Sunday, December 22, 2013

Criterion Collection Release for March 2014

     The Criterion Collection releases arriving during the month of March, 2014 are quite impressive, especially the release of my favorite Ingmar Bergman film. Another knockout month for the boutique cinema-obsessed group. A little bit of everything this month, so here are the releases.
     First off, that release of Ingmar Bergman's arthouse classic Persona (1966). An amazing film, that has some of the most beautiful images ever put on celluloid. An opening prologue that is graphic, sexual and confounding, with many flash images. A story where actress Elizabet Vogler (Liv Ullmann) goes mute without explanation and is cared for by the mesmerizing nurse Alma (Bibi Andersson). The two women go through numerous emotional and psychological challenges that test each others psyche on a secluded home near the coast in Sweden. An absolute, close to perfect film and my favorite Bergman masterpiece. The classic Swedish film, that has one of many legendary Ullmann, and Andersson, performances and the first of many pairings between Bergman and Ullmann, will be released on March 25.
     Another release I am really excited for is Akira Kurosawa's The Hidden Fortress (1958). A film that was Kurosawa's first use of the widescreen format and contains wonderful action, mesmerizing visuals and dry humor. A samurai film that was also the blueprint for George Lucas' Star Wars (1977). Legendary Kurosawa actor Toshiro Mifune plays a general who is in charge of protecting and guiding his defeated clan's princess (Misa Uehara) as they smuggle treasure across enemy lines. A wonderful film that, even though it is not as good as Seven Samurai (1954) or Throne of Blood (1957), is still a Kurosawa film with a little bit of everything. In my opinion, Kurosawa never made a bad film and is film history in itself with every line he wrote and frame he shot. The film will be released on March 18, 2014.
    Since the Criterion Collection signed an agreement with the Harold Lloyd estate, we can expect many of Lloyd's silent comedies to be arriving each year. Last year we got the hilarious Safety Last! (1923) and on March 25 The Freshman (1925) will arrive in dual format. I have only seen Safety Last!, but this film is an instant purchase. Lloyd plays a first year college student who is eager to impress the football team and the girl of his dreams, but just winds up making a fool of himself until he gets redemption at the end. The befuddled anti-hero. What Lloyd, along with Keaton and Chaplin, could do with physical and mental comedy is like nothing else. These are still the comic giants of cinema and if you have not seen any of Lloyd's films get out there and check them out. They are a must.
     Criterion will also be releasing a documentary from the well-lauded filmmaker Errol Morris. A Brief History of Time (1991) is the story of Stephen Hawking and how, while losing his ability to speak and move due to a motor neuron disease, his unbelievably impressive mind continues to expand the way we think about space and time. An intellectual beyond any ones wildest dreams. I have never seen this, but will be something I will check out. A fascinating subject about a fascinating man. The film will be released on March 18.
     Now, being a film lover that really became obsessed with film due to the burgeoning American Independent Cinema movement of the 90s, I regretfully have not yet seen David Gordon Green's groundbreaking George Washington (2000). A film I have read about and a filmmaker, who I have seen some of his small, wonderful films that cover different aspects of human life, whether comedy or drama or romance, in the South. Green wrote and directed this film about a group of young kids who must confront challenging and difficult choices over a hot summer in the rural South. This was part of the next wave of American Independent Cinema after Tarantino, Linklater and W. Anderson first busted on to the scene in the mid-90s. This is an instant, blind buy for me and will be released on March 11.
     The only other release for the month of March will be Paolo Sorrentino's well received The Great Beauty (2013). A film that is an homage to Federico Fellini's masterpiece of masterpieces La Dolce Vita (1960). Sorrentino's film follows journalist Jep Gambardella (Toni Servillo) through his escapades through the beautiful and sumptuous life (nightlife) of Rome. Jep, a man about town and synonymous with all of the important Roman social scenes, begins to take stock of his own life and what/where he is at and going. A film that is another blind buy for me, but with the amazing cinematography I have read about and seen online from dp Luca Bigazzi, I feel this one will not disappoint.It will be released March 25.
     And that is it for the month of March. Still waiting for more David Cronenberg and the first releases from David Lynch. Cannot wait to see what they come up with in April. This year has been very enjoyable so far.

Photo credits by The Criterion Collection.

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