Criterion May 2020 Slate Includes ‘The Great Escape’

The Criterion Collection May 2020 slate of special-edition Blu-rays will include John Sturges’ World War II classic The Great Escape, starring Steve McQueen; Dance, Girl, Dance, a subversive backstage melodrama starring Maureen O’Hara and Lucille Ball; Husbands, John Cassavetes’ portrait of American manhood in crisis, and his first collaboration with stars Ben Gazzara and Peter Falk; Paul Dano’s directorial debut, Wildlife, anchored by a revelatory Carey Mulligan performance; Eric Rohmer’s wildly influential Six Moral Tales; and a collection of five newly restored short films by Martin Scorsese, including the intimate documentaries Italianamerican and American Boy: A Profile of Steven Prince.

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The Blu-ray edition of Six Moral Tales arrives May 5 with a new 2K digital restoration and uncompressed monaural soundtrack. One of the founding critics of the history-making Cahiers du cinéma, Rohmer began translating his written manifestos to film in the 1960s, standing apart from his New Wave contemporaries with his patented brand of gently existential, hyperarticulate character studies set against vivid seasonal landscapes. The subsequent Six Moral Tales presents a succession of encounters between fragile men and the women who tempt them — 1963’s The Bakery Girl of Monceau and Suzanne’s Career, 1967’s La Collectionneuse, 1969’s My Night at Maud’s, 1970’s Claire’s Knee and 1972’s Love in the Afternoon.

Extras include a 2006 conversation between Rohmer and filmmaker Barbet Schroeder; a 2006 video afterword by filmmaker and writer Neil LaBute; “On Pascal,” a 1965 episode of the educational TV series “En profil dans le texte” directed by Rohmer, on the French philosopher Blaise Pascal, the subject of debate in My Night at Maud’s; archival interviews with Rohmer, film critic Jean Douchet, producer Pierre Cottrell, and actors Jean-Claude Brialy, Béatrice Romand, Laurence de Monaghan and Jean-Louis Trintignant; trailers; and a booklet featuring essays by critics Geoff Andrew, Ginette Vincendeau, Phillip Lopate, Kent Jones, Molly Haskell and Armond White, plus excerpts from cinematographer Nestor Almendros’s 1980 autobiography and Rohmer’s landmark 1948 essay “For a Talking Cinema,” along with an English translation of Six Moral Tales, the book of stories by Rohmer on which the films are based. The Blu-ray also includes four short films by Rohmer — Presentation, or Charlotte and Her Steak (shot in 1951 and completed in 1961); Véronique and Her Dunce (1958); Nadja in Paris (1964); A Modern Coed (1966)-and one on which he advised, The Curve (1999).

The Blu-ray and DVD edition of 1963’s The Great Escape arrives May 12 with a 4K digital restoration, an uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray, and an alternate 5.1 surround soundtrack presented in DTS-HD master audio on the Blu-ray.

Extras include two audio commentaries, one from 1991 featuring director Sturges and composer Elmer Bernstein, the other from 2004 featuring actors James Coburn, James Garner and Donald Pleasence; a new interview with critic Michael Sragow; The Great Escape: Heroes Underground, a four-part 2001 documentary about the real-life escape from the Stalag Luft III prisoner-of-war camp during World War II, including interviews with POWs held there; “The Real Virgil Hilts: A Man Called Jones,” a 2001 program on the United States Army Air Forces pilot David Jones, the inspiration for Steve McQueen’s character in the film; “Return to The Great Escape,” a 1993 program featuring interviews with Coburn, Garner, actors David McCallum and Jud Taylor, stuntman Bud Ekins, and McQueen’s son, Chad McQueen; the film’s trailer; plus an essay by critic Sheila O’Malley.

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Due May 19 on Blu-ray and DVD is 1940’s Dance, Girl, Dance, featuring a new, restored 4K digital transfer, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray. Extras include a new introduction by critic B. Ruby Rich; new selected-scene commentary featuring film historian Cari Beauchamp; and an essay by critic Sheila O’Malley.

The 1970 film Husbands arrives on Blu-ray and DVD May 26 with a new 4K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray. Extras include audio commentary from 2009 featuring critic Marshall Fine; new interviews with producer Al Ruban and actor Jenny Runacre; a new video essay featuring audio recordings of John Cassavetes in his own words exploring the actor-director’s spirited approach to acting; “The Story of Husbands — A Tribute to John Cassavetes,” a half-hour program from 2009 featuring Ruban, actor Ben Gazzara, and cinematographer Victor J. Kemper; an episode of “The Dick Cavett Show” from 1970 featuring Cassavetes, Gazzara and actor Peter Falk; the film’s trailer; plus an essay by filmmaker Andrew Bujalski.

Arriving May 26 is Scorsese Shorts, a compilation of five early short films by Martin Scorsese that offers a window onto his artistic development. Spanning the years from Scorsese’s time at NYU in the mid-1960s to the late ’70s, when he was emerging as one of the era’s top talets, Scorsese Shorts centers on the 1974 home movie Italianamerican, a loving snapshot of the director’s parents, and 1978’s American Boy, a freewheeling portrait of a larger-than-life raconteur. Also included are 1967’s The Big Shave, a daringly visceral response to America’s involvement in Vietnam, and the bracing student films What’s a Nice Girl Like You Doing in a Place Like This? (1963) and It’s Not Just You, Murray! (1964).

