It's time to ring in the new year with some classic and contemporary cinema lovingly preserved by the folks over at The Criterion Collection. As The Criterion Collection continues their mission of cataloging culturally important films from across the ages, they also make it possible to get some of the best world cinema has to offer on Blu-ray and DVD. In January, The Criterion Collection releases new Blu-ray and DVD combo editions of: It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, the classic comedy by Stanley Kramer; Jules Dassin's classic caper Rififi; Michael Mann's first feature-length (non-TV-movie) neonoir film Thief; celebrated British director Terence Davies's masterpiece The Long Day Closes; Aki Kaurismaki's 1992 comedy La Vie de Boheme; and finally some more Akira Kurosawa (who likely has more films in the Criterion Collection than any other director) as he takes on Macbeth in Throne of Blood. Additionally, Criterion is releasing a set celebrating the later films of Indian director Satyajit Ray.
For details on all of these releases, read on.
Throne of Blood
A vivid, visceral Macbeth adaptation, Throne of Blood, directed by Akira Kurosawa (Seven Samurai), sets Shakespeare’s definitive tale of ambition and duplicity in a ghostly, fog-enshrouded landscape in feudal Japan. As a tough warrior who rises savagely to power, Toshiro Mifune (Yojimbo) gives a remarkable, animalistic performance, as does Isuzu Yamada (Black River) as his ruthless wife. Throne of Blood fuses classical Western tragedy with formal elements taken from Noh theater to create an unforgettable cinematic experience.
1957 • 109 minutes • Black & White • Monaural • In Japanese with English subtitles • 1.37:1 aspect ratio
DUAL-FORMAT BLU-RAY AND DVD SPECIAL EDITION FEATURES
• PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by critic Molly Haskell
SRP - $39.95
After making such American noir classics as Brute Force and The Naked City, the blacklisted director Jules Dassin went to Paris and embarked on his masterpiece: a twisting, turning tale of four ex-cons who hatch one last glorious robbery in the City of Light. Rififi is the ultimate heist movie, a melange of suspense, brutality, and dark humor that was an international hit, earned Dassin the best director prize at the Cannes Film Festival, and has proven wildly influential on decades of heist thrillers in its wake.
• PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by critic J. Hoberman
SRP - $39.95
The adored American auteur Michael Mann burst out of the gate with his bold artistic sensibility fully formed with Thief, his first theatrical feature. James Caan (The Godfather) stars, in one of his most riveting performances, as a no-nonsense ex-con safecracker planning to leave the criminal world behind after one final diamond heist, but discovering that escape is not as simple as he hoped. Finding hypnotic beauty in neon and rain-slick streets, sparks and steel, Thief effortlessly established the moody stylishness and tactile approach to action that would define such later iconic entertainments from Mann as Miami Vice, Manhunter, and Heat.
• PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by critic Nick James
SRP - $39.95
It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World
Stanley Kramer followed his Oscar-winning Judgment at Nuremberg with this sobering investigation of American greed. Ah, who are we kidding? It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, about a group of strangers fighting tooth and nail over buried treasure, is the most grandly harebrained movie ever made, a pileup of slapstick and borscht-belt-y one-liners performed by a nonpareil cast, including Milton Berle, Sid Caesar, Ethel Merman, Mickey Rooney, Spencer Tracy, Jonathan Winters, and a boatload of other playing-to-the-rafters comedy legends. For sheer scale of silliness, Kramer’s wildly uncharacteristic film is unlike any other, an exhilarating epic of tomfoolery.
• PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by film critic Lou Lumenick
SRP - $49.95
La Vie de Boheme
This deadpan tragicomedy about a group of impoverished, outcast artists living the bohemian life in Paris is among the most beguiling films by Finnish director Aki Kaurismäki (Le Havre). Based on stories from Henri Murger’s influential mid nineteenth-century book Scènes de la vie de bohème (the basis for the opera La bohème), the film features a marvelous trio of Kaurismäki regulars, André Wilms, Matti Pellonpää, and Karl Väänänen, as a poet, painter, and composer who scrape by together, sharing in life’s daily absurdities. Gorgeously shot in black and white, La vie de bohème is a vibrantly scrappy rendition of a beloved tale.
1992 • 103 minutes • Black & White • Monaural • In French with English subtitles • 1.85:1 aspect ratio
• PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by critic Luc Sante
SRP - $39.95
The Long Day Closes
The Long Day Closes is the most gloriously cinematic expression of the unique sensibility of Terence Davies (Distant Voices, Still Lives; The Deep Blue Sea), widely celebrated as Britain’s greatest living filmmaker. Bursting with both enchantment and melancholy, this autobiographical film takes on the perspective of a quiet boy growing up lonely in Liverpool in the 1950s. But rather than employ a straightforward narrative, Davies jumps in and out of time, swoops into fantasies and fears, summons memories and dreams. A singular filmic tapestry, The Long Day Closes is an evocative, movie- and music–besotted portrait of the artist as a young man.
• PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by critic Michael Koresky
SRP - $39.95
Eclipse Series 40: Late Ray
The films directed by the great Satyajit Ray (Charulata) in the last ten years of his life have a unique dignity and drama. Three of them are collected here: the fervent Rabindranath Tagore adaptation The Home and the World; the vital Henrik Ibsen–inspired An Enemy of the People; and the filmmaker’s final film, the poignant and philosophical family story The Stranger. Each is a complex, political, and humane portrait of a world both corrupt and indescribably beautiful, constructed with Ray’s characteristic elegance and imbued with autumnal profundity. These late-career features are the meditative works of a master.
THE HOME AND THE WORLD
Both a romantic triangle tale and a philosophical take on violence in times of revolution, The Home and the World, set in early twentieth-century Bengal, concerns an aristocratic but progressive man who, in insisting on broadening his more traditional wife’s political horizons, drives her into the arms of his more radical school chum. Satyajit Ray had wanted to adapt Rabindranath Tagore’s classic novel to the screen for decades. When he finally did, in 1984, he fashioned a personal, exquisite film that stands as a testament to his lifelong love for the great writer.
AN ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE
In Satyajit Ray’s absorbing contemporary adaptation of a play by Henrik Ibsen, a good-hearted doctor discovers that the serious illness befalling the citizens of his small Bengali town may be due to a contamination of the water at the local temple. His findings are met not with public gratitude but with rancor, along with opposition from local authorities, who are afraid the news will keep visitors away. Stately in style but with a fiery debate at its heart, An Enemy of the People gets at the tension between religion and science in everyday Indian life.
Satyajit Ray’s valedictory film is a multifaceted character study that contains both light humor and melancholy rumination. Written by the filmmaker, The Stranger involves a bourgeois couple who are bemused by the news that a man claiming to be the wife’s long-lost uncle will be coming to stay with them after years of travel. Though they fear he’s an impostor, they tentatively let the man into their home, commencing an eye-opening emotional journey for the family. A humanist exploration of class, faith, and tradition versus progress, The Stranger is a bittersweet goodbye from one of the world’s most important filmmakers.
1991 · 120 minutes · Color · Monaural · In Bengali with English subtitles · 1.37:1 aspect ratio
SRP - $44.95