Criterion Announces September 2008 Titles

     June 22, 2008

A few days ago Criterion announced their September offerings, but due to me being offline for a few days, I’m only getting to them now. As one might expect from the best DVD company in the business, many great selections are being offered.

But the highlight of this month is easily the introduction of Essential Art House, a line of classic films from the Janus Films library. While all of the titles have been released previously through the Criterion label, this new line offers the films at a much cheaper price of $19.95. And after discounts online, the actual price will be even cheaper. So if you’re just looking for the films without all the extras…these are going to be perfect for you.

As always, all the info below has been provided by Criterion. Take a look:

The Earrings of Madame de…

SRP: $39.95
Street date: 9/16/08

French master Max Ophuls’s most cherished work, The Earrings of Madame de . . . is an emotionally profound cinematographically adventurous tale of false opulence and tragic romance. When the aristocratic woman known only as Madame de . . . (the extraordinary Danielle Darrieux) sells her earrings, unbeknownst to her husband (Charles Boyer), in order to pay personal debts, she sets off a chain reaction, the financial and carnal consequences of which can only end in despair. Ophuls adapts Louise de Vilmorin’s incisive fin de siècle novella with virtuosic camera work so eloquent and precise it’s been called the equal to that of Orson Welles.

€ Directed by Max Ophuls (Letter from an Unknown Woman, La ronde, Le plaisir)
€ Starring Danielle Darrieux (La ronde, Le plaisir, 8 Women, Persepolis)
€ Starring Charles Boyer (Algiers, Gaslight, Love Affair)
€ Cinematography by Christian Matras (Fanfan la tulipe, Le plaisir, The Milky Way)

€ New, restored high-definition digital transfer
€ Audio commentary featuring film scholars Susan White and Gaylyn Studlar
€ Interviews with Ophuls collaborators Alain Jessua, Mar Frédérix, and Annette Wademant
€ A visual analysis of The Earrings of Madame de . . . by film scholar Tag Gallagher
€ Interview with novelist Louise de Vilmorin on Ophuls’s adaptation of her story
€ New and improved English subtitle translation
€ PLUS: A new essay by Molly Haskell, Louise de Vilmorin’s novella Madame de, upon which the film is based, and a reprinted essay by costume designer and longtime Ophuls collaborator Georges Annenkov
€ More!

La ronde
SRP: $39.95
Street date: 9/16/08

Simone Signoret, Anton Walbrook, and Simone Simon lead a roundelay of French stars in Max Ophuls’s delightful, acerbic adaptation of Arthur Schnitzler’s controversial turn-of-the-century play La ronde. Soldiers, chambermaids, poets, and aristocrats, all are on equal footing in this multicharacter merry-go-round of love and infidelity, directed with a sweeping gaiety as knowingly frivolous as it is enchanting, and shot with Ophuls’s trademark intricate cinematography.

€ Directed by Max Ophuls (Caught, Le plaisir, The Earrings of Madame de . . . )
€ Starring Simone Signoret (Casque d’or, Room at the Top, Army of Shadows)
€ Starring Anton Walbrook (49th Parallel, The Red Shoes, Lola Montès)
€ Starring Gérard Philipe (Fanfan la tulipe, Beauty and the Devil, The Red and the Black)

€ New, restored high-definition digital transfer
€ Audio commentary featuring film scholar Susan White, author of The Cinema of Max Ophuls
€ An interview with Academy Award–winning filmmaker Marcel Ophuls, discussing his father’s work
€ Interview with actor Daniel Gélin (Napoléon, Testament of Orpheus)
€ Interview with film scholar Alan Williams
€ Selected correspondence between Sir Laurence Olivier and Heinrich Schnitzler (the playwright’s son), illustrating the controversy surrounding the source play
€ New and improved subtitle translation
€ PLUS: A new essay by film critic Terrence Rafferty

Le plaisir
SRP: $39.95
Street date: 9/16/08

Roving with his dazzlingly mobile camera around the decadent ballrooms, bucolic countryside retreats, urban bordellos, and painter’s studios of late nineteenth-century Parisian society, Max Ophuls brings his astonishing visual dexterity and storytelling bravura to this triptych of tales by Guy de Maupassant about the limits of spiritual and physical pleasure. Featuring a stunning cast of French stars (including Danielle Darrieux, Jean Gabin, and Simone Simon), Le plaisir pinpoints the cruel ironies and happy compromises of life with a charming and sophisticated breeziness.

