Criterion Discovery: Mon Oncle

Background: Mon Oncle is a French comedy film released in 1958 by Jacques Tati. There are two Criterion versions; the first released in 2001 now out of print, and the second as part of The Complete Jacques Tati Criterion set in 2014 (Spine #729). It is one of three of Tati’s films (and the first in colour) centered on a lovable, bumbling mime-like character Monsieur Hulot. Mon Oncle is his most widely celebrated work, receiving both the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film and Special Prize at the Cannes Film Festival among other awards. Story: Monsieur Hulot enjoys the freedom and charm of village living and struggles to adapt to...

Criterion Discovery: Dont Look Back

Background Dont Look Back (Spine #786) is one of the greatest “rock docs” of film history (practically inventing the subgenre), and likely the most famous of director D.A. Pennebaker’s cinematic oeuvre. It is the fourth film of Pennebaker’s in the collection, the others being The War Room (#602), Monterey Pop (Spine #168), and Jimi Plays Monterey & Shake! Otis at Monterey (#169). Story The documentary covers Dylan’s 1965 tour in England, focusing on the minutiae of his time across the pond: his sparring with journalists, his conversations with roadies, and his thoughts on life in general. The Film Dont Look Back is filmed with the...

Criterion Discovery: The Story of the Last Chrysan...

Background The Story of the Last Chrysanthemum (Spine #832) is one of the earliest triumphs of legendary Japanese director Kenji Mizoguchi. It’s his fourth film in the main collection, his eighth overall: Ugetsu (Spine #309), Sansho the Bailiff (Spine #386), The Life of Oharu (Spine #664); Osaka Elegy, Sisters of the Gion, Women of the Night, Street of Shame (Eclipse Series 13: Kenji Mizoguchi’s Fallen Women). Story Set in Meiji era Japan, the film follows the doomed love between Kikunosuke Onoe (Shôtarô Hanayagi), the spoiled adopted son of a famous Tokyo Kabuki actor, and Otoku (Kakuko Mori), his father’s wet-nurse. When Kikunosuke, known...

Criterion Discovery: A Touch of Zen

Background  A Touch of Zen (Spine #825) is one of the pinnacles of Chinese cinema from none other than director King Hu. It is his only film in the collection, though more are expected to arrive soon enough. Film historian David Bordwell, in the essay attached to the release credits the film with bringing “Chinese martial arts cinema to a western audience.” Story If you’re jonesing for an epic, look no further than Criterion’s latest batch of releases; visionary Taiwanese director King Hu’s A Touch of Zen has finally received a transfer worthy of the film’s high stature within filmic culture. With 45 retrospective years to...

Criterion Discovery: Badlands

Background Badlands (Spine #651) is the debut film of famous auteur Terrence Malick and stars Martin Sheen, Sissy Spacek, and Warren Oates. Malick currently has two films in the collection, Days of Heaven (Spine #409) and The Thin Red Line (Spine #536), with a third, The New World (Spine #826), on the way. Story Drawing on the 1958 midwestern killing spree of Charles Starkweather and Caril Ann Fugate, Terrence Malick tells an ethereal and impressionistic story of yearning, murder, and young love gone sour. Badlands follows Kit Carruthers (Martin Sheen), a charming and sociopathic James Dean look-a-like, as he and his girlfriend, Holly...

Criterion Discovery:...

Background Weekend (Spine #622) is a 2011 romantic drama film directed by Andrew Haigh. At the time of its Criterion release, Weekend was only Haigh’s second feature film and is currently his only work to be inducted into the collection. Story Weekend depicts the budding relationship between...

Criterion Discovery: Cries and Whispers

Background Cries and Whispers (Spine #101) is a 1972 drama written and directed by legendary Swedish auteur Ingmar Bergman and starring Harriet Andersson, Liv Ullmann, Ingrid Thulin, and Kari Sylwan. Bergman is a favorite of the Criterion Collection and presently has over twenty films in the collection, including Persona (Spine #701) and The Seventh Seal (Spine #11). Story Cries and Whispers, like many of Bergman’s films, is steeped in a sort of deathly dread. The movie begins in a room painted in a striking, bloody crimson. Though Cries is a remarkably understated and quiet film, from the beginning there is an innate feeling of pain and...

