Sunday, November 17, 2013

Criterion Collection Titles for February 2014

     Last Friday, November 15, the Criterion Collection announced their new crop of releases that will be available during the month of February. Going through the new announcements, with the exception of one title which I already own, I will be purchasing all of these films. Great month and already a great start to 2014. Starting with the French New Wave classic Jules and Jim (1962) from legendary director François Truffaut. This film is full of life, romance and friendship. Starring Jeanne Moreau, Oskar Werner and Henri Serre, the film spans a twenty-five year relationship between Jules and Jim, and their mutual affection and obsession over Catherine. A groundbreaking film from the writer-director of the classic The 400 Blows. I have seen it once and loved it instantly, so I am really excited this is getting an upgrade. A dual-format (blu-ray and DVD) release date of February 4th cannot come soon enough.
     Another French New Wave classic that is getting the dual-format treatment is the film that started it all, Jean-Luc Godard's Breathless (1960). I own the blu-ray so I am good here, but it is cool that Criterion is going to begin releasing all of there blu-ray and new titles in dual-format additions. If you have not seen this film, change that as fast as possible. Gangsters, love of American film noir, Humphrey Bogart, Jean-Paul Belmondo and Jean Seberg. Classic of everything that is wonderful about cinema. This film is cinema. Release date of February 25.
     Wes Anderson films are all over the Criterion Collection. They love him. His first animated, and the Criterion Collection's first animated release, is Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009), which will be hitting shelves on February 18. A great film in general and something the adults and kids will love. It contains all the great eccentricities that any fan, or non-fan, of Anderson will love, or hate. The film is all stop-motion animation. Based on the Roald Dahl classic children novel, it tells the story of Mr. Fox, a chicken thief, who gets into trouble with three large and successful farmers. Mr. Fox cannot stay out of trouble and is also trying to raise his family in a new foxhole under a tree next to the farmers operations. Quirky, clever and full of the joys of any Anderson film. The cast includes George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Willem Dafoe, Michael Gambon, Jason Schwartzman, Owen Wilson and Bill Murray, naturally. The only film from Wes Anderson that is not in the collection is Moonrise Kingdom and I hope that is changed soon. I also love the scheming artwork for the cover.
     Now, a classic from Alfred Hitchcock Foreign Correspondent (1940). The second film, after Rebecca (1940), that was released once Hitchcock moved to Hollywood and started making films in the states. A perfect espionage thriller with some of the most amazing set pieces ever put on celluloid. The master of suspense is in prime control over every aspect of this film. Starring Joel McCrea as a news reporter, sent to Europe to cover the inevitable war. As soon as he arrives in Europe mystery ensues. This is truly a classic Hitchcock film, but most of his films are and this one does not disappoint. Amazing tension, witty dialogue and an overall production that is about as good as it gets. The film will be released in dual-format on February 18. Keep on getting and releasing Hitchcock films, especially the older British and earlier American ones that are not as well-known as his later
Hollywood successes.
     More Roman Polanski is always a good thing and a new director's cut of Polanski's masterful adaptation of Thomas Hardy's "Tess of the d'Ubervilles" is coming. Tess (1979), with a breakout performance from Nastassja Kinski and beautiful cinematography, revolves around her journey through class, sex, betrayal and revenge. I just cannot wait to see how gorgeous this film will look on blu-ray. The cinematography alone is worth the investment, but Polanski's elegant, devious touch and brilliant craft is what really shines in this film. The man just is one of the finest, most talented director's to grace film history and Tess is another indication of Polanski's status as one of the best. The film will be released in dual-format on February 25.
    A new release that I have not seen, and is finally going to be out on blu-ray and DVD, is Steven Soderbergh's King of the Hill (1993). The story, set in St. Louis during the Great Depression, focuses on Aaron (Jesse Bradford) and his struggles of growing up without a mother or father close to home. Aaron is an imaginative boy, but must learn the hardships of life at an adolescent age and teach himself how to survive on his own. I am very interested in seeing this film, being that it was Soderergh's first Hollywood production after the success of his indie ground breaker sex, lies, and videotape (1989). A bonus is that the disc will also include Soderbergh's follow-up feature The Underneath (1995), which I have not seen either. Good stuff here. Soderbergh hardly ever disappoints and is so intelligent. He knows how to frame a shot and edit a film as good as anyone. No extra nonsense. The film will be released in dual-format on February 25.
     And, Criterion has one more release for the heavily packed February. Abdellatif Kechiche's controversial and 2013 Palme d'Or winning best film at the Cannes Film Festival Blue Is the Warmest Color (2013). A film that took the festival by storm and has been talked about as much for the amazing performances and sex scenes, as for the difficult and challenging filming and production. The film revolves around Adèle, played with amazing power by newcomer Adèle Exarchopoulos, and here adventures into youthful romance. She is dating a teenage boy, but runs into an older art student with blue hair, Emma (Léa Seydoux), and falls passionately in love with her, changing and shaping her life forever. A love story for a new, and this, generation. I still have not seen this film yet and hope to see it before it is out of theaters here in Austin. I have read so much about the two performances from Exarchopoulos and Seydoux, and the film looks amazing. Criterion is releasing this film in a bare bones edition in separate blu-ray and DVD packages, but they state that a full special edition will be released at a later date. Hopefully, there will be plenty of interviews about the production and how the two main actresses had difficulties with the very talented director Kechciche. The film is an instant buy for me, but I wonder when the special edition will be released. The film will be released in both bare bones editions on February 11.
     A great month of releases and hopefully the Foreign Correspondent release will look clean and smooth, and not like a grain (snow) storm. That black and white photography is fantastic on that film. Looks like a lot more films to add to the collection.

Photo credits by Criterion Collection.

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