The Blu-ray and DVD include 4K digital restorations of all five films, with uncompressed monaural soundtracks on the Blu-ray. Extras include a new conversation between director Martin Scorsese and film critic Farran Smith Nehme; a new discussion among filmmakers Ari Aster, and Josh and Benny Safdie; plus an essay by film critic Bilge Ebiri and various materials from Scorsese’s archive.

The Blu-ray and DVD of 2018’s Wildlife arrives May 26 with a new 2K digital master, with a 5.1 surround DTS HD master audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray. This represent’s the film’s home video debut. Adapted by Dano and Zoe Kazan from the novel by Richard Ford, this meticulously crafted portrait of the American nuclear family in crisis charts the rift that forms within a 1960s Montana household when the father and breadwinner (Jake Gyllenhaal) abruptly departs to fight the forest fires raging nearby, leaving his restless wife (Carey Mulligan) and teenage son (Ed Oxenbould) to pick up the pieces. Extras include new interviews with Dano, Kazan, Mulligan, Gyllenhaal, cinematographer Diego García, production designer Akin McKenzie and costume designer Amanda Ford; a new conversation on the film’s postproduction with Dano, editor Matthew Hannam and composer David Lang; a “Film at Lincoln Center” conversation from 2018 between Dano and novelist Ford about the film’s source material; and an essay by critic Mark Harris.

Update (5/13/20): The original ‘Wildlife’ street date of May 19 was changed to May 26 by Criterion.

Four Netflix Films Join Criterion Collection

Four Netflix films — Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman, Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story, Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert’s American Factory and Mati Diop’s Atlantics — will join the Criterion Collection in 2020.

These four films will join Alfonso Cuaron’s three-time Academy Award winning Roma, which was previously announced as the first Netflix film to receive a home video debut via the Criterion Collection. Roma will be available on Criterion DVD and Blu-ray on Feb. 11.

The Irishman, a mob film starring Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci, has received five Golden Globe nominations, 10 BAFTA nominations, and 10 Academy Award nominations, in addition to being named Best Film of the Year by the National Board of Review and NY Film Critics Circle. With his ninth directing nomination, Martin Scorsese is the most-nominated living director in Academy history.

Marriage Story, a drama starring Scarlet Johansson and Adam Driver, won Best Film at the Gotham Awards and received six Golden Globe nominations, the most of any film, with Laura Dern winning the Golden Globe and the SAG Award for Best Supporting Actress. This was followed by six Academy Award nominations. It has received multiple SAG, BAFTA and PGA nominations.

American Factory premiered at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival where directors Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert won the Directing Award for U.S. Documentary. Produced with Participant Media, American Factory is the first title presented by President and Mrs. Obama’s Higher Ground Productions. Since its August release, the film has been nominated for the Academy Award for Best Documentary as well as the Best Documentary BAFTA award. For Reichert, American Factory marks her fourth Oscar nomination.

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Atlantics premiered in competition at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival, where it was awarded the Grand Prix. The film is Diop’s feature directorial debut and she is the first black woman to compete for the Palme d’Or at Cannes. The film went on to play the Toronto Film Festival, where Diop was awarded the inaugural Mary Pickford Award, recognizing emerging female talent. Atlantics was on the Academy shortlist for the Best International Feature Film Oscar and Diop received a DGA Nomination for Outstanding Directorial Achievement of a First-Time Feature Film Director.

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Each Criterion Collection release will include exclusive behind-the-scenes content, special features and a filmmaker-supervised master.

The Roma Criterion release will include Road to Roma, a new documentary about the making of the film, featuring behind-the-scenes footage and an interview with Cuarón, as well as many other special features.

Criterion March 2020 Slate Includes Films From Streisand, Spike Lee

The Criterion Collection March 2020 slate of special-edition Blu-rays will include John M. Stahl’s Technicolor melodrama Leave Her to Heaven, Spike Lee’s satire Bamboozled, James Whale’s Show Boat with Irene Dunne and Paul Robeson, director-producer-star Barbra Streisand’s The Prince of Tides, the Maysles brothers’ Salesman, and Mikhail Kalatozov’s The Cranes Are Flying.

Due March 10 on Blu-ray is 1969’s Salesman, a portrait of American dreams and disillusionment from Direct Cinema pioneers David Maysles, Albert Maysles and Charlotte Zwerin. The film explores the worlds of four dogged door-to-door Bible salesmen as they travel from Boston to Florida on a seemingly futile quest to sell luxury editions of the Good Book to working-class Catholics. The Blu-ray will feature a new 4K restoration, plus a new appreciation of the film by actor Bill Hader; audio commentary from 2001 featuring directors Albert Maysles and Charlotte Zwerin; “Globesman,” a 2016 episode of the television series “Documentary Now!” that parodies the film, starring Hader and Fred Armisen; a television interview from 1968 with directors David and Albert Maysles, conducted by critic Jack Kroll; an audio excerpt from a 2000 episode of NPR’s “Weekend Edition” profiling James Baker, one of the salesmen featured in the film; the film’s trailer; and an essay by critic Michael Chaiken.

