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The Criterion Collection: March 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:

lasttempTHE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST

The Last Temptation of Christ, by Martin Scorsese (Raging Bull), is a towering achievement. Though it initially engendered enormous controversy, the film can now be viewed as the remarkable, profoundly personal work of faith that it is. This fifteen-year labor of love, an adaptation of Nikos Kazantzakis’s landmark novel that imagines an alternate fate for Jesus Christ, features outstanding performances by Willem Dafoe (Antichrist), Barbara Hershey (Hannah and Her Sisters), Harvey Keitel (Mean Streets), Harry Dean Stanton (Paris, Texas), and David Bowie (The Man Who Fell to Earth); bold cinematography by the great Michael Ballhaus (Broadcast News); and a transcendent score by Peter Gabriel.
 
1988 • 163 minutes • Color • 5.1 Surround • 1.85:1 aspect ratio

DIRECTOR-APPROVED BLU-RAY SPECIAL EDITION FEATURES
• Restored high-definition digital transfer, supervised and approved by cinematographer Michael Ballhaus and editor Thelma Schoonmaker, with a 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack by supervising sound editor Skip Lievsay
• Audio commentary featuring director Martin Scorsese, actor Willem Dafoe, and writers Paul Schrader and Jay Cocks
• Galleries of production stills, research materials, and costume designs
• Location production footage shot by Scorsese
• Interview with composer Peter Gabriel, with a stills gallery of traditional instruments used in the score
• PLUS: An essay by film critic David Ehrenstein

SRP: $39.95 -

601_box_348x490LETTER NEVER SENT

The great Soviet director Mikhail Kalatozov (The Cranes Are Flying), known for his virtuosic, emotionally gripping films, perhaps never directed one more visually astonishing than Letter Never Sent. This absorbing tale of exploration and survival concerns four members of a geological expedition who are stranded in the bleak and unforgiving Siberian wilderness while on a mission to find diamonds. Luxuriating in wide-angle beauty and featuring one daring shot after another (the brilliant cinematography is by Kalatozov’s frequent collaborator Sergei Urusevsky), Letter Never Sent is a fascinating piece of cinematic history and a universal adventure of the highest order.
 
1959 • 96 minutes • Black & White • Monaural • In Russian with English subtitles • 1.33:1 aspect ratio

SPECIAL EDITION FEATURES
• New high-definition digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition
• New English subtitle translation
• PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by film scholar Dina Iordanova

SRP: $29.95 -

602_BD_box_348x490_w128THE WAR ROOM

The 1992 presidential election was a triumph not only for Bill Clinton but also for the new breed of strategists who guided him to the White House and changed the face of politics in the process. For this thrilling, behind-closed-doors account of that campaign, renowned cinema verité filmmakers D. A. Pennebaker (Monterey Pop) and Chris Hegedus (Startup.com) closely followed the brainstorming and bull sessions of Clinton’s crack team of consultants—especially the folksy James Carville and the preppy George Stephanopoulos, who became media stars in their own right as they injected a youthful spirit and spontaneity into the process of campaigning. Fleet-footed and entertaining, The War Room is a vivid document of a political moment whose truths (“It’s the economy, stupid!”) still ring in our ears.
 
1993 • 96 minutes • Color • 2.0 Surround • 1.33:1 aspect ratio

DIRECTOR-APPROVED SPECIAL EDITION FEATURES
• New, restored high-definition digital transfer, approved by directors D. A. Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus, with 2.0 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition
Return of the War Room, a 2008 documentary in which advisers James Carville, George Stephanopoulos, and Paul Begala and others reflect on the effect the Clinton war room had on the way campaigns are run
Making “The War Room,” a conversation between the filmmakers about the difficulties of shooting in the campaign’s fast-paced environment
• Panel discussion hosted by the William J. Clinton Foundation and featuring Carville, Clinton adviser Vernon Jordan, journalist Ron Brownstein, and surprise guest Bill Clinton
• Interview with strategist Stanley Greenberg on the increasing importance of polling
• PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by writer Louis Menand

SRP: $39.95 -

leanDAVID LEAN DIRECTS NOËL COWARD

In the 1940s, the wit of playwright Noël Coward (Design for Living) and the craft of filmmaker David Lean (Lawrence of Arabia) melded harmoniously in one of cinema’s greatest writer-director collaborations. With the wartime military drama sensation In Which We Serve, Coward and Lean (along with producing partners Ronald Neame and Anthony Havelock-Allan) embarked on a series of literate, socially engaged, and enormously entertaining pictures that ranged from domestic epic (This Happy Breed) to whimsical comedy (Blithe Spirit) to poignant romance (Brief Encounter). These films created a lasting testament to Coward’s artistic legacy and introduced Lean’s visionary talents to the world.

