Criterion Announces their July DVDs

     April 23, 2007

Criterion has just announced their July DVDs and the list is below along with the synopses and list of extras. As most of you know I love Criterion DVDs as they always do a great job with their selections and they pick films that tend to get overlooked.

This month has some films by Hiroshi Teshigahara, a Billy Wilder movie, the debut feature from Andrei Tarkovsky and a feature from Jean Cocteau and director Jean-Pierre Melville. It’s a great month so take a look.


Street Date: 7/10/07

The existential ghost story Pitfall, the shocking erotic fable Woman in the Dunes, and the sci-fi–tinged nightmare The Face of Another are three of cinema’s most enduring enigmas and rare treats, from one of its greatest artists. A man of many faces, Hiroshi Teshigahara was not just a Japanese new wave trailblazer, a Kafka of the moving image, but also a painter, sculptor, flower arranger, designer of gardens and tearooms, and director of operas and Noh plays. And these three atmospheric portraits remain the quintessential expressions of his lifelong fascination with the perils of identity and the horrors of isolation.


Written and directed by Hiroshi Teshigahara (ANTONIO GAUDI, MAN WITHOUT A MAP)


  • New, restored high-definition digital transfers

  • Video essays on all three films by critic and festival programmer James Quandt

  • Four short films by Hiroshi Teshigahara: Hokusai (1953), Ikebana (1956), Tokyo 1958 (1958), and Ako/White Morning (1963)

  • A new documentary about the working relationship beween Teshigahara and Kobo Abe, including interviews with Japanese-film scholars Donald Richie and Tadao Sato

  • PLUS: A booklet featuring essays by James Quandt, Howard Hampton, Audie Bock, and Peter Grilli and Max Tessier’s 1964 interview with Teshigahara

When a miner leaves his employers and treks out with his young son to become a migrant worker, he finds himself moving from one eerie landscape to another, intermittently followed (and photographed) by an enigmatic man in a clean white suit, and eventually coming face to face with his inescapable destiny. Hiroshi Teshigahara’s debut feature and first collaboration with novelist Kobo Abe, Pitfall is many things: a mysterious, unsettling ghost story, a portrait of human alienation, and a compellingly surreal critique of soulless industry, shot in elegant black-and-white.

One of the sixties’ great international art-house sensations, Woman in the Dunes was for many the grand unveiling of the surreal, idiosyncratic worldview of Hiroshi Teshigahara. Eija Okada plays an amateur entomologist who has left Tokyo to study an unclassified species of beetle that resides in a remote, vast desert; when he misses his bus back to civilization, he is persuaded to spend the night in the home of a young widow (Kiyoko Kishida) who lives in a hut at the bottom of a sand dune. What results is one of cinema’s most bristling, unnerving, and palpably erotic battles of the sexes, as well as a nightmarish depiction of everyday Sisyphean struggle, for which Teshigahara received an Academy Award nomination for best director.

A staggering work of existential science fiction, The Face of Another dissects identity with the sure hand of a surgeon. Okuyama (Yojimbo’s Tatsuya Nakadai), after being burned and disfigured in an industrial accident and estranged from his family and friends, agrees to his psychiatrist’s radical new experiment: a face transplant, created from the mold of a stranger. As Okuyama is thus further alienated from the strange world around him, he finds himself giving in to his darker temptations. With unforgettable imagery, Teshigahara’s film explores both the limits and freedom in acquiring a new persona, and questions the notion of individuality itself.


Street Date:7/17/07

One of the most scathing indictments of American culture ever produced by a Hollywood filmmaker, Academy Award–winner Billy Wilder’s Ace in the Hole is legendary for both its cutting social critique and its status as a hard-to-find cult classic. Kirk Douglas gives the fiercest performance of his career as Chuck Tatum, an amoral newspaper reporter caught in dead-end Albuquerque who happens upon the story of a lifetime—and will do anything to ensure he gets the scoop. Wilder’s follow-up to Sunset Boulevard is an even darker vision, a no-holds-barred exposé that anticipated the rise of the American media circus.


Written and directed by Billy Wilder

Starring Kirk Douglas

Co-written by Walter Newman


  • New, restored high-definition digital transfer

  • Audio commentary by film scholar Neil Sinyard

  • Portrait of a “60% Perfect Man”: Billy Wilder, a 1980 documentary featuring in-depth interviews with Wilder by film critic Michel Ciment

  • Excerpts from a 1986 appearance by Wilder at the American Film Institute

  • Excerpts from an audio interview with co-screenwriter Walter Newman

  • Theatrical trailer

  • PLUS: A booklet featuring new essays by film critic Molly Haskell and filmmaker Guy Maddin

Street Date:7/24/07

The debut feature from the great Andrei Tarkovsky, Ivan’s Childhood is an evocative, poetic journey through the shadows and shards of one boy’s war-torn youth. Moving back and forth between the traumatic realities of WWII and the serene moments of family life before the conflict began, Tarkovsky’s film remains one of the most jarring and unforgettable depictions of the impact of violence on children in wartime.


Directed by Andrei Tarkovsky (SOLARIS,STALKER)

Cinematography by Vadim Yusov (ANDREI RUBIEV,SOLARIS)


  • New, restored high-definition digital transfer

  • Video appreciation of filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky and Ivan’s Childhood, featuring Vida T. Johnson, coauthor of The Films of Andrei Tarkovsky: A Visual Fugue New video interviews with cinematographer Vadim Yusov and actor Nikolai Burlyaev

  • New and improved English subtitle translation

  • PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by film scholar Dina Iordanova and new translations, by Robert Bird, of “Between Two Films,” Andrei Tarkovsky’s essay about Ivan’s Childhood, and “Ivan’s Willow,” a poem by the director’s father, Arseny Tarkovsky


Street Date:7/24/07

Writer Jean Cocteau and director Jean-Pierre Melville joined forces for this elegant adaptation of Cocteau’s immensely popular, wicked novel about the wholly unholy relationship between a teenage brother and sister. Elisabeth (a remarkable Nicole Stéphane) and Paul (Edouard Dermithe) close themselves off from the world by playing an increasingly intense series of mind games with the people who dare enter their clandestine world—until romance and jealousy intrude. Melville’s operatic camera movements and Cocteau’s perverse, poetic approach to character merge in Les enfants terribles to create one of French cinema’s greatest, and most surprising, meetings of the minds.


Directed by Jean-Pierre Melville(LE SAMUOURAI, ARMY OF SHADOWS)

Written by Jean Cocteau(BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, ORPHEUS)

Cinematography by Henri Decaë(ELEVATOR TO THE GALLOWS, THE 400 BLOWS)


  • New, restored high-definition digital transfer

  • Audio commentary by writer, film critic, and journalist Gilbert Adair

  • Interviews with producer Carole Weisweiller, actors Nicole Stéphane and Jacques eBrnard, and assistant director Claude Pinoteau

  • Around Jean Cocteau (2003), a short video by filmmaker discussing Cocteau and Melville’s working relationship

  • Theatrical trailer

  • Gallery of behind-the-scenes stills

  • PLUS: A booklet featuring a new essay by critic Gary Indiana and an excerpt from Rui Nogueira’s Melville on Melville

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