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Due March 17 on Blu-ray and DVD is director Spike Lee’s Bamboozled, a satire from 2000 that examines the past, present and future of racism in American popular culture. Under pressure to help revive his network’s low ratings, television writer Pierre Delacroix (Damon Wayans) hits on an explosively offensive idea: bringing back blackface for a “new-millennium minstrel show.” The home video release includes a new 2K digital restoration, with a 5.1 surround DTS-HD master audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray. Extras include a 2001 audio commentary by Lee; a new conversation between Lee and film programmer and critic Ashley Clark; new interviews with choreographer and actor Savion Glover, actor Tommy Davidson, and costume designer Ruth E. Carter; “On Blackface and the Minstrel Show,” a new interview program featuring film and media scholar Racquel Gates; “The Making of Bamboozled,” a documentary from 2001 featuring members of the cast and crew; deleted scenes; music videos for the Mau Maus’ “Blak Iz Blak” and Gerald Levert’s “Dream With No Love”; alternate parody commercials created for the film; a poster gallery and trailer; and an essay by Clark.

Due March 24 on Blu-ray and DVD is the 1957 Soviet film The Cranes Are Flying from director Mikhail Kalatozov, about a couple who are in love until the eruption of World War II tears them apart. The home video features a new 2K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray, and a new English subtitle translation. Extras include a new interview with scholar Ian Christie on why the film is a landmark of Soviet cinema; an audio interview from 1961 with Kalatozov; Hurricane Kalatozov, a documentary from 2009 on the Georgian director’s complex relationship with the Soviet government; a segment from a 2008 program about the film’s cinematography, featuring original storyboards and an interview with actor Alexei Batalov; an interview from 2001 with filmmaker Claude Lelouch on the film’s French premiere at the 1958 Cannes Film Festival; and an essay by critic Chris Fujiwara.

Also due March 24 on Blu-ray and DVD is 1945’s Leave Her to Heaven from director John M. Shahl. Novelist Richard Harland (Cornel Wilde) seems to have found the perfect woman in Ellen (Gene Tierney), a beautiful socialite who initiates a whirlwind romance and steers him into marriage before he can think twice. Yet the glassy surface of Ellen’s devotion soon reveals monstrous depths, as Richard comes to realize that his wife is shockingly possessive and may be capable of destroying anyone who comes between them. The home video includes a new 2K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray. Extras include a new interview with critic Imogen Sara Smith, the film’s trailer, and an essay by novelist Megan Abbott.

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Due March 31 on Blu-ray and DVD is the musical Show Boat, director James Whale’s 1936 take on Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II’s adaptation of Edna Ferber’s novel. Show Boat spans four decades and three generations as it follows the fortunes of the stage-struck Magnolia (Irene Dunne), an aspiring actor whose journey takes her from her family’s humble floating playhouse in the 1880s South to the height of fame in the 1930s North. The cast of show-business legends includes Helen Morgan, Hattie McDaniel, Charles Winninger and Paul Robeson, who provides an iconic rendition of “Ol’ Man River.” The home video includes a new 4K digital transfer, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray. Extras include audio commentary from 1989 featuring American-musical historian Miles Kreuger; a new interview with James Whale biographer James Curtis; “Recognizing Race in Show Boat,” a new interview program featuring professor and author Shana L. Redmond; Paul Robeson: Tribute to an Artist, a newly restored Academy Award-winning short documentary from 1979 by Saul J. Turell; two performances from the sound prologue of the 1929 film version of Show Boat, plus 20 minutes of silent excerpts from the film, with audio commentary by Kreuger; two radio adaptations of Show Boat, featuring stage and screen cast members Allan Jones, Helen Morgan and Charles Winninger, plus actor Orson Welles and novelist Edna Ferber; and an essay by critic Gary Giddins.

Also due March 31 on Blu-ray and DVD is the 1991 adaptation of Pat Conroy’s novel The Prince of Tides, directed by and starring Barbra Streisand. Summoned to New York after his sister attempts suicide, Tom Wingo (Nick Nolte) must serve as her memory, reckoning with the traumas of their southern childhood so that her psychiatrist, Dr. Susan Lowenstein (Streisand), can help her recover. But Tom’s sessions with Lowenstein will plunge him into the depths of his own long-repressed pain-and reawaken the possibility of love within him. The home video features a new 4K digital restoration, with a 2.0 surround DTS-HD master audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray. Extras include an audio commentary featuring Streisand, recorded in 1991 and updated in 2019; a making-of featurette from 1991; an excerpt from a 2018 interview with Streisand, conducted by filmmaker Robert Rodriguez on El Rey Network’s “The Director’s Chair”; audition and rehearsal footage; deleted scenes and alternate takes; costume and makeup tests; alternate end credits with vocal performance by Streisand; behind-the-scenes footage; a gag reel; a production-stills gallery and other archival materials; an interview with author Pat Conroy from a 1992 episode of “Cinema Showcase” with Jim Whaley; an interview with Streisand from a 1992 episode of the British television show “Aspel & Company” with Michael Aspel; trailers; and an essay by film historian Bruce Eder.

 

Criterion Releasing Netflix’s ‘Roma’ on Blu-ray and DVD

The Criterion Collection will release director Alfonso Cuarón’s Oscar-winning 2018 drama Roma on Blu-ray and DVD Feb. 11.

Cuarón re-created the early-1970s Mexico City of his childhood, portraying the life of a middle-class family through the experiences of Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio), their maid. Charged with the care of four small children abandoned by their father, Cleo tends to the family even as her own life is shaken by personal and political upheavals.

