Now that we’ve all seen the newly released Tree Of Life trailer in high definition, we can move onto the next big Criterion related news story of the day!
The 15th is upon us once again, which means another day to learn which Criterion Collection titles will be hitting stores in 3 months. I’ve done lots of predicting, and rumor mongering over the past few months, and I am pleased to say that today’s titles were not on my radar!
Now, that’s not to say that I haven’t been keeping my ear to the ground, and been able to read the smoke signals of late, to help prepare this post for today.
It’s been interesting, going back through old (I’m talking years) posts over on the CriterionForum rumor threads, to read up on some of these titles, in preparation for today, and some of these have been years in the making.
First up, let’s talk about the Blu-ray upgrades. We’re getting new editions of Edward Yang’s Yi Yi, and Louis Malle’s Au Revoir Les Enfants. I still haven’t seen either of these releases, but now that I have some high definition transfers to look forward to in March, I will definitely set some time aside beforehand to be able to compare. Ages ago Travis chose Yi Yi as a variation on a theme film, and it has intrigued me since.
Alright, now let’s get into the real juicy releases that March will bring us. Back in 2008 Gus Van Sant released his biopic of San Francisco councilman, and gay activist, Harvey Milk, to much critical acclaim. The documentary which in many ways inspired the production of the film, The Times Of Harvey Milk, directed by Rob Epstein, will see a release from Criterion this March.
We’re also getting a nice sized chunk of Gilbert and Sullivan in March 2011 from Criterion, in the form of Mike Leigh’s period comedy, Topsy Turvy, which I just recently watched and thoroughly enjoyed. The film focuses on a period in the G & S partnership, where both were unhappy with the success they’d achieved, and were looking for a new and exciting project to work on. This lead to the writing and producing of the Mikado, which is also getting a Criterion release this March. This happens to be the 1939 film adaptation of the stage production. This version was the very first three color Technicolor film that Universal released in the states! March just so happens to be the anniversary of the very first production of The Mikado, back in 1885! If you happen to live in Austin, the Gilbert and Sullivan Society will be putting on their production of The Mikado in the Summer of 2011, so you’ll have that to look forward to.
Finally we’re getting a new Eclipse box set, celebrating the early silent work of Mikio Naruse, the director of When A Woman Ascends The Stairs. This is a box set that has been a long time in the making, as Janus was touring these Naruse films years ago. In my research, I came across a series of essays from that theatrical tour from Keith Uhlich during his stay at Slant Magazine. He wrote an extremely in depth series of reviews of all of the Naruse films that were screened at the time, and I’ll link to them below next to the films. Hopefully we’ll see more box sets of Naruse’s work, as he is clearly not very well known here in the states, and not well represented in the Collection (so far).
What do you think of the March 2011 releases? Were you as surprised as I was? What are you going to run out and pre-order? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.
I’ll be updating this post, as Criterion makes the cover art available on their site.
Criterion # 557 on DVD and Blu-ray, March 2011
A true twentieth-century trailblazer, Harvey Milk was an outspoken human rights activist and the first openly gay U.S. politician elected to public office; even after his assassination, in 1978, he continues to inspire disenfranchised people around the world. The Oscar-winning The Times of Harvey Milk, directed by Robert Epstein and produced by Richard Schmiechen, was, like its subject, groundbreaking. One of the first feature documentaries to address gay life in America, it’s a work of advocacy itself, bringing Milk’s message of hope and equality to a wider audience. This exhilarating trove of archival footage and heartfelt interviews is as much a vivid portrait of a time and place (San Francisco’s historic Castro District in the seventies) as a testament to the legacy of a political visionary.
San Francisco in the 1970s became a battleground between an emerging, vibrant gay movement and the communities who felt threatened by this new gay political muscle.
In 1978, the struggle came to a head when San Francisco’s progressive Mayor George Moscone and City Supervisor Harvey Milk’”one of the first openly gay elected officials anywhere’”were murdered in cold blood by Dan White’”a former City Supervisor, fireman, and police officer.
The community’s response’”ranging from silent vigil to violent riots’”helped define gay politics as we know it. The Times of Harvey Milk tells an emotional story of communities in conflict, centered on the last year of Harvey Milk’s life.