In Which We Serve
In the midst of World War II, the renowned playwright Noël Coward engaged a young film editor named David Lean to help him realize his vision for an action drama about a group of Royal Navy sailors (roles that would be filled by Coward himself, Great Expectations’ Bernard Miles, and Ryan’s Daughter’s John Mills, among others) fighting the Germans in the Mediterranean. Coward and Lean ended up codirecting the large-scale project—an impressive undertaking, especially considering that neither of them had directed for the big screen before (this would be Coward’s only such credit). Cutting between a major naval battle and flashbacks to the men’s lives before they left home, In Which We Serve (an Oscar nominee for best picture) was a major breakthrough for both filmmakers and a sensitive and stirring piece of propaganda.
 
1942 · 114 minutes · Black & White · Monaural · 1.37:1 aspect ratio

This Happy Breed
David Lean brings to vivid emotional life Noël Coward’s epic chronicle of a working-class family in the London suburbs over the course of two decades. Robert Newton (Oliver Twist) and Celia Johnson (Brief Encounter) are surpassingly affecting as Frank and Ethel Gibbons, a couple with three children whose modest household is touched by joy and tragedy from the tail end of the First World War to the beginning of the Second. With its mix of politics and melodrama, This Happy Breed is a quintessential British domestic drama, featuring subtly expressive Technicolor cinematography by Ronald Neame and a remarkable supporting cast including John Mills, Stanley Holloway (My Fair Lady), and Kay Walsh (The Horse’s Mouth).
 
1944 · 111 minutes · Color · Monaural · 1.37:1 aspect ratio
 
Blithe Spirit
Blithe Spirit, David Lean’s delightful film version of Noël Coward’s theater sensation (onstage, it broke London box-office records before hitting Broadway), stars Rex Harrison (Unfaithfully Yours) as a novelist who cheekily invites a medium (The Importance of Being Earnest’s Margaret Rutherford) to his house to conduct a séance, hoping the experience will inspire a book he’s working on. Things go decidedly not as planned when she summons the spirit of his dead first wife (Kay Hammond), a severe inconvenience for his current one (Constance Cummings). Employing Oscar-winning special effects to spruce up Coward’s theatrical farce, Blithe Spirit is a sprightly supernatural comedy with winning performances.
 
1945 · 96 minutes · Color · Monaural · 1.37:1 aspect ratio
 
Brief Encounter
After a chance meeting on a train platform, a married doctor (The Third Man’s Trevor Howard) and a suburban housewife (This Happy Breed’s Celia Johnson) enter into a muted but passionate, ultimately doomed, love affair. With its evocatively fog-enshrouded setting, swooning Rachmaninoff score, and pair of remarkable performances (Johnson was nominated for an Oscar for her role), David Lean’s film of Noël Coward’s play Still Life deftly explores the thrill, pain, and tenderness of an illicit romance, and has influenced many a cinematic brief encounter since its release.
 
1945 · 86 minutes · Black & White · Monaural · 1.37:1 aspect ratio
 
SPECIAL EDITION FEATURES
• New high-definition digital transfers of the BFI National Archive’s 2008 restorations, with uncompressed monaural soundtracks on the Blu-ray editions
• Audio commentary on Brief Encounter by film historian Bruce Eder
• New interviews with Noël Coward scholar Barry Day on all of the films
• Interview with cinematographer-screenwriter-producer Ronald Neame from 2010
• Short documentaries from 2000 on the making of In Which We Serve and Brief Encounter
David Lean: A Self Portrait, a 1971 television documentary on Lean’s career
• Episode of the British television series The Southbank Show from 1992 on the life and career of Coward
• Audio recording of a 1969 conversation between Richard Attenborough and Coward at London’s National Film Theatre
• Trailers
• PLUS: A booklet featuring essays by Ian Christie, Terrence Rafferty, Farran Nehne, Geoffrey O’Brien, and Kevin Brownlow

SRP: $99.95 -

nightA NIGHT TO REMEMBER

On April 14, 1912, just before midnight, the unsinkable Titanic struck an iceberg. In less than three hours, it had plunged to the bottom of the sea, taking with it more than 1,500 of its 2,200 passengers. In his unforgettable rendering of Walter Lord’s book of the same name, A Night to Remember, the acclaimed British director Roy Ward Baker (Don’t Bother to Knock) depicts with sensitivity, awe, and a fine sense of tragedy the ship’s final hours. Featuring remarkably restrained performances, A Night to Remember is cinema’s subtlest, finest dramatization of this monumental twentieth-century catastrophe.

1958 • 123 minutes • Black & White • Monaural • 1.66:1 aspect ratio

SPECIAL EDITION FEATURES
• New high-definition digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition
• Audio commentary by Don Lynch and Ken Marschall, author and illustrator of “Titanic:” An Illustrated History
The Making of “A Night to Remember” (1993), a sixty-minute documentary featuring William MacQuitty’s rare behind-the-scenes footage
• Archival interview with Titanic survivor Eva Hart
En natt att minas, a forty-five-minute Swedish documentary from 1962 featuring interviews with Titanic survivors
• Trailer
• PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by film critic Michael Sragow

SRP: $39.95 -

Mar
06
2012
Anders Nelson • Associate Editor

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