It was released briefly in theaters in the United States by Netflix before being available on the streaming service.

Roma earned 10 Oscar nominations, and won for Best Foreign-Language Film, Best Cinematography and Best Director. It was the first time a foreign-language film won for direction, and the first time a director won for cinematography for his own film.

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The disc release will include a 4K digital master supervised by Cuarón, with a Dolby Atmos soundtrack on the Blu-ray, plus alternate French subtitles and Spanish SDH.

Extras include:

  • “Road to Roma,” a new documentary about the making of the film, featuring behind-the-scenes footage and an interview with Cuarón;
  • “Snapshots from the Set,” a new documentary featuring actors Yalitza Aparicio and Marina de Tavira, producers Gabriela Rodríguez and Nicolás Celis, production designer Eugenio Caballero, casting director Luis Rosales, executive producer David Linde, and others;
  • New documentaries about the film’s sound and postproduction processes, featuring Cuarón; Sergio Diaz, Skip Lievsay, and Craig Henighan from the postproduction sound team; editor Adam Gough; postproduction supervisor Carlos Morales; and finishing artist Steven J. Scott
  • A new documentary about the film’s theatrical campaign and social impact in Mexico, featuring Celis and Rodríguez;
  • “Nothing at Stake,” a new video essay by filmmaker Kogonada;
  • Trailers;
  • Essays by novelist Valeria Luiselli and historian Enrique Krauze.

 

The Blu-ray will exclusively feature an essay by author Aurelio Asiain and production-design images with notes by Caballero.

Other February 2020 Criterion Blu-ray releases include Hiroshi Teshigahara’s Antonio Gaudí (Feb. 18), a 1984 tribute to the visionary Catalan architect; Pier Paolo Pasolini’s provocative 1968 film Teorema (Feb. 18), starring Terence Stamp; 1990’s Paris Is Burning (Feb. 25), a look at Harlem’s vibrant drag-ball culture in the 1980s, featuring more than an hour of never-before-seen outtakes; and Three Fantastic Journeys by Karel Zeman (Feb. 25) collecting the renowned special-effects fabulist’s film’s Journey to the Beginning of Time, Invention for Destruction and The Fabulous Baron Munchausen.

Mike’s Picks: ‘When We Were Kings’ and ‘The Return of Martin Guerre’

When We Were Kings

Criterion, Documentary, $29.95 DVD, $39.95 Blu-ray, ‘PG’ for images of violence, brief nudity and some language.
Featuring Muhammad Ali, George Foreman, Norman Mailer, George Plimpton.
1996.
The now famed, Zaire-set 1974 Rumble in the Jungle boxing match between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman provided the century-caliber upset of which Oscar-winning documentaries are made, which is what happened with 1996’s When We Were Kings, one of my favorite movies of any kind ever made, dealing with Ali’s spiritual renewal with the African people who adored him.
Extras: A three-night event featuring concerts by some of the era’s major musical acts was filmed leading to the main event, and much more of the music footage formed the basis for 2008’s theatrically released Soul Power, which is included on this release as well.
Read the Full Review

The Return of Martin Guerre

Cohen, Drama, $22.98 DVD, $39.98 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Gerard Depardieu, Nathalie Baye.
1982.
The possibility of identity theft in The Return of Martin Guerre provides the drama, as it looks at the effect its title’s mysterious not-exactly-stranger has on a 16th-century village. A onetime arthouse hit that Hollywood later modified and more or less remade, it boasts two international stars, one or two familiar faces from French cinema and a lot of cackling chickens who’d probably be crossing the road if there were any roads here beyond modest horse paths.
Extras: Includes an interview of female lead Nathalie Baye.
Read the Full Review

 

When We Were Kings

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Criterion;
Documentary;
$29.95 DVD, $39.95 Blu-ray;
Rated ‘PG’ for images of violence, brief nudity and some language.
Featuring Muhammad Ali, George Foreman, Norman Mailer, George Plimpton.

“No. No way. I’m not going to do it. I’m not going to pay that much money to watch Ali get killed in the ring.”

That was me to my best friend in 1974 as the now famed, Zaire-set Rumble in the Jungle approached, the subsequent Rope-a-Dope bout between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman — long before the latter became the Anthony Bourdain of college dorms. This was the same friend with whom I’d seen the closed-circuit broadcast of Ali-Frazier II in Washington, D.C.’s long extinct RKO Keith’s — right round the corner-and-change from the White House and we were the only white guys in the raucously wild-ass balcony (an experience). Later, we’d see Ali in person win a close and controversial decision against Jimmy Young up in Landover, MD. But as for the Rumble, I wouldn’t go back to the Keith’s or anywhere the fight was transmitted, thus missing the century-caliber upset of which Oscar-winning documentaries are made. Which is what happened with 1996’s When We Were Kings, one of my favorite movies of any kind ever made.

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Ali’s imminent death or at least serious maiming was the common wisdom at the time, stated by no less than Norman Mailer (author of The Fight, a book I love) and George Plimpton, all the way down to just about any person on the street, which by that time was where Richard Nixon was not quite three months after his resignation. Everyone knew that Ali was too old and too sapped (particularly by what the U.S. government had done to him), while Foreman was a sullen destroyer still eons away from a subsequent and complete alteration of his personal image, one arguably more jolting than Frank Sinatra’s and Dick Powell’s put together. Whereas Ali eventually spent most of his time actively charming the locals and then some, Foreman showed up in Zaire with a German shepherd, which was not the pet of choice for all the Africans who remembered or knew about British colonialism, which was just about everybody.