Criterion Discovery: Mulholland Dr.

Background Mulholland Dr. (Spine #779) is a 2001 psychological-horror film written and directed by notorious auteur David Lynch, starring Naomi Watts and Laura Harring. Currently, Lynch has only one other film in the collection: Eraserhead (Spine #725). Story It begins with a car crash. A woman (Harring) stumbles from the smoldering wreckage of a limousine into a lush Los Angeles apartment, wholly bewildered. There, she finds perky and wide-eyed Betty (Watts), and together they embark on a hazy, surreal journey for identity and that elusive fiction known to most as the truth. As is the norm for a Lynch artwork, nothing is clear-cut and...

Criterion Discovery: The Thin Red Line

Background The Thin Red Line (Spine #536) is a 1998 ensemble war film directed by Terrence Malick and based on James Jones’ 1962 novel of the same name. Malick has two other films in the Criterion canon: Badlands (Spine #651) and Days of Heaven (Spine #409). Story World War II is a veritable fountain from which filmmakers have been drawing ideas since the war itself actually happened. Whether it be The Dirty Dozen, Saving Private Ryan, or Inglorious Basterds, it seems that artists never grow tired of the grand narrative of the Axis versus the Allies. However, Malick’s The Thin Red Line is one of the very first films to cover the story of...

Criterion Discovery: The Seventh Seal

Background The Seventh Seal (Spine #11) was directed by Ingmar Bergman and was released in 1957. Bergman is a favorite of Criterion, with over twenty films in the collection including Persona (Spine #701) and Autumn Sonata (Spine #60). Story Bergman paints a nightmarish portrait of a disillusioned Crusades soldier, Antonius Block (played by Max Von Sydow), who plays chess with the physical manifestation of Death in order to stay alive while the Black Plague ravages the society around him. The Film In The Seventh Seal, Ingmar Bergman captures fear in a way few directors have before. During the Middle Ages in which the film takes place, death...

Criterion Discovery: The Double Life of Veronique

Background The Double Life of Veronique (spine # 359) is a 1991 drama directed by Krzysztof  Kieslowski, starring Irene Jacob. It was his international breakthrough, and acts almost as a predecessor to his Three Colors Trilogy. Kieslowski has four other films in the Criterion Collection: Three Colors:Blue (Spine #588), Three Colors:White (Spine #589), Three Colors: Red (Spine #590), and Blind Chance (Spine #772). Story In The Double Life of Veronique, two identical women living in two different countries are profoundly bound to each other. The film is many things. It is a shattered mirror, it is a hazy dream with a lingering sense of deja...

Criterion Discovery: A Hard Day’s Night

Background  A Hard Day’s Night (spine #711) is a 1964 musical-comedy directed by Richard Lester and starring The Beatles. It is Lester’s only film in the Collection. Story The Beatles, who play themselves,  get into a series of wacky misadventures while on the way to a live television performance. From a modern perspective, the decision to make a film about The Beatles starring the band as slightly fictionalized versions of themselves fascinates me. The fact that the characterizations are so down-to-earth alongside the fact that the group would have been going on long trips to play concerts all the time makes the choice to not simply make a...

Criterion Discovery: Godzilla (1954)

Background Godzilla (Spine #594) is the 1954 Ishiro Honda film that started the “Kaiju” sub-genre. Theatrically released in 1954, and subsequently re-released to American audiences with an English language audio-track and new footage in 1956 as Godzilla, King of the Monsters!, Honda’s Godzilla saw its initial Criterion release on Blu-Ray and DVD on January 24, 2012. Godzilla is currently the only Ishiro Honda film to receive inclusion in The Criterion Collection. Both the Japanese and American versions of the film are included in this release. Story Godzilla is the original monster movie. Set in Japan as a parable on the horrors...