€ Directed by Max Ophuls (Caught, La ronde, The Earrings of Madame de . . .)
€ Starring Danielle Darrieux (La ronde, The Earrings of Madame de…, 8 Women)
€ Starring Jean Gabin (Pépé le Moko, La bête humaine, Touchez pas au grisbi)
€ Starring Simone Simon (Cat People, La bête humaine, La ronde)

€ New, restored high-definition digital transfer
€ Introduction by filmmaker Todd Haynes
€ English- and German-language versions of the opening narration
€ From Script to Screen, a video essay featuring film scholar Jean-Pierre Berthomé discussing the evolution of Ophuls’s screenplay for Le plaisir
€ Interviews with actor Daniel Gélin, assistant director Tony Aboyantz, and set decorator Robert Christidès
€ New and improved English subtitle translation
€ PLUS: A new essay by film critic Robin Wood

An Autumn Afternoon

SRP: $29.95
Street date: 9/30/08

Yasujiro Ozu’s final film is also his final masterpiece, the gently heartbreaking story of a man’s dignified resignation to both life’s ever-shifting currents and society’s gradual modernization. Though widower Shuhei Hirayama (Ozu’s frequent leading man Chishu Ryu) has been living comfortably for years with his grown daughter, a series of events leads him to accept and encourage her marriage and departure. As elegantly composed and achingly tender as any of the Japanese master’s films, An Autumn Afternoon (Sanna no aji) is one of cinema’s fondest farewells.

€ Directed by Yasujiro Ozu (Late Spring, Tokyo Story, Early Summer)
€ Starring Chishu Ryu (Late Spring Twenty-Four Eyes, Tokyo Twilight)
€ Starring Shima Iwashita (Late Autumn, Harakiri, Double Suicide)
€ Starring Kyoko Kishida (Woman in the Dunes, Being Two Isn’t Easy, The Face of Another)

€ New, restored high-definition digital transfer
€ New audio commentary featuring David Bordwell, author of Ozu and the Poetics of Cinema
€ Excerpts from “Yasujiro Ozu and the Taste of Sake,” a 1978 French television program looking back on Ozu’s career, featuring film critic Michel Ciment
€ Theatrical trailer
€ New and improved English subtitle translation
€ PLUS: A booklet featuring new essays by film scholars Geoff Andrew and Donald Richie

Eclipse from the Criterion Collection – September 2008 release

In the New York Times, Vincent Canby once declared Aki Kaurismäki to be “the seminal European filmmaker of the 1990s.” Unfortunately, the exquisitely crafted, hilarious films from the Finnish master haven’t been seen as widely as that statement would suggest. This September, Eclipse hopes to begin changing that fact with the release of three of Kaurismäki’s funniest and most popular titles. The influence of his films can be seen in everything from the work of Jim Jarmusch to Wes Anderson; now it’s time everyone got acquainted with the original genius of deadpan.

SRP: $44.95
Street date: 9/23/08

The poignant, deadpan films of Aki Kaurismäki are pitched somewhere in the wintry nether lands between comedy and tragedy. And rarely in his body of work has the line separating those genres seemed thinner than in what is often identified as his “Proletariat Trilogy,” Shadows in Paradise, Ariel, and The Match Factory Girl. In these three films, something like social-realist farces, Kaurismäki surveys the working-class outcasts of his native Finland with detached yet disarming amusement. Featuring commanding, off-key visual compositions and delightfully dour performances, the films in this triptych exemplify the talents of a unique and highly influential film artist.