The Times of Harvey Milk was the inspiration for Gus Van Sant’s movie Milk. It will be re-released on DVD by the Criterion Collection in 2011. A study guide will be available later this year.
- Director-approved digital transfer, from the meticulous UCLA Film and Television Archive restoration (with DTS-HD Master Audio on the Blu-ray edition)
- Audio commentary featuring director Robert Epstein,coeditor Deborah Hoffmann, and photographer Daniel Nicoletta
- New interview with documentary filmmaker and UC Berkeley professor Jon Else
- New program about The Times of Harvey Milk and Gus Van Sant’s Milk, featuring Epstein, Van Sant, actor James Franco, and Milk friends Cleve Jones, Anne Kronenberg, and Nicoletta
- Postscript containing interview clips not used in the film
- Rare collection of audio and video recordings of Harvey Milk
- Interview excerpts from Epstein’s research tapes
- Footage from the film’s Castro Theatre premiere and the 1984 Academy Awards ceremony
- Panel discussion on Supervisor Dan White’s controversial trial
- Excerpts from the twenty-fifth anniversary commemoration of Milk’s and Mayor George Moscone’s assassinations
- Original theatrical trailer
- PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by film critic B. RubyRich, a tribute by Milk’s nephew Stuart Milk, and a piece on the film’s restoration by the UCLA Film and Television
Archive’s Ross Lipman
Criterion # 558 on DVD and Blu-ray, March 2011
The world of Gilbert and Sullivan comes to vivid life in this extraordinary dramatization of the staging of their legendary 1885 comic opera The Mikado from Mike Leigh. Jim Broadbent and Allan Corduner brilliantly inhabit the roles of the world-famous Victorian librettist and composer, respectively, who, along with their troupe of temperamental actors, must battle personal and professional demons while mounting this major production. A lushly produced epic about the harsh realities of creative expression, featuring bravura performances and Oscar-winning costume design and makeup, Topsy-Turvy is an unexpected period delight from one of contemporary cinema’s great artists.
After their production of “Princess Ida” tanks, Arthur Gilbert (Allan Corduner) and William Sullivan (Jim Broadbent) start a cold war that threatens to end their long-lasting partnership — but friends and associates work overtime to bring them back together. The result is their classic play “The Mikado.” Mike Leigh’s thoughtful musical comedy-drama garnered four Academy Award nominations and won for costume design and makeup.
DIRECTOR-APPROVED SPECIAL EDITION:
- Director-approved digital transfer, supervised by cinematographer Dick Pope (with DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition)
- Audio commentary featuring director Mike Leigh
- New video conversation between Leigh and the film’s musical director, Gary Yershon
- A Sense of History, Leigh’s 1992 short film written by and starring actor Jim Broadbent
- Deleted scenes
- Featurette from 1999 including interviews with Leigh, stars Broadbent and Allan Corduner, and other cast members
- Theatrical trailer and TV spots
- PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by film critic Amy Taubin
Criterion # 559 on DVD and Blu-ray, March 2011
The legendary Gilbert and Sullivan troupe the D’Oyly Carte Opera Company joined forces with Hollywood for this 1939 Technicolor version of the fabled comic opera, the first complete work by the famed duo to be adapted for the screen, directed by musician and Oscar-nominated filmmaker Victor Schertzinger. The result is a lavish cinematic retelling of the British political satire set in exotic Japan, with such enduringly popular numbers as ‘A Wandering Minstrel I’ and ‘Three Little Maids from School Are We,’ and featuring performances by American singer Kenny Baker as well as a host of renowned D’Oyly Carte actors, including Martyn Green and Sydney Granville.
“The Mikado” — the crown jewel of Gilbert and Sullivan operettas — blooms brightly as an on-screen comedy in this performance with actors from Britain’s D’Oyly Carte opera company. Nanki-Poo (Kenny Baker), a minstrel who finds his way to the Japanese village of Titi-Pu, meets town executioner Ko-Ko (Martyn Green). But when Nanki-Poo discovers Ko-Ko must perform at least one killing per day, he realizes he may not live to see another day.