This all became the nucleus of the film but not by design. The original intention was to film a concert thrown in as an extra added PR attraction by Zaire President Mobutu Sese Seko, a typically bloody-handed despot who also embezzled billions, which makes you wonder if he regarded the bout’s promoter Don King as a soul brother. But during the lead-up, Foreman walked into a training camp elbow — delaying the fight for six weeks perilously close to the rainy season. The concert dates and performers were bound by contracts, and these were heavy hitters: James Brown, B.B. King, Miriam Makeba, The Spinners, Celia Cruz and more. The three-nighter was filmed, albeit with no one in the audience for the first two nights, thanks to the postponed main event. And in the interim, filmmaker Leon Gast began to think that there might be a more novel documentary out there, dealing with Ali’s spiritual renewal with the African people who adored him. Plus, of course, the fight itself.

Cut to a modest wait of maybe two decades when Gast finally got the money (thank you, producer David Sonenberg) to begin assembling what he had from a few skyscrapers’ worth of shot material. The filmmaker wisely elected not to distract from what truly mattered by now, making the concert a presence but definitely a sideline affair. Eventually, much more of the music footage formed the basis for 2008’s theatrically released Soul Power, which in typically classy Criterion fashion is included on this release as well (it actually runs a teensy bit longer than Kings). Not exactly a concert film per se, it deals as much with its own backstage material and is a little like Murray Lerner’s Festival in that regard. The No. 1 reality it conveys is the intense heat endured by the performers (at least the fighters were mostly stripped down). The Spinners are dripping with sweat by the time they hit their first note, and, like most artists showcased, are wearing performing duds. Though the Spinners drummer, no fool, seems to be saying the hell with that and is in a t-shirt.

Back to the fight. The final capper to transform a superb documentary into an all-timer came when friend-of-the-production Taylor Hackford took a look at assembled footage and decided that a few perspective-oriented voices might round things out: Mailer, Plimpton, Ali biographer Thomas Hauser, Spike Lee. Watching Mailer talk about anything — and do we ever need him and all his first-person pseudonyms in the present political climate — puts most movies in the shade just by itself. Also great to see is Lee’s appalled reaction to the fact most young people know almost nothing when it comes to even recent history — while Plimpton gets to end the picture on a perfect anecdotal note following a couple spectacular climactic peaks: the fight itself and then one of the best music-backed photo montages I’ve ever seen to the celebratory title tune.

It’s also sweet to see Mailer given the opportunity to laud the beloved individual that Foreman eventually became, and unlike Frazier (who became understandably embittered at the adulation Ali accumulated) looked after the now handicapped champ on and offstage when Kings took the Oscar that was only its due (it had previously cleaned up in critics’ awards as well). When deciding whether or not to give the movie a “go” when an assemblage was put together, Foreman ended up seeing it 11 times, which we have to take as an affirmative. He said every viewing convinced him that he was going to win, but Ali, of course, had successfully tired out Foreman by enduring several rounds’ worth of the latter’s sideline punches while leaning against the ropes, outlasting a totally intimidating force until he could score a knockout in the eighth.

After damage inflicted here and also by Frazier and certainly by 22 subsequent bouts, Ali never lost his intelligence, but his motor skills were shot for the rest of his life. As a result, what happened to him accomplished what my seeing Benny “Kid” Paret beaten to a delayed death from a March 24, 1962, beating on ABC’s “Fight of the Week” did not: Make me lose my taste for boxing despite fervent fandom that went back at least to the three Patterson-Johansson contests and extended through all the Saturday ABC-TV broadcasts (was there a Basilio-Fullmer LXVIII?; it seemed like it).

Years after the Rumble, on the way back to my hotel after the New York press screening of Terrence Malick’s already mesmerizing film of James Jones’s The Thin Red Line, I saw Ali standing out in front of his hotel on the corner of 54th Street and Avenue of the Americas posing tolerantly (maybe even contentedly) next to one more yahoo whose buddy had an Instamatic. I’d never been more tempted to go the same yahoo route myself (of course, it would have helped if I were carrying a camera in those pre-cellphone days) but finally rejected the thought. This, however, didn’t keep me from stopping in my tracks and staring for as long as was socially acceptable; I felt I was in the presence of a king. That’s where this documentary puts you, hence its title, as Mailer, B.B. King and The Godfather of Soul rounds out a Murderer’s Row of royalty.

Mike’s Picks: ‘When We Were Kings’ and ‘The Return of Martin Guerre’

Criterion’s January 2020 Slate Includes ‘Fail Safe’

The list of Criterion Collection Blu-ray and DVD releases for January 2020 includes Pedro Almodóvar’s All About My Mother, George Cukor’s romantic comedy Holiday, Jean-Luc Godard’s Le petit soldat, Sidney Lumet’s nuclear-war thriller Fail Safe, and a Blu-ray edition of Lumet’s Tennessee Williams adaptation The Fugitive Kind.

