March 2012 Criterion Collection New Releases Announced

It’s been so long since I’ve written up the new releases, but now that I have the site redesigned, I can turn my focus to the content, and hopefully get lots of these drafts that I’ve been working on, posted.

Some initial thoughts:

A Night To Remember – Available on DVD and Blu-ray on March 27th, 2012

  • The 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic is April 14th, 2012, just a few weeks after this release.

The Last Temptation Of Christ – Available on DVD and Blu-ray on March 13th, 2012

Letter Never Sent – Available on DVD and Blu-ray on March 20th, 2012

The War Room – Available on DVD and Blu-ray on March 20th, 2012

  • I’m trying to find the article where one of the filmmakers first teased at this release, but this should make an interesting “election year” title.

Lean / Coward Box Set – Available on DVD and Blu-ray on March 27th, 2012

  • Check out our episode on Brief Encounter, with special guest Elisabeth Rappe
  • It doesn’t look like the Brief Encounter Blu-ray will be available separately. This could change.

What do you think of the titles announced today? Leave your thoughts below in the comments.

A Night To Remember

Roy Ward Baker

Criterion # 7 – Available On Blu-ray On March 27th , 2012

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 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.

  • 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

The Last Temptation Of Christ

Martin Scorsese

Criterion # 70, Available On Blu-ray On March 13th, 2012

The Last Temptation of Christ, by Martin Scorsese, 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, Barbara Hershey, Harvey Keitel, Harry Dean Stanton, and David Bowie; bold cinematography by the great Michael Ballhaus; and a transcendent score by Peter Gabriel.

  • 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

Letter Never Sent

Mikhail Kalatozov

Criterion #601 ‘“ Available On DVD And Blu-ray On March 20th, 2012

The great Soviet director Mikhail Kalatozov, 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.

  • 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

The War Room

D. A. Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus

Criterion #602 ‘“ Available March 20th, 2012

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 and Chris Hegedus 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.

  • 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

David Lean Directs Noel Coward Box Set

Criterion #603 ‘“ Available On DVD And Blu-ray, March 27th 2012

In the 1940s, the wit of playwright Noël Coward and the craft of filmmaker David Lean 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

Criterion #604

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, Bernard Miles, and 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.

This Happy Breed

Criterion #605

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 and Celia Johnson 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, and Kay Walsh.

Blithe Spirit

Criterion #606

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 as a novelist who cheekily invites a medium (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.

Brief Encounter

Criterion # 76

After a chance meeting on a train platform, a married doctor (Trevor Howard) and a suburban housewife (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.

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  • I’m very pleased with this lineup for March! The blu-ray upgrades are well-chosen, The War Room looks to be a very timely release as we’ll be in the heart of political primary season and on the verge of another big election campaign later in the year. The Lean-Coward box is tremendous, way beyond what I was hoping for in a Brief Encounter upgrade and hopefully a harbinger of more David Lean blu-ray releases to come in the future. And Letter Never Sent feels like affirmation to me after I plugged it last summer on the podcast! I was super-impressed watching that film on Hulu Plus and felt that it deserved a physical media release – no supplements available it seems but I’m still very glad that Criterion’s giving it a blu-ray release rather than just going with an Eclipse DVD-only edition.

  • too bad they stuck Brief Encounter in with the other David Lean titles. anyone who has a Criterion Collection nabbed this one long ago so this is not necessary to make the set work and am additional expense on top of
    a high price to get the original. otherwise its an impressive gathering from one of history’s finest filmmakers. 

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