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The Criterion Collection: September Releases

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Each month, the Criterion Collection releases a selected number of titles onto DVD and Blu-ray. For the most part, these are films that have seen sort of home video release previously, but would never reach the shelves of your local Best Buy or Barnes and Noble without the extra push that the Criterion Collection gives it. Aside from cleaning up the picture and sound (frequently working from the original negative), providing some nifty packaging and artwork, and making your DVD collection look that much more cultured and refined, Criterion provides the valuable service of rescuing films that otherwise would never see the light of day, so not only can you proudly show off your sets, you can tell people that you’re performing a public service. Here’s what’s coming out this month:

25336_large3 WOMEN - $18.99 -

Great (or at least notable) directors tend to lean on each other for support; sometimes, they’re even generous enough to lend whole plots, themes and motifs. The parallels between 3 Women and Bergman’s Persona are fairly undeniable, to the point that the former can be seen as a direct response to the latter. But while Persona is more obtuse and challenging, 3 Women wraps itself in the guise of naturalism in order to provoke a reaction more deceptive and beguiling, and allowing its personality politics to play out on a wider, more technically elaborate canvas. Sissy Spacek and Shelley Duvall make fine Americanized updates of Anderson and Ullman, embodying their doe-eyed angst while still lending personality to the parallel fantasy world that Altman has transposed them to.

1977 • 124 minutes • Color • Monaural • 2.35:1 aspect ratio

BLU-RAY SPECIAL EDITION FEATURES
• High-definition digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack
• Audio commentary by director Robert Altman
• Rare production and publicity stills
• Original theatrical trailers and television spots
• PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by critic David Sterritt

my-life-as-a-dog-the-criterion-collection-20110712105639599-000MY LIFE AS A DOG - $37.88 -

If you've ever watched The Cider House Rules or Chocolat with a curious detachment or disdain, you might want to try My Life as a Dog; it effortlessly exudes all of the qualities that director Lasse Hallstrom struggled to regain once transplanted to America (save for the brilliant What's Eating Gilbert Grape?). Despite its misleading title, My Life as a Dog never strains to find the balance between the humor and the gravity of the travails of a 12-year-old boy who’s sent to live with his relatives as his mother suffers from a terminal illness. While such a thing could easily become maudlin, Hallstrom never allows us to pity Ingemar, or loses perspective on what makes Ingemar’s response to adversity both brave and unique.

1985 • 101 minutes • Color • Monaural • In Swedish with English subtitles • 1.66:1 aspect ratio
 
DIRECTOR-APPROVED BLU-RAY SPECIAL EDITION FEATURES
• High-definition digital transfer, approved by director Lasse Hallström, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack
• Shall We Go to My or Your Place or Each Go Home Alone? (1973), a fifty-two-minute film by Hallström
• Video interview with Hallström from 2003
• Original theatrical trailer
• PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by film critic Michael Atkinson and an appreciation by the late author Kurt Vonnegut

25338_largeLE BEAU SERGE/LES COUSINS - $26.49 -

In the middle of the month, Criterion is releasing a double-header of Claude Chabrol films, each released in the late 1950s, and credited with incepting the most studied and referenced movement in all of film, the French New Wave. Each draws on dark, anti-authoritarian traditions in American film (largely present in film noir and the works of Hitchcock), and lay a groundwork for the themes that would be revisited in later work by Truffaut and Godard. Le Beau Serge concerns a man named Francois who returns to his village following a great absence, only to find his friend Serge dissonant and alcoholic. Les Cousins is about, you guessed it, two cousins, one of whom falls in love with the other’s friend. Both give insight into the birth of a revolution, but also double as strong, personal statements by a young film-maker.