Criterion Discovery: Rosemary’s Baby

Background: Rosemary’s Baby (Spine #630) is a 1968 psychological/supernatural horror film, written and directed by Roman Polanski, and is the sixth in a total of eight films by Polanski to be included in the Criterion Collection. Story: Newly pregnant Rosemary Woodhouse (Mia Farrow) begins to suspect that her husband Guy (John Cassavetes) has aligned himself with the neighbors in their new apartment building in the pursuit of sinister, occult-related plans, regarding her unborn child. The Film: The true genius of Rosemary’s Baby is in the way that it turns an inherently silly premise involving bizarre neighbors and devil worship into...

Criterion Discovery: Breaking the Waves

Background: Breaking the Waves (spine #705) is a 1996 drama directed by Lars von Trier. Von Trier’s other films in the Collection include The Element of Crime (spine #80), Europa (spine #454), and Antichrist (spine #542). Story: Newlywed Bess (Emily Watson) maintains her faith (despite the puritanical and patriarchal church to which she belongs) after her husband Jan (Stellan Skarsgard) is paralyzed in an oil rig accident. The Film: Breaking the Waves is over two-and-a-half hours long, but to me it boils down to a single shot: Bess in bed with her brand-new husband Jan on the night after their wedding, grinning and giggling as he snores...

Criterion Discovery: Seven Samurai

Background: Seven Samurai (Spine #2) is a 1954 action/adventure epic directed by Akira Kurosawa, who holds more Criterion releases than anyone at 36. It is often cited as one of the most influential and epic films ever assembled onscreen. Story: A group of poor villagers recruit seven samurai to help defend their village from bandits looking to steal the few supplies they own. The Film: To call Seven Samurai an achievement in cinema is an understatement. What director Akira Kurosawa was able to accomplish in terms of scope and character helped found the foundation for adventure films for generations. It’s been noted plenty times (as...

Criterion Discovery: Picnic at Hanging Rock

Background: Picnic at Hanging Rock is a 1975 mystery directed by Peter Weir and based on the novel by Joan Lindsay. It is regarded as one of the most notable films to emerge from Australian New Wave. The film was released as Spine #28 in November 1998. It received a Criterion Blu-Ray re-release on June 17th 2014. Peter Weir has one other film in The Criterion Collection, The Last Wave (Spine #133). Story: On St. Valentine’s Day, 1900, a group of private school girls and their teachers make a trip to the mountainous Hanging Rock. When three students (Miranda, Irma, Marion) and a chaperon (Miss McCraw) seemingly disappear within the recesses...

Criterion Discovery: Paths of Glory

Background Paths of Glory (Spine #538) is a 1957 American humanist anti-war film directed by Stanley Kubrick. It was initially released by Criterion in October of 2010. Paths of Glory is one of three Kubrick films currently in the collection, the other two being The Killing (Spine #575) and Spartacus (Spine #105.) Story Colonel Dax (Kirk Douglas) goes up against the top officials in the French army when his own soldiers are charged with cowardice, a crime punishable by death, when they fail to complete an impossible mission in World War I. What follows is a harrowing and darkly beautiful look into human desperation and the absurdity of war....

Criterion Discovery: The Vanishing

Background The Vanishing (originally titled Spoorloos) is a French mystery/thriller directed by George Sluizer. The original 1988 film (which was followed by a rather depressing American remake in 1993) came to The Criterion Collection as Spine #133 on Blu-Ray in late 2014. This is the only Sluzier film to make it as part of the Collection. Story A young couple is traveling to their designated vacation spot when Saskia convinces Rex to veer off to a local spot. After a pit stop at a local gas station Saskia goes missing. Years after hearing nothing, Rex begins to receive odd letters. The Film This is a truly villainous film. Bernard-Pierre...