Arriving Jan. 7 on DVD and Blu-ray is 1938’s Holiday, starring Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant. The special edition includes a new 4K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray. Extras include Holiday (1930), a previous adaptation of Philip Barry’s play, directed by Edward H. Griffith; a new conversation between filmmaker and distributor Michael Schlesinger and film critic Michael Sragow; audio excerpts from an American Film Institute oral history with director George Cukor, recorded in 1970 and ’71; a costume gallery; plus an essay by critic Dana Stevens.

Due Jan. 14 is 1960’s The Fugitive Kind, bringing together four Oscar-winning actors: Marlon Brando, Anna Magnani, Joanne Woodward and Maureen Stapleton. The Blu-ray includes a high-definition digital restoration, approved by Lumet, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack. Extras include an interview from 2009 with Lumet; Three Plays by Tennessee Williams, an hour-long 1958 television presentation of one-act plays, directed by Lumet and starring Ben Gazzara and Lee Grant, among others; a program from 2010 discussing Williams’s work in Hollywood and The Fugitive Kind; plus an essay by film critic David Thomson.

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Arriving Jan. 21 on DVD and Blu-ray is 1963’s Le petit soldat, Godard’s examination of the use of torture in the Algerian War. The special edition includes a high-definition digital restoration, approved by cinematographer Raoul Coutard, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray, and a new English subtitle translation. Extras include an interview with Godard from 1965; an interview with actor Michel Subor from 1963; an audio interview with Godard from 1961; plus an essay by critic Nicholas Elliott.

All About My Mother, from 1999, arrives on Blu-ray and DVD Jan. 28 with a new 2K digital restoration supervised by executive producer Agustín Almodóvar and approved by the director, with a new English subtitle translation, and 5.1 surround DTS-HD master audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray. Extras include a 52-minute documentary from 2012 on the making of the film, featuring interviews with Pedro and Agustín Almodóvar; actors Penélope Cruz, Marisa Paredes, Cecilia Roth and Antonia San Juan; production manager Esther García; and author Didier Eribon. Other extras include a television program from 1999 featuring Pedro Almodóvar and his mother, Francisca Caballero, along with Cruz, San Juan, Paredes and Roth; a 48-minute post-screening Q&A in Madrid from 2019, featuring the Almodóvars and Paredes; plus an essay by film scholar Emma Wilson. The Blu-ray will include an interview with Pedro Almodóvar and a tribute he wrote to his mother, both from 1999.

Also due on Blu-ray and DVD Jan. 28 is 1964’s Fail Safe, starring Henry Fonda as the U.S. president and Walter Matthau as a trigger-happy political theorist. The special edition includes a new 4K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray. Extras include an audio commentary from 2000 featuring director Sidney Lumet; a new interview with film critic J. Hoberman on 1960s nuclear paranoia and Cold War films; “Fail Safe Revisited”, a short documentary from 2000 including interviews with Lumet, screenwriter Walter Bernstein and actor Dan O’Herlihy; plus an essay by critic Bilge Ebiri.

Mike’s Picks: ‘Local Hero’ and ‘Whirlpool’

Local Hero

Criterion, Comedy, $29.95 DVD, $39.95 Blu-ray, ‘PG.’
Stars Peter Reigert, Burt Lancaster, Denis Lawson, Jenny Seagrove.
1983. Better than any movie of its era, Bill Forsyth’s Local Hero comes closest to pulling off full-fledged whimsy, and this deserving Criterion release now seems like feel-good perfection.
Extras: Fortsyth’s provides a commentary with film critic Mark Kermode, who asks really good questions. And cinematographer Chris Menges rates his own nearly hourlong documentary. My favorite extra, along with the Forsyth-Kermode voiceover, is a primer with how the picture came to be from inception through the ad campaign.
Read the Full Review

Whirlpool

Available via ScreenArchives.com
Twilight Time, Drama, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Gene Tierney, Richard Conte, Jose Ferrer, Charles Bickford.
1949.
As movie-related tantalizers go, Whirlpool’s casting of a young Jose Ferrer as a sociopathic quack astrologer easily tops most.
Extras: Includes a commentary by the late Richard Schickel carried over from the long-ago DVD.
Read the Full Review

 

Local Hero

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Criterion;
Comedy;
$29.95 DVD, $39.95 Blu-ray;
Rated ‘PG.’
Stars Peter Reigert, Burt Lancaster, Denis Lawson, Jenny Seagrove.

Better than any movie of its era, Bill Forsyth’s Local Hero comes closest to pulling off full-fledged whimsy — or at least, that’s what I thought in 1983 and up to about a week ago. But now, I can assert my huzzah without qualification because time indeed has been kind, and this deserving (but, to me, somewhat unexpected) Criterion release now seems like feel-good perfection without need of any “closest to” stuff.

Of course, as is noted in one of this release’s accompanying supplements (which are, as DVD Beaver’s Garry Tooze likes to say, “stacked”), there was some financial resistance to green-lighting this Houston-to-Scotland dose of chuckle bait at the time because everyone in it is so likable — the implication being that without anyone for audiences to hate, no one would come. Now, there’s a telling commentary for you on something, and one wonders if this would still apply to mass taste in 2019. Whatever the case, even this comedy’s potential villain — a CEO played by Burt Lancaster whose deep pockets want to turn a Scottish village into an oil refinery — is hard not to like. Part of this is due to the character’s compensating virtues and some is due to Lancaster’s trademark spectacular charisma, even in, as here, business attire.

