It was a Criterion weekend at my house…three straight nights of Criterion films from different decades and different countries. As you can imagine, all three were amazing! Do you know about Criterion? Here is a link to info about this tremendous film company that releases great films, old and new from all around the globe. We have a tremendous collection of Criterion films, and if you don’t know what you want to watch, but know you want it to be an important work that is likely to challenge you, then you can pretty much close your eyes and grab anything from the shelves that house these valuable films.
I was inspired on Friday by a customer while standing there in the new release room around 7pm getting ready to get home…We got to talking and he mentioned he had just seen THE FUGITIVE KIND, starring Marlon Brando and directed by the fabulous Sidney Lumet (BEFORE THE DEVIL KNOWS YOUR DEAD) in 1960! The customer suggested that the film was pushing an agenda way ahead of its time, and so very right he was. Brando plays Valentine Xavier, a drifter who cannot avoid his fate, struggling to ride the straight and narrow path but marked with an individuality combined with a natural curiosity and an unshakable inner strength that can only be broken by the classless and lawless law. Filled with intimate moments, and earth-shattering quotes, as well as two super hot actresses in Anna Magnani and Joanne Woodward who provide separate tugs at Valentine’s spirit, the film is an adaptation of Tennessee Williams’ “Orpheus Descending”. Williams, one of humanity’s great witnesses, also wrote the screenplay.
Saturday, inspired by Friday’s film, I brought home Carol Reed’s 1940 cat and mouse WWII film NIGHT TRAIN TO MUNICH. Starring the gorgeous Margaret Lockwood and the rascally Rex Harrison, this film completely blew my mind! It wasn’t so much the story that got me, though that was wonderful – it involves a plot by a British Intelligence agent to rescue a Czech scientist and his daughter from Nazi Germany after they have been kidnapped and brought there from London – but what was truly incredible was that this film was made in 1940 and featured Nazi footage, concentration camps, and the declaration of war on Germany by England. It is almost unthinkable that this film would have been made just a few years later, with the world knowing what it would by then about Hitler’s plans. There is a tongue-in-cheek to this film, a stumbling maturity, and a knowing wink that is simply mind-boggling to contemplate within the context of the time period.
Sunday, I decided to check out a Yasujiro Ozu film. Ozu is a director we’ve been collecting for some time, who made films from the late 1920’s through the early 1960’s. Many of his early black and white films were silent, and he is known to have been a master of conveying the simple challenges of a family struggling through abject poverty to maintain its dignity in this most basic of mediums. I brought home TOKYO CHORUS, one of Ozu’s “comedy’s” about a playful young married insurance agent who loses his job sticking up for an older colleague and finds himself struggling to make ends meet with his wife and three young children. After a moment of two of indecision, we decided to watch the film with a soundtrack (lovely piano work by Donald Sosin created in 2008), which helped us watch this very degraded yet beautiful and lush film. One thing I have noticed with great art (literature, music, film, etc) is the ability of the artist to transcend their time period and capture the human condition in a very universal way. This film did that beautifully. When the wife discovered her kimonos were gone and the husband, while playing with his children, mentioned that her beautiful kimonos had enabled them to pay the hospital bills of their young daughter, the wife joined them, and the adults barely stifled their intense emotion from the financial struggle they were locked in. As the wife wiped tears away from her eyes, and the husband looked away full of shame at his inability to take proper care of his family, I couldn’t help thinking that this scene is being repeated all over our neighborhood (and city, and state and country and earth) right now as family’s are struggling to deal with today’s economy. Ah, the humanity. The humanity!
This week, we have some newly released DVD’s you may want to see, such as the remake of 1981’s THE CLASH OF THE TITANS, starring Sam Worthington (AVATAR), Liam Neeson and Ralph Fiennes. Also REPO MEN, a sci-fi film about repossession men who come to repo your purchased body organs that you have stopped making payments on. Yikes! There is also some other new Criterion films (THE SECRET OF THE GRAIN and ECLIPSE SERIES 22 featuring French director Sacha Guitry) as well as some cool docs (CHOW DOWN, THE ART OF THE STEAL) and a newly released Blu-Ray of CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON.
Alrighty then, see you down at the store.
Love and Kisses,
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CLASH OF THE TITANS.****BD*****
Sam Worthington/Liam Neeson/Ralph Fiennes/Other Humorously Clad Actors.
Directed by Louis Leterrier.
* The 2010 remake of the 1981 “classic” tells the story of Perseus and his adventurous quest to save the world from…what exactly? The badness of the gods? The evil underworld? This part always confused me...
ECLIPSE SERIES 22.
Directed by Sacha Guitry.
* Here is a link to a Criterion page where you can read about these 4 films made by Guitry in the 1930's.
Directed by Ursula Meier.
* The award-winning story of a rural French family whose peace is threatened by the construction of a major highway.
THE MISSING LYNX.
Directed by Raul Garcia.
*This family comedy, produced by, among others, Antonio Banderas, is about a group of animals plotting to get off a freaky billionaire’s private Noah’s Ark.
Zach Galifianakis/Ving Rhames/Emile de Ravin.
Directed by Fouad Mikati.
* Oh, work is so challenging. Especially if you are a government agent with a license to kill. Even more so if you work in a top-secret underground facility with other agencies whose operatives are also licensed to kill. Oh, and when your boss gets killed? And you suspect the rival killers? There will be blood.
Jude Law/Forest Whitaker/Liev Schreiber/Alice Braga.
Directed by Miguel Sapochnik.
* Basically, just like anything else, if you buy something on credit, and can’t afford to pay, the company you bought it from is gonna try to repossess it. In this case, the things the repo men try (usually successfully) to repossess are organs, and not the electric piano type. The conflict occurs when one of the more successful repo men (Law) gets himself an artificial heart that he can’t really afford…uh, oh, right?
THE SECRET OF THE GRAIN.
Directed by Abdel Kechiche.
* This film is about an older man, struggling to keep working at his job that holds little meaning for him, while pushing away feeling of uselessness, and harboring a desire to create a life worth living for himself, in this case opening a restaurant. Eventually it is his family that helps him create a reality that will enable him to go on. This film won 18 awards world-wide.
Giovanna Mezzogiorno/Filippo Timi.
Directed by Marco Bellocchio.
* The story of Mussolini’s first wife, Ida Dalser, and the devastating circumstances of her life and their relationship.
THE ART OF THE STEAL.
Directed by Don Argott.
* Fascinating doc about an amazing art collection left by Dr. Albert C. Barnes and the struggle for control over it has left a bad taste in many people’s mouths.
Directed by Julie Grayer and Gage Johnston.
* From the imdb: Root for Charles, John and Garnet as they try to buck the system of pills and procedures and outfox their heart disease and diabetes. When their doctors inform them they can't get better, our intrepid trio tells the doctors to think again. Charles, John and Garnet decide to take on their diseases by drastically changing their diets. We all know making resolutions is easy; sticking to them is the hard part. With lighthearted animation, piercing expert interviews and a feisty attitude, CHOW DOWN is the moving story of the success you can achieve when you rewrite the recipe for a healthy life.
THE AGATHA CHRISTIE HOUR: SET ONE.
* 300 minutes of the 1982 PBS mystery show.
BATMAN: UNDER THE RED HOOD.
............//NEW ON BLU/............
CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON.
* Steve Martin said it best when he said he watched this whole movie looking for the tiger and the dragon and could NOT FIND THEM! Finally he realized that’s because they were crouching. And hidden.