- Newly remastered digital transfer (with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition)
- New video interview with Topsy-Turvy director Mike Leigh on The Mikado and its adaptation for the screen
- New video interview with Mikado scholars Josephine Lee and Ralph MacPhail Jr., tracing the 1939 filmed version of the opera back to its 1885 stage debut
- PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by critic Geoffrey O’Brien
Criterion # 330 on Blu-ray, March 2011
Au revoir les enfants tells a heartbreaking story of friendship and devastating loss between two boys living in Nazi-occupied France. At a provincial Catholic boarding school, the precocious youths enjoy true camaraderie’”until a secret is revealed. Based on events from writer-director Malle’s own childhood, the film is a subtle, precisely observed tale of courage, cowardice, and tragic awakening.
- Restored digital transfer supervised by director of photography Renato Berta
- Video interviews with Louis Malle biographer Pierre Billard and actress Candice Bergen, Malle’s widow
- Joseph: A Character Study, a profile of the provocative figure from Au revoir les enfants, created by filmmaker Guy Magen in 2005
- The Immigrant, Charlie Chaplin’s 1917 short comedy, featured in the film
- Audio excerpts from a 1988 AFI interview with Malle
- Original theatrical trailer and teaser
- PLUS: A booklet featuring essays by film critic Philip Kemp and historian Francis J. Murphy
Criterion # 339 on Blu-ray, March 2011
With the runaway international acclaim of this film, Taiwanese director Edward Yang could no longer be called Asian cinema’s best-kept secret. Yi Yi swiftly follows a middle-class family in Taipei over the course of one year, beginning with a wedding and ending with a funeral. Whether chronicling middle-aged father NJ’s tenuous flirtations with an old flame or precocious young son Yang-Yang’s attempts at capturing reality with his beloved camera, Yang imbues every gorgeous frame with a deft, humane clarity. Warm, sprawling, and dazzling, this intimate epic is one of the undisputed masterworks of the new century.
DIRECTOR-APPROVED SPECIAL EDITION:
- Newly restored digital transfer
- Audio commentary by writer-director Edward Yang and Asian-cinema critic Tony Rayns
- Video interview with Rayns about Yang and the New Taiwan Cinema movement
- U.S. theatrical trailer
- Optional English subtitle translation by Yang and Rayns
- PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by Kent Jones and notes from the director
Eclipse Mikio Naruse Silents
Mikio Naruse was one of the most popular directors in Japan, a crafter of exquisite melodramas, mostly about women confined by their social and domestic circumstances. Though often compared with Yasujiro Ozu and Kenji Mizoguchi for his style and treatment of characters, Naruse was a unique artist, making heartrending, brilliantly photographed and edited films about the impossible pursuit of happiness. From the outset of his career, with his silent films of the early thirties, Naruse zeroed in on the lives of the kinds of people’”geisha, housewives, waitresses’”who would continue to fascinate him for the next three decades. Though he made two dozen silent films, only five remain in existence; these works’”poignant, dazzlingly made dramas all’”are collected here, newly restored and on DVD for the first time, and featuring optional new scores by noted musicians Robin Holcomb and Wayne Horvitz.
Flunky, Work Hard! (Koshiben Gambare, 1931)
Mikio Naruse’s earliest film in circulation is a charming, breezy short about an impoverished insurance salesman, Okabe, who is desperate to sell a policy to a wealthy family, and his scrappy young son.
Not Blood Relations (Nasanu Naka, 1932)
An actress returns to Tokyo after a successful stint in Hollywood to reclaim the daughter she abandoned years before’”with the help of her gangster brother. Yet the child’s father, and especially her nurturing new stepmother, won’t give in to the mother’s demands so easily.
Apart from You (Kimi to Wakarete, 1933)
For Apart from You, Mikio Naruse turned his camera on the lives of working women. This gently devastating evocation of women’s limited options in Depression-era Japan was a critical breakthrough for the director.
Every Night Dreams (Yogoto no yume, 1933)
A single mother works tirelessly as a Ginza bar hostess to ensure a better life for her young son in Naruse’s formally ravishing drama about the desperation of daily living.
Street Without End (Kagirinaki Hodo, 1934)
Mikio Naruse’s final silent film is a gloriously rich portrait of a waitress, Sugiko, whose life, despite a host of male admirers and even some intrigued movie talent scouts, ends up taking a suffocatingly domestic turn after a wealthy businessman accidentally hits her with his car.