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Still basking a little in residual ensemble glory for his role in National Lampoon’s Animal House, Peter Riegert turned out to be a felicitously droll choice to play the ambitious company exec that Lancaster picks to negotiate the deal. Riegert’s assignment is due to the fact that with “MacIntyre” as his character’s last name, Lancaster’s assumption is that this guy must be Scottish, though it turns out that this was just another case of immigrant name-mangling when the former’s Hungarian ancestors came to America. No matter: Lancaster’s “Felix Happer” — how can any audience dislike a Felix? — keeps failing to recognize his underling on subsequent meet-ups, even though the two have shared a passionate conversation (at least on the boss’s side) about this corporate giant’s overriding passion: astronomy.

The central joke here is that the Scottish locals are assumed to be financial patsies when, in fact, they can probably negotiate a deal as well as Hollywood’s old-school finest could (think Lew Wasserman or Swifty Lazar). This is less a case of villager veins getting a fresh infusion of ice cubes every morning than of this supposedly unassuming populace being set in ways that sometimes stretch back centuries if you factor in inherited land holdings. On the other hand, the populace isn’t so adverse to change that enough green might not make them reconsider. There is one key holdout: He lives in a ramshackle pile of something that doesn’t even have a front door, so to gain entrance, visitors have to climb in through a window. In other words, he’s not exactly motivated by money.

A good filmmaker might come up with one idiosyncratic writing or directing “ping” to enhance a scene, but writer-director Forsyth, who at the time was coming off the sleeper success Gregory’s Girl, floods us with as many as Robert Altman did. They can come out of anywhere: hilariously set-up gags about the degree to which the Scottish point-person played by Denis Lawson turns out to be a professional jack-of-all trades; a humble village dance (guys playing the fiddle and all that) where a punker stands out as much as Pavarotti would have; divulgence of the true biological identity of a dreamboat marine researcher played by Jenny Seagrove; Lawson’s pragmatic or lackadaisical approach (take your pick) to wedded bliss when every negotiating tool is in play; and the escalating extremes in the actions of a certifiable nut job that Lancaster has hired to insult and even humiliate him at work. The last is likely over Felix’s inadequacies over having inherited the family business, which kept from marrying and otherwise fulfilling his own potential.

Local Hero has a couple secret weapons. One is the unbeatable score by Dire Straits’ Mark Knopfler, which captures both the comedy and the strain of melancholy that runs through the movie (Riegert’s character is lonely, too). To my surprise, because the score has a cult, it’s the one major component not really covered in the bonus section, though Fortsyth’s voiceover (with film critic Mark Kermode, who asks really good questions) does go on about Knopfler’s contribution at one point.

The other is the almost incalculable contribution of Chris Menges, who within four years of Hero’s release would win two cinematography Oscars (The Killing Field and The Mission). Usually, with whimsical screen material, one expects the premise, dialogue, comic situations and a deep bench of supporting players to carry the load. To be sure, all of that happens here, but this is also a movie laced by an underlying sadness, as well as one that deals substantially with the pull of the universe: bigger game, though it wouldn’t think of rubbing our noses in it. The imagery here is frequently thrilling and that’s not too strong a word. Menges even manages to elicit a substantial emotional kick from the manner in which he frames and lights a phone booth, which Criterion appreciated enough to make the structure the centerpiece of its cover art.

Menges rates his own nearly hourlong documentary in the bonus section, dealing with earlier works, which is instructional because they deal with films not widely known. My favorite extra, along with the Forsyth-Kermode voiceover, is a primer with how the picture came to be from inception through the ad campaign — an unusually specific fly-on-the-wall chronicle (Hero producer David Puttnam makes his one major appearance in this section) for which I can remember few screen precedents. As I keep asking with nearly every look at a Criterion release: How do the company’s sleuths keep finding the mausoleums where this stuff is buried? In this case, a lot of the material comes from the archives of Scottish TV.

One thing that wasn’t a factor in 1983 was the existence of You’ve Been Trumped, a 2001 documentary that everyone should have seen pre-election. With Forsyth’s fiction replaced by fact, though with meanness subbing for ultimate decency, it tells how Donald Trump high-pressured Scottish locals who wouldn’t sell him their land by turning the off their water as stacks of unwashed dishes piled up in their sinks. All so that he could build another of his golf courses for fat-cats and, presumably himself when he needed a spare place to shoot his standard 212 on the first nine holes before rewriting his scorecard.

Seeing Hero again made me long for the years when I programmed the AFI Theater because here was a dream double bill plunked in front of me. Just about the time I was congratulating my brainstorm after making the connection between the documentary and Forsyth’s more life-affiriming riff, my self-admiration was dashed upon hearing Forsyth and Kermode make the link themselves. The two thoroughly destroyed my thunder with a wink, the way the Scots do to do Big Oil here.

Mike’s Picks: ‘Local Hero’ and ‘Whirlpool’

Oscar Nominee ‘Cold War’ Due on Disc Nov. 19 From Criterion

The Criterion Collection Nov. 19 will release Cold War on Blu-ray and DVD. The 2018 Polish film was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign-Language Film.

The sweeping, delirious romance begins in the Polish countryside, where Wiktor (Tomasz Kot), a musician on a state-sponsored mission to collect folk songs, discovers a captivating young singer named Zula (Joanna Kulig). Over the next 15 years, their turbulent relationship will play out in stolen moments between two worlds: the jazz clubs of decadent bohemian Paris, to which he defects, and the corrupt, repressive Communist Bloc, where she remains.