1958 • 94 minutes • Black & White • Monaural • In French with English subtitles • 1.33:1 aspect ratio

SPECIAL EDITION FEATURES 
• New digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition
• New audio commentary featuring Guy Austin, author of Claude Chabrol
• Segment from a 1969 episode of the French television series L’invité du dimanche in which Chabrol

25340_large

revisits Sardent, the town he grew up in and the film’s location
• A 2011 documentary by filmmaker Pierre-Henri Gibert on the making of Le beau Serge
• New and improved English subtitle translation
• Theatrical trailer
• PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by film critic Terrence Rafferty
• More!

1959 • 112 minutes • Black & White • Monaural • In French with English subtitles • 1.33:1 aspect ratio

SPECIAL EDITION FEATURES 
• New digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition
• Audio commentary featuring film scholar Adrian Martin
• A 2011 documentary by filmmaker Pierre-Henri Gibert about the making of Les cousins, featuring director Claude Chabrol, star Stéphane Audran, assistant directors Charles Bitsch and Claude de Givray, and others
• New and improved English subtitle translation
• Theatrical trailer
• PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by film critic Terrence Rafferty

25343_largeCARLOS - $30.99 - 

Though America may have defined the crime epic in terms of sheer glorious excess (woe be to the film-maker who attempts to top Scarface in portraying the hedonism of the criminal lifestyle), but it in no way has a monopoly on scope or intelligence. Carlos, originally produced for German-French television, has been released internationally as a motion picture unto itself, and, at five hours in length, seeks to compete with the Godfather saga in breadth of its vision, stretching over many years of terrorist-for-hire history, both successful and completely disastrous. Holding the center is Edgar Ramirez, delivering a perfomance intense enough to rest a five-hour film on without overstating itself into the realm of Tony Montana parody.

2010 • 339 minutes • Color • Surround • In Arabic, English, French, German, Hungarian, Japanese, Russian, and Spanish with English subtitles • 2.35:1 aspect ratio
 
DIRECTOR-APPROVED SPECIAL EDITION FEATURES 
• New digital transfer, supervised and approved by directors of photography Denis Lenoir and Yorick Le Saux, with DTS-HD Master Audio on the Blu-ray edition
• New video interviews with director Olivier Assayas, Lenoir, Le Saux, and actor Édgar Ramírez
• Twenty-minute making-of documentary on the film’s OPEC raid scene
• Original theatrical trailer
• PLUS: A booklet featuring essays by critics Colin MacCabe and Greil Marcus, plus biographies on selected historical figures portrayed in the film, written by the film’s historical adviser, Stephen Smith
• Much more!

original.pjpegTHE PHANTOM CARRIAGE - $25.38 -

Influential as they were on later film-makers (not to mention its aesthetic parallels to death metal and other musical forms), it’s almost surprising that there hasn’t been more of a push to rediscover the silent horror films of Scandinavia. While Haxan has gained some notoriety (it provided the namesake for the company that produced The Blair Witch Project), The Phantom Carriage is long overdue its just desserts. Based on the novel by Selma Langerlof and directed by Victor Sjostrom (The Wind, another great silent film), Carriage  draws from a nationalistic tradition of personifying death (for other examples, look no further than The Seventh Seal) and identifies it as a singular personal force acting in our lives. Additionally, the film pioneered the use of many different effects for portraying its different spectral images.

1920 • 107 minutes • Tinted color • Silent • Swedish intertitles with English subtitles • 1.33:1 aspect ratio

SPECIAL EDITION FEATURES 
• New digital transfer, restored in collaboration with the Archival Film Collections of the Swedish Film Institute
• Two scores, one by acclaimed Swedish composer Matti Bye and the other by the experimental duo KTL
• Audio commentary featuring film historian Casper Tybjerg
• Interview with Ingmar Bergman excerpted from the 1981 documentary Victor Sjöström: A Portrait, by Gösta Werner
• The Bergman Connection, an original visual essay by film historian and Bergman scholar Peter Cowie on The Phantom Carriage’s influence on Bergman
• New and improved English subtitle translation
• PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by screenwriter and filmmaker Paul Mayersberg
• More!

Sep
18
2011
Anders Nelson • Associate Editor

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