreen, black-and-white cinematography.
1968 • 80 minutes • Black & White • Monaural • In Japanese with English subtitles • 2.35:1 aspect ratio
The insects are taking over in this nasty piece of disaster horror directed by Kazui Nihonmatsu. A group of military personnel transporting a hydrogen bomb are left to figure out how and why swarms of killer bugs took down their plane; the answer is more deliriously nihilistic—and convoluted—than you could imagine. Also known as War of the Insects, Genocide enacts a cracked doomsday scenario like no other.
1968 • 84 minutes • Color • Monaural • In Japanese with English subtitles • 2.35:1 aspect ratio