Criterion Discovery: Solaris

Background Solaris is a Russian science fiction film directed by Andrei Tarkovsky. The film is an adaptation from Stanislaw Lem’s novel Solaris. It was originally released in 1972 and released on Criterion DVD on May 24, 2011, spine #164 with a run-time of 166 minutes. The Story The inhabitants of a space station orbiting around Solaris, a planet under observation, experience an inexplicable psychological phenomena. Seeking answers, ground control sends a psychologist to help alleviate the three men of their distressed state. Despite his best efforts, the psychologist is unable to escape the delusions. The Film The film begins in silence....

Criterion Discovery: Up All Night With Robert Down...

Background Up All Night With Robert Downey Sr. (Eclipse Series #33) is a collection of Downey’s experimental comedies from the New York underground film scene of the 1960s, individually dating from 1964-1975, and comprising the titles Babo 73, Chafed Elbows, No More Excuses, Putney Swope, and Two Tons of Turquoise to Taos Tonight. The collection was initially released on DVD on May 22, 2012. These five Robert Downey Sr. films are the only features of his to be included in The Criterion Collection. Story Consistently irreverent and compulsively surreal, these five films directed by Robert Downey Sr. are never entirely concerned with...

Criterion Discovery: Blow Out

Background Blow Out (Spine #562) is a 1981 thriller that was written and directed by Brian De Palma. Blow Out received its Criterion release on DVD and Blu-Ray on April 26, 2011, just a few months before the 30th anniversary of the film’s initial release. It is one of the two De Palma films currently included in the Criterion Collection, the other being the 1973 film Sisters (Spine #89). Story Jack Terry (John Travolta) is a sound effects technician who, while trying to record sound effects for a horror movie that he’s working on, accidentally records the audio of what he believes to be a political assassination. Jack then brings Sally...

Criterion Discovery: Sisters of the Gion

Background Sisters of the Gion is a Japanese film directed by Kenji Mizoguchi. It was originally released in 1936 and released on Criterion DVD on October 21, 2008 as part of the Criterion subset, Eclipse Series 13: Kenji Mizoguchi’s Fallen Women, combining Osaka Elegy, Sisters of the Gion, Women of the Night, and Street of Shame as a box set. The Story Two sisters, living in the Gion district, find themselves on different paths. While both working as geishas, one sister yearns for a more progressive lifestyle while the other is subservient. The Film The film opens in a state of transition, reminiscent of a stationary foreground with a...

Criterion Discovery: An Autumn Afternoon

Background An Autumn Afternoon (Spine #446) is the final film directed by Japanese filmmaker Yasujiro Ozu. Theatrically released in 1962, Ozu’s swan song saw its initial Criterion release on DVD on September 29, 2008, before being subsequently remastered and released on Blu-Ray on February 17, 2015. The following Ozu films are also in The Criterion Collection: Good Morning (Spine #84), Tokyo Story (Spine #217), Floating Weeds (Spine #232), Early Summer (Spine #240), Late Spring (Spine #331), The Only Son/There Was a Father (Spine #524), Early Spring (Eclipse Series #3), Tokyo Twilight (Eclipse Series #3), Equinox Flower (Eclipse Series #3),...

Criterion Discovery: Identification of a Woman

Background Identification of a Woman is an Italian film directed by Michelangelo Antonioni. It was originally released in 1982, and was released on Criterion Blu-Ray on October 25th, 2011 as spine #585. This marked Antonioni’s sixth film to be selected for the collection, the others being: La Notte (Spine #678), L’elisse (Spine #278), Red Desert (Spine #522), L’Avventura (Spine #98), and for writing, Frederico Fellini’s The White Shiek (Spine #189). Story After his wife leaves him, director Niccolo begins to work on his new film. During this period, he spends time searching for a leading woman for both his film and his own life. The Film...

