Upcoming Criterion Releases For The First Quarter of 2015

Criterion has some major releases hitting the market in 2015. Here are a few that are getting released during  the first quarter of the year. 

Don’t Look Now 2-10-15
With a majority of British maestro Nicolas Roeg’s filmography having made its way to Criterion, back from the days of laserdisc to the modern era of Blu-Ray, it’s surprising that his most celebrated and revered masterpiece Don’t Look Now has had yet to receive the Criterion treatment.  Now that it’s finally here, it’s a cause for celebration!  Starring Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie as a grieving couple trying to find closure over their daughter’s untimely death over an extended vacation in Venice only to find steadily mounting tension and bizarre scenarios represents one of the finest horror films ever made.  Containing the revered montage of sexual healing between Sutherland and Christie and some of Venice’s greatest highlights, Don’t Look Now is a film for the ages!  Criterion’s forthcoming edition sports gorgeous cover art, plentiful extras including new documentaries on the nature of Roeg’s cinema, and a brand new digital transfer supervised and approved by Roeg himself!  Essential to any home video library!

Fellini Satyricon 2-24-15
The playful, fantastical Italian master Federico Fellini, the man behind and La Dolce Vita, unleashed this bawdy, satirical anthology of episodes chronicling the life of pre-Christian Rome and all the good and bad associated with it.  Less factual than a fictitious celebration of the work of Petronius, a bygone era realized at the height of the free swinging 1960s, Fellini’s Satyricon is a period piece that defies easy categorization or for that matter, digestion.  Akin to Ken Russell’s The Devils in terms of anachronistic sensual excess, grotesquerie and outrageousness, this playful chunk of revisionist history is as much about the lives of the two leading males’ swan dive into debauchery as it is about the director’s stylized eccentric worldview.  A precursor to the work of Terry Gilliam, Criterion’s new Blu-Ray edition of one of cinema’s greatest masterworks of provocation gets a lush 4K digital restoration, several retrospective interviews as well as a documentary on the controversial epic’s inception.  At a time when cinema was changing and opening up the doors of free possibilities, it could be argued the ignition of Italian art as transgressive, surrealistic cinema began with Federico Fellini and paved the way for artists determined to break new ground through provocation for years to come.

Watership Down 2-24-15
Among the very first truly adult animated features (not Ralph Bakshi’s X-rated Fritz the Cat) in terms of emotional maturity, modernity and realistic violence, screenwriter-producer-director Martin Rosen’s cinematic adaptation of Richard Adams’ Watership Down is a timeless gem of beauty and brutality.  The story of a pack of wild rabbits in search of a new home while evading human forces working towards their demise as well as rival clans of rabbits, Watership Down presented hand drawn animation of colorful cartoon characters with all the harshness of the world we live in stacked against them.  Touching and terrifying, this was never easy to digest let alone view, with scenes of rabbits as animals with human voices either being buried alive or having their throats ripped by predators.  And yet a terrific allegory about social dynamics and the nature of repression comparable to George Orwell’s Animal Farm emerged, one that continues to warm the hearts and minds of all who see it.  Marking Criterion’s debut of an animated feature in their catalogue, the underrated classic will include extras comparing the storyboards to the finished film, interviews with both the director and a video essay by Guillermo Del Toro about the film’s significance in animated film history, as well as a new featurette about the film’s idiosyncratic style.

The Thin Blue Line 3-24-15
Following the success of his breakthrough documentary Gates of Heaven, Errol Morris unleashed one of the greatest documentaries ever created, The Thin Blue Line.  Concerning the wrongful arrest and incarceration of Randall Adams, a drifter accused of murdering a Dallas police officer and sentenced to death row despite a flood of evidence to the contrary, Morris’ film possessed the unique power of forcing authorities to reconsider the case, resulting ultimately in the release of Adams from prison.  One of the first documentaries to utilize dramatizations of the fateful night intercut with interviews from all involved, including the actual murderer himself, David Harris, The Thin Blue Line revitalized the documentary film and showed the world that art can also function as activism.  Morris’ invention of the Interrotron, a device allowing both the filmmaker and subject to stare directly into a camera without needing to be in the same room together became a vital tool to interview as well as break the fourth wall by having the subject speaking directly to the audience.  Often compared to Alfred Hitchcock for his uncanny mastery of the film medium, Errol Morris is among the world’s greatest filmmakers and The Thin Blue Line among his most important films!

Cries and Whispers 3-31-15

The Swedish master of interior spiritual conflict, Ingmar Bergman (The Seventh Seal, Persona) has crafted some of the most simultaneously uplifting and deathly horrifying treatments of the human condition the cinema world has ever seen.  No stranger to staring death in the face, with his iconic grim reaper playing Chess against Max Von Sydow in The Seventh Seal, in 1973 emerged what is probably his hardest work to date, Cries and Whispers.  An ensemble piece concerning a nurse and two sisters, Karin and Maria (Bergman regular and ex-wife Liv Ullman), caring for their sister Agnes (Harriet Anderson) dying of cancer, Cries and Whispers is nothing less than a thousand yard gaze deep into the pit of despair.  Equal parts a focus on the nature of how people respond to the death of a loved one and Agnes’ own journey into enlightenment and spiritual purification, this is a flawless masterpiece that does not make for easy or repeat viewings, with some sequences so upsetting they will linger long after viewing.  Shot by the renowned Sven Nykvist (which won an Academy Award for Best Cinematography) with deep reds and intense close-ups of the human face, this and Scenes from a Marriage represent the Swedish maestro at his most confrontational and harrowing.  An essential work of cinematic art that should be seen by all but not one to revisit often, not even Lars Von Trier’s work is this emotionally draining. 

-Andrew Kotwicki