Shadows in Paradise (1986)
Lonely garbageman Nikkander (Matti Pellonpää) finds himself directionless after losing his friend and co-worker to a sudden heart attack; unlikely redemption comes in the form of plain supermarket cashier Ilona (Kati Outinen, in her first of many performances for Kaurismäki), with whom he begins a tentative love affair. Boiling down what is essentially a romantic comedy to a series of spare and beautiful gestures, Kaurismäki conjures an unexpected delight that finds hope blossoming even amid gray surroundings.

In Kaurismäki’s drolly existential crime drama, a coal miner named Taisto (Turo Pajala) attempts to leave behind a provincial life of inertia and economic despair, only to get into ever deeper trouble. Yet a minor-key romance with a hilariously dispassionate meter maid (Susanna Haavisto) might provide a light at the end of a very dark tunnel. Ariel, which boasts a terrific soundtrack of Finnish tango and Baltic pop music and lovely cinematography by Kaurismäki’s longtime cameraman Timo Salmimen, put its director on the international map.

The Match Factory Girl(1990)
Kaurismäki took his penchant for despairing character studies to unspeakably grim depths in the shockingly entertaining The Match Factory Girl. Kati Outinen is memorably impenetrable as Iris, whose grinding days as a cog in a factory wheel, and nights as a neglected daughter living with her parents, ultimately send her over the edge. Yet despite her transgressions, Kaurismäki makes Iris a compelling, even sympathetic figure. Bleak yet suffused with comic irony, The Match Factory Girl closes out the “Proletariat Trilogy” with a bang—and a whimper.

Essential Art House
This fall, Janus Films and the Criterion Collection introduce Essential Art House, a new line of indispensable cinema classics. For Volume 1, we’re pleased to select six of the greatest films from around the world, from directors Ingmar Bergman, Akira Kurosawa, Roman Polanski, Peter Brook, Jean Cocteau, and Jean Renoir. All will be available separately, or in one box set. For the devoted cinephile, these are the must-own fundamentals; for the novice film-lover, this is precisely where to begin.

SRP: $19.95

Jean Renoir’s pacifist masterpiece stars Jean Gabin as a French World War I POW held by Erich Von Stroheim’s German captain. One of the greatest antiwar films ever made, as well as a rousing prison-escape adventure, Grand Illusion is an exemplar of the 1930s poetic realist movement.

SRP: $19.95

Jean Cocteau reinvented the fairy tale for the cinema with this enchanting, exquisitely realized version of Mme. Leprince de Beaumont’s fantasy romance. With all manner of unparalleled visual effects and photographic tricks, Cocteau makes the spellbinding tale of transformative love both ethereal and tangible, and his indelible images still haunt the cinema like no other.

SRP: $19.95

The murder of a man and the rape of his wife in a forest grove—seem from four different perspectives. Toshiro Mifune explodes as the feral bandit who may or may not be guilty of these crimes in Akira Kurosawa’s meditation on the nature of “truth”—a classic, humane allegory that transformed narrative cinema as we know it and turned its director into an international sensation.

SRP: $19.95

Weaving a tapestry of memory and dreams, Ingmar Bergman delves into the past of aged professor Isak Borg, en route to receive an award from his alma mater for a life he no longer understands. Following directly on the heels of his international breakthrough The Seventh Seal, the alternately warm and nightmarish Wild Strawberries cemented Bergman as the leading art-house visionary of his era.

Knife in the Water

Street date: 9/9/08
A husband, a wife, a stranger, a knife: Roman Polanski sets them all adrift on a weekend filled with simmering resentments and gut-churning suspense in his seminal psychological thriller, still one of the greatest feature debuts in film history. With Knife in the Water, Polanski revealed his delight in exploring sexual and class boundaries with ruthless precision.

SRP: $19.95

Under the direction of Peter Brook, William Golding’s classic fable, about a swarm of young boys who, without adult supervision, devolve into chaos after crash-landing on a remote island during wartime, becomes an unforgettable work of cinematic horror. Shot with almost verité camera work, Lord of the Flies takes a radical approach to Golding’s metaphor, grounding it in a terrifying reality.

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