Criterion Discovery: Kicking and Screaming

Background Kicking and Screaming (Spine #349) is the feature film debut from American writer and director Noah Baumbach, and was originally released in 1995. It received its Criterion release on DVD on August 21, 2006. Noah Baumbach has one other film included in The Criterion Collection: Frances Ha (Spine #681), an equally impressive independent film on youth in revolt. In addition, the Wes Anderson features The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (Spine #300) and Fantastic Mr. Fox (Spine #700) are both projects to which Baumbach is accredited as a screenwriter. Story Grover (Josh Hamilton) is a recent graduate of a characteristically...

Criterion Discovery: Scanners

Background Scanners (Criterion Spine # 712) is a Canadian film that was originally released in 1981. It received its Criterion release on DVD and Blu-Ray on July 15, 2014. David Cronenberg has three other films in the collection: Naked Lunch (Spine #220), Videodrome (Spine #248) and one of my personal favorites, Dead Ringers (Spine #21) which is unfortunately out of print. Criterion also released a restored version of The Brood on iTunes and Hulu, suggesting a future DVD and Blu-Ray release (fingers crossed). Story Cameron Vale (Steven Lack), a telepath known as a Scanner is recruited by weapons company ConSec to assassinate a rogue...

Criterion Discovery: Walkabout

Background Walkabout (Criterion Spine #10) is an English film shot in Australia and originally released in 1971. Its Criterion Blu-Ray release came on May 18, 2010. Nichols Roeg (<3) has four other films in the collection:  Don’t Look Now (Spine #745), Bad Timing (Spine #303), Insignificance (Spine #566), and one of the oddest films  ever, The Man Who Fell to Earth (Spine #304), which is currently out of print. Story Siblings, played by Jenny Agutter and Luc Roeg, are displaced in the Australian Outback after their father loses his mind. As they wander and adapt to the living conditions, they meet a boy on his “walkabout,” which...

Criterion Discovery: Short Cuts

Background Short Cuts, directed by the great Robert Altman, was released in 1993. It was released as a Criterion DVD on October 4th, 2008 as spine #265. It has yet to be released on Criterion Blu-Ray. Short Cuts is one of the five films Altman has in the Collection, the others being Nashville (spine #683), 3 Women (spine #230), Secret Honor (spine #257), and Tanner ‘88 (spine #258). Story Based on a series of Raymond Carver short stories, Short Cuts tells the sprawling collection tale of the lives of twenty-two people in Los Angeles intersecting over the period of a few days. As each experiences their own crisis, Altman follows how they...

Criterion Discovery: Breathless

Background Breathless was released in 1960 and was directed by Jean-Luc Godard. It was released by Criterion on DVD on October 23, 2007 and on Blu-Ray on February 25, 2014, as spine #408. Godard is a Criterion favorite, having also directed Alphaville (spine #25), Contempt (spine #171), Band of Outsiders (spine #174), A Woman is a Woman (spine #238), Tout va bien (spine #275), Masculin féminin (spine #308), Pierrot le fou (spine #421), Made in U.S.A. (spine #481), 2 or 3 Things I Know About Her (spine #482), Vivre sa vie (spine #512), Weekend (spine #635), and Every Man for Himself (spine #744, to be released next month). Story Michel...

Criterion Discovery: L’avventura

Background Directed by Michelangelo Antonioni, L’avventura is an Italian film from 1960. Its original Criterion release (DVD) was on June 5th 2001 and it was later released on Blu-Ray on November 25th 2014 as spine #98. It is one of five films that Antonioni has on the Criterion Collection, which include La Notte (Spine #678), L’eclisse (Spine #278), Red Desert (#522), Identification of a Woman (Spine #585), and his writing credit for Federico Fellini’s The White Shiek (Spine #189). Story When a young woman goes missing on a boat trip, the search brings her lover and best friend together, illuminating a sexual relationship. A struggle of...

