2014 is here! Alright, not really, but we do go a glimpse into what The Criterion Collection has in store for us with their January releases. If these selections are any indication, this is going to be a great year. Two classic films already in the collection are getting the much deserved blu-ray treatment, four new films are being added, and there is a fantastic addition to the Eclipse Series, featuring three of the final films from historic director Satyajit Ray. But enough introduction; here are the titles.
Being released January 7th, 2014:
- Eclipse Series 40: Late Ray (1984-1991): Satyajit Ray’s directorial career is amazing. It is also underrated. His films are just beginning to be widely seen and talked about by the average movie fan, and The Criterion Collection is partially responsible for his resurgence. Ray’s masterpieces, “The Big City” (1963), “Charulata” (1964), and “The Music Room” (1958) are already a part of the collection, and now three of his final films will be boxed together for us to experience. This set will include “The Home and the World” (1984), “An Enemy of the People” (1989), and his final film, “The Stranger” (1991).
- “Throne of Blood” (1957): This amazing film from director Akira Kurosawa is already part of Criterion’s Collection, but is at long last coming to blu-ray. It is a retelling of Shakespeare’s “Macbeth”, brilliantly set in feudal Japan. As always, Kurosawa delicately blends action, drama, and suspense, while creating a film that is not to be forgotten.
Being released January 14th, 2014:
- “Thief” (1981): Director Michael Mann’s films have many strengths. His ability to enthrall his audience in a heist or crime is one of his biggest, and in his directorial debut, “Thief,” that is exactly what he does. James Cann stars as a successful jewel thief, looking for a “normal” life. After a big score, his world is turned upside-down when his friend (and fence) is killed. This suspenseful, action-packed extravaganza clearly shows an endless amount of talent from the film’s writer/director, and you can see the foundation for the style that he would continue to use later in his career. It’s no wonder he has gone on to have such an accomplished career.
- “Rififi” (1955): Another movie that is already part of The Criterion Collection (and also another crime story) is this masterfully crafted French film from director Jules Dassin. Dassin’s career is one that will take you all over the map, both figuratively and metaphorically, but his crime films are his best, or at least his most beloved today. “Rififi” is a story about four career criminals who band together for one unforgettable heist. This is a movie that is not to be missed, and I promise that the climactic robbery scene will stay with you long after the film has ended. As a side note, the wonderfully entertaining book, “The Ultimate Book of Gangster Movies,” ranked “Rififi” the 27th greatest gangster film of all time. That’s pretty impressive.
Being released January 21st, 2014:
- “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World” (1963): Sometimes movies get added to The Criterion Collection because of their significance. Sometimes it’s because of some small, brilliant aspect that often would go unnoticed. Then there are the films that get added because, well, why not. “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World” probably would fall into this last category. Stanley Kramer could make any type of movie, and he proved it with film such as “The Defiant Ones” (1958), “Judgement at Nuremberg” (1961), “Ship of Fools” (1965), and “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” (1967), all of which received Best Picture nominations. Right in the middle of his filmography, however, is this screwball comedy about a group of strangers racing to a hidden treasure, all the while being pursued by a police captain marvelously played by Spencer Tracy. The cast includes a who’s who of comedy geniuses, and delivers laugh upon laugh throughout the extensive 161 minutes. For its release into The Criterion Collection, a newly restored, high-definition extended version is being released, with a running time of 197 minutes, giving us 36 more minutes of laughter and smiles. This is going to be great fun!
- “La Vie De Boheme” (1992): If you haven’t seen many movies from filmmaker Aki Kaurismaki, you don’t know what you’re missing. Already in The Criterion Collection are his latest film “La Havre” (2011), and in two different Eclipse Series, you can see “Shadows in Paradise” (1986), “Ariel” (1988), “The Match Factory Girl” (1990), “Leningrad Cowboys Go America” (1989), “Leningrad Cowboys Meet Moses” (1994), and “Total Balalaika Show” (1994). His latest induction into the collection features some of his “regulars” in a tale based on Henri Murger’s “Scenes de la vie de Boheme,” which also is the source material for the famous opera, “La boheme”.
Being released January 28th, 2014:
- “The Long Day Closes” (1992): This film, from acclaimed director Terence Davies, centers around an eleven-year-old boy, as he attempts to deal with the struggles that many children his age face. His escape from the world is the local cinema, where Davies masterfully makes the movie house an intricate part of the young boy’s life.