The disc release will include a new 4K digital master, supervised and approved by director Paweł Pawlikowski and cinematographer Łukasz Zal, with 5.1 surround DTS-HD master audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray. Other extras include a new conversation between Pawlikowski and filmmaker Alejandro G. Iñàrritu; a press conference featuring Pawlikowski and Zal, actors Kulig, Kot and Borys Szyc, and producer Ewa Puszczynska; documentaries from 2018 on the making of the film; a trailer; a new English subtitle translation; and an essay by film critic Stephanie Zacharek.

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Criterion’s November 2019 slate also includes 1996’s The Daytrippers, the feature debut of writer-director Greg Mottola. When she discovers a love letter written to her husband (Stanley Tucci) by an unknown paramour, the distraught Eliza (Hope Davis) turns to her tight-knit Long Island family for advice. Soon the entire clan-strong-willed mom (Anne Meara), taciturn dad (Pat McNamara), and jaded sister (Parker Posey) with pretentious boyfriend (Liev Schreiber) in tow-has squeezed into a station wagon and headed into Manhattan to find out the truth, kicking off a one-crazy-day odyssey full of unexpected detours and life-changing revelations.

The Blu-ray and DVD releases arriving Nov. 12 include a new 4K digital restoration, supervised by Mottola, with uncompressed stereo soundtrack on the Blu-ray. Extras include a new audio commentary featuring Mottola, editor Anne McCabe and producer Steven Soderbergh; new interviews with Mottola and cast members Davis, Posey, Schreiber and Campbell Scott; The Hatbox, a 1985 short film by Mottola, with audio commentary by the director; and an essay by critic Emily Nussbaum.

Due Nov. 19 on Blu-ray and DVD will be 1986’s Betty Blue, in French with English subtitles. When the easygoing would-be novelist Zorg (Jean-Hugues Anglade) meets the tempestuous Betty (Béatrice Dalle) in a sunbaked French beach town, it’s the beginning of a whirlwind love affair that sees the pair turn their backs on conventional society in favor of the hedonistic pursuit of freedom, adventure, and carnal pleasure. But as the increasingly erratic Betty’s grip on reality begins to falter, Zorg finds himself willing to do things he never expected to protect both her fragile sanity and their tenuous existence.

The disc will include a high-definition digital restoration approved by director Jean-Jacques Beineix, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray.

Extras include Blue Notes and Bungalows, a 60-minute documentary from 2013 featuring Beineix, actors Jean-Hugues Anglade and Béatrice Dalle, associate producer Claudie Ossard, cinematographer Jean-François Robin, and composer Gabriel Yared; “Making of Betty Blue,” a short video featuring Beineix and author Philippe Djian; Le chien de Monsieur Michel, a short film by Beineix from 1977; a French television interview from 1986 with Beineix and Dalle; a Dalle screen test; railers; a new English subtitle translation; and an essay by critic Chelsea Phillips-Carr.

Due Nov. 26 is 1950’s Best Picture Oscar winner All About Eve. In Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s witty Hollywood classic, Margo Channing (Bette Davis) entertains a surprise dressing-room visitor: her most adoring fan, the shy, wide-eyed Eve Harrington (Anne Baxter). But as Eve becomes a fixture in Margo’s life, the Broadway legend soon realizes that her supposed admirer intends to use her and everyone in her circle, including George Sanders’s acid-tongued critic, as stepping-stones to stardom.

The special-edition Blu-ray and DVD includes a 4K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray.

The discs include two audio commentaries from 2010, one featuring actor Celeste Holm, director Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s son Christopher Mankiewicz, and author Kenneth L. Geist; the other featuring author Sam Staggs. Other extras include All About Mankiewicz, a feature-length documentary from 1983 about the director; episodes of “The Dick Cavett Show” from 1969 and 1980 featuring actors Bette Davis and Gary Merrill; a new interview with costume historian Larry McQueen; Hollywood Backstories: All About Eve, a 2001 documentary featuring interviews with Davis and others about the making of the film; documentaries from 2010 about Mankiewicz’s life and career, the short story on which the film is based and its real-world inspiration, and a real-life “Sarah Siddons Society” based on the film’s fictional society; a radio adaptation of the film from 1951; the film’s trailer; and an essay by critic Terrence Rafferty and the 1946 short story on which the film is based.

Also due Nov. 26 is 1942’s Now, Voyager, also starring Davis. Nervous spinster Charlotte Vale (Davis) is stunted from growing up under the heel of her puritanical Boston Brahmin mother (Gladys Cooper), and remains convinced of her own unworthiness until a kindly psychiatrist (Claude Rains) gives her the confidence to venture out into the world on a South American cruise. Onboard, she finds her footing with the help of an unhappily married man (Paul Henreid).

The Blu-ray and DVD includes a new, restored 4K digital transfer, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray. Extras include an episode of “The Dick Cavett Show” from 1971 with Davis; an interview with Paul Henreid from 1980; selected-scene commentary on the film’s score by professor Jeff Smith; a new interview with film critic Farran Smith Nehme on the making of the film; a new interview with costume historian Larry McQueen; two radio adaptations from 1943 and 1946; an essay by scholar Patricia White; and a 1937 reflection on acting by Davis.