Criterion Discovery: Gimme Shelter

Background Gimme Shelter was released in 1970 and directed by Albert and David Maysles, and Charlotte Zwerin. The film was released by Criterion on December 1st, 2009 as spine #99. The Maysles Brothers and Zwerin also directed spine #122, The Salesman, and The Maysles Brothers directed spine #123, Grey Gardens, and spine #361, The Beales of Grey Gardens. Story The documentary follows The Rolling Stones on their 1969 US tour, and its violent conclusion at the Altamont Free Concert in Northern California. Film Often considered one of the greatest documentaries of all time, Gimme Shelter is known for its Direct Cinema approach. The Maysles...

Criterion Discovery: The Life and Death of Colonel...

Background The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp was released in 1943 and was directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger. It was released by Criterion on DVD on October 22, 2002, and on Blu-Ray on March 19, 2013, as spine #173. Powell and Pressburger also directed The Red Shoes (spine #44), Black Narcissus (spine #93), I Know Where I’m Going! (spine #94), The Tales of Hoffmann (spine #317), A Canterbury Tale (spine #341), and The Small Back Room (spine #441). On his own, Powell directed Peeping Tom (spine #58) and 49th Parallel (spine #376); he was also a co-director of The Thief of Bagdad (spine #431). Story General Clive Candy (Roger...

Criterion Discovery: Close-Up

Background Close-Up was released in 1990 and was directed by Abbas Kiarostami. It was released by Criterion on DVD and Blu-Ray on June 22, 2010 as spine #519. He also directed Taste of Cherry (spine #45), Certified Copy (spine #612), and Like Someone in Love (spine #708). His film The Traveler is also included in the Close-Up release. Story The story of Close-Up is the story of the making of Close-Up. It begins with a troubled young man named Hossein Sabzian, who impersonated the famous Iranian director Mohsen Makhmalbaf for a family of cinéastes. After Sabzian was discovered and arrested, Kiarostami heard about the story and rushed to...

Criterion Discovery: Revanche

Background Revanche is an Austrian film directed by Gotz Spielmann. It was originally released in 2008 and nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the 81st Academy Awards. It was later released on Blu-Ray, apart of the Criterion Collection, on February 16th, 2010, as spine #502. This is the only Speilmann film on the collection (his short Foreign Land is in the supplements section of this release), and this is the first of his films to be released in the United States. Story Alex (Johannes Krisch) begins working at a brothel after getting out of prison.  He sparks a relationship with a prostitute named Tamara (Irina Potapenko) and...

Criterion Discovery: Children of Paradise

  Background Children of Paradise was originally released in France in 1945 with the title Les enfants du paradis.  The Criterion Collection released the film on Blu-Ray as Spine # 141, after having previously been releases on DVD.  The film was directed by Marcel Carné, who has four total films in the collection:  Port of Shadows (Spine #245), Le jour se lève (Essential Art House DVD, out of print), and Les visiteurs du soir (Spine # 626). Story In 19th Century France, a charming and beautiful woman is romantically pursued by four different suitors:  a mime, a thief, a stage actor, and an aristocrat. The Film Each of the men engaged...

Criterion Discovery: The Night of the Hunter

  Background The Night of the Hunter was released in 1955 and was directed by Charles Laughton. It was released by Criterion on DVD and Blu-Ray on November 16, 2010 as spine #541. It is the only film directed by Laughton in the collection, and in fact the only film he ever directed, but he starred in Spartacus (spine #105), Hobson’s Choice (spine #461), and Island of Lost Souls (spine #586), as well as The Private Life of Henry VIII and Rembrandt, which are included in Eclipse Series 16: Alexander Korda’s Private Lives. Story While in prison for stealing a car, serial killer and preacher Harry Powell (Robert Mitchum) tries to...

Criterion Discovery: Brazil

Background Brazil was released in 1985 and was directed by Terry Gilliam. It was released by Criterion on DVD on September 5, 2006 and on Blu-Ray on December 4, 2012 as spine #51. Gilliam also directed Time Bandits (spine #37) and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (spine #175), and worked on Monty Python’s Life of Brian (spine #61). Story A fly gets caught in a printer, creating a typo and resulting in an innocent man accidentally being interrogated to death. Low-level employee Sam Lowry (Jonathan Pryce) attempts to fix the error and runs into the (literal) girl of his dreams, Jill (Kim Greist), along the way. Together, they try to untangle...

Criterion Discovery: M

Background M is Fritz Lang’s 1931 masterpiece (also his first sound film), and it was released on DVD as Spine #30 of the Criterion Collection in 2004. It’s now available on Blu-Ray, and it’s also part of Criterion’s Essential Art House 50-DVD Set. Story Hans Beckert (the talented and hypnotically compelling Peter Lorre) is a serial killer, whistling a fatefully recognizable tune (“In the Hall of the Mountain King,” to be precise) as he closes in on innocent children (such as little Elsie Beckmann early in the film). Numerous “Wanted” posters line the streets asking “Who is the murderer?” Parents are anxious and afraid, and police are...

Criterion Discovery: La Jetée/Sans Soleil

  Background La Jetée was released in 1963 and Sans Soleil was released in 1983, both directed by Chris Marker. The two-film set was released by Criterion on DVD on June 6 2007 and on Blu-Ray on February 7 2012, as spine #387. These are the only films by Marker in the collection. Stories La Jetée is a short film told entirely with still images, concerning an apocalyptic future and a man who, because of his strong attachment to a memory from his youth, is chosen to be sent back in time to find help. It is the basis for the Terry Gilliam film Twelve Monkeys. Sans Soleil is a feature-length experimental documentary. Guided by an anonymous...

Criterion Discovery: The Sword of Doom

Background The Sword of Doom is directed by Kihachi Okamato and originally released in 1966. It had a early Criterion DVD release (Spine #280), but is slated for a BluRay release on January 6th, 2015. Okamato has two other films in the collection: Kill! as Spine #213 and Zatoichi Meets Yojimbo, which is Vol. 20 in the Zatoichi: The Blind Swordsman box set. Story Ryunosuke Tsukue is a talented swordsman with evil intent. Through his violent actions, vendettas are formed that never faze his nature, but lead him to battle for his soulless existence. The Film This is possibly one of the most violent films there has ever been, not only on a...

Criterion Discovery: Eyes Without a Face

Background Eyes Without a Face was released in 1960 and directed by Georges Franju. It was released by Criterion on DVD on October 19, 2004 and on Blu-Ray on October 15, 2013, as spine #260. Franju also directed spine #710, Judex.  Story A genius surgeon (Pierre Brasseur) takes drastic measures to mend his daughter’s (Edith Scob) horrible facial disfigurements. The Film For a film made in the 1960s — and a cheaply-made film at that — Eyes Without a Face’s grotesque surgery scenes are surprisingly hard to watch. That’s not to say that all older films are inherently less affecting than contemporary ones, but it’s not unfair to assume that...

Criterion Discovery: House

Background House was directed by Nobuhiko Obayashi and released in 1977. It was originally released on Blu-Ray and DVD by Criterion as spine #539 on October 26, 2010. It is the only film directed by Obayashi in the collection. Story A schoolgirl named Gorgeous (Kimiko Ikegami) takes her friends Fantasy (Kumiko Oba), Melody (Eriko Tanaka), Sweet (Masayo Miyako), Prof (Ai Matsubara), Mac (Mieko Sato), and Kung Fu (Miki Jinbo) to the country house owned by her aunt (Yoko Minamida). Once there, they encounter and battle vengeful ghosts, floating heads, dancing skeletons, carnivorous pianos, cat paintings that vomit blood, and many other...

Criterion Discovery: Something Wild

Background Something Wild was released in 1986 and is directed by Jonathan Demme. It was released in The Criterion Collection on May 10th, 2011 as Spine #563. This is one of two films by Demme that are part of the collection. The other and more widely-appreciated  is The Silence of the Lambs, which swept the 5 main categories at The Academy Awards. Story Charles Driggs (Jeff Daniels), a New York City businessman, decides to skip on his bill at the restaurant he frequents. When an off-the-wall woman takes notice, she runs out to confront him, offering him a ride back to work. Driggs soon realizes she is not taking him back, and after a motel...

Criterion Discovery: Eraserhead

Background Eraserhead was directed by David Lynch and released in 1977. It was originally released on DVD and Blu-ray by Criterion as spine #725 on September 16, 2014. It is the only film directed by David Lynch in the collection, although they own the rights to several of his short films, all of which appear on this release. Story Henry Spencer (John Nance) learns that his girlfriend Mary X (Charlotte Stewart) has given birth to their child, who is horrifically deformed and doesn’t resemble a human baby at all. Henry is left alone to care for the child when Mary can no longer stand its wailing. Meanwhile, Henry flirts with the Beautiful...

Criterion Discovery: Like Someone in Love

Background Like Someone in Love is a 2012 film from director Abbas Kiarostami and the fourth film from Kiarostami in The Criterion Collection (Close-up, Taste of Cherry, Certified Copy). It was released by Criterion as spine #708 on May 20, 2014. Like Someone in Love is the first Japanese film from Kiarostami and only the second film he has made outside of his native Iran (Certified Copy, Italy). The Story The film is set in Tokyo and the surrounding area. Akiko is a student and a part-time call girl with an overprotective and short-fused fiancé. She is sent to meet with Takashi, an elderly client who is an author and retired professor....

Criterion Discovery: Tokyo Drifter

Background Tokyo Drifter is a gangster film that originally released in 1966, and is directed Seijun Suzuki. Suzuki has numerous films in The Criterion Collection including a favorite of mine, Branded to Kill. Tokyo Drifter was released on Blu-Ray on December 13th, 2011, as spine #39. Story Tetsuya Hondo, a former member of the yakuza, becomes a “drifter” (an enforcer on the run) when his boss is forced to sign over a piece of property and their partner is killed. The Film This film opens with a black-and-white scene in which the film’s protagonist takes a beating from rival gang members. After the beating, a gun is left...

Criterion Discovery: The Game

Background The Game is one of two David Fincher films in the Criterion Collection (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button). The Game was originally released in 1997, as Fincher was coming off of the debacle that was Alien 3 and the thrilling Se7en. September 21, 2012 marked the Blu-Ray/DVD release for The Game (Spine #627), which was previously released on Laserdisc (Spine #365). Story A wealthy investment banker, Nicholas Van Orton (Michael Douglas) receives a gift from his brother Conrad Van Orton (Sean Penn). The gift: A coupon to a game that, if he agrees to play, could change his life. The Film When it comes to David Fincher, you would be...

Criterion Discovery: Ace in the Hole

Background Ace in the Hole was directed by Billy Wilder and released in 1951. It was originally released on DVD by Criterion as spine #396 on July 17, 2007, and was re-released in a Blu-ray/DVD combo pack on May 6, 2014. It is the only film directed by Billy Wilder in the collection, although he wrote People on Sunday (spine #569). Story Chuck Tatum (Kirk Douglas) is an out-of-work newspaper reporter who takes a job at a small-town paper. While on assignment in Albuquerque, he stumbles upon a treasure-hunter (Richard Benedict) who is trapped in a cave. Seeing the opportunity at hand, Tatum begins reporting on the rescue operation, and the...

Criterion Discovery: The Gold Rush

Background The Gold Rush is a 1925 silent film from director Charles Chaplin. The film would later be re-released by Chaplin in 1942 with several changes, including new music and narration. It was released by Criterion as spine #615 on June 12, 2012. At the time of its release, The Gold Rush was the third Chaplin film in the collection, and to date it is one of five Chaplin releases in The Criterion Collection. The Story The film is set in Alaska during the height of the Gold Rush. Chaplin plays the Lone Prospector, a man in search of riches. As he travels through the mountains, he loses his way and crosses paths with Big Jim McKay (Mack...