Criterion Announces November 2014 Titles

Well, it’s the middle of the month, and Criterion has announced its November 2014 release titles. Here you go:

The Shooting:Ride in the Whirlwind

The Shooting / Ride in the Whirlwind – November 11

In the mid-sixties, the maverick American director Monte Hellman conceived of two westerns at the same time. Dreamlike and gritty by turns, the two films would prove their maker’s adeptness at brilliantly deconstructing genre. As shot back-to-back for famed producer Roger Corman, they feature overlapping casts and crews, including Jack Nicholson in two of his meatiest early roles. The films—The Shooting, about a motley assortment of loners following a mysterious wanted man through a desolate frontier, and Ride in the Whirlwind, about a group of cowhands pursued by vigilantes for crimes they did not commit—are rigorous, artful, and wholly unconventional journeys into the American West.

The Shooting
In this eerie, existential western directed by Monte Hellman and written by Carole Eastman (Five Easy Pieces), Warren Oates and Will Hutchins play a bounty hunter and his sidekick who are talked by a mysterious woman (Millie Perkins) into leading her into the desert on a murkily motivated revenge mission. Things are further complicated by the addition to their crew of an enigmatic drifter (Jack Nicholson) who seems to delight in sadistically toying with the two men. Hellman’s singular odyssey is a vision of the weird old west unlike any other, a spare and challenging work leading to a provocative ending.

Ride in the Whirlwind
Working from a thoughtful script by Jack Nicholson, Monte Hellman fashioned this moody and tense western about a trio of cowhands who are mistaken for robbers and must outrun and hide from a posse of bloodthirsty vigilantes in the wilds of Utah. A grim yet gripping tale of chance and blind frontier justice, Ride in the Whirlwind is brought to life by a compelling cast, including Nicholson, Cameron Mitchell, Millie Perkins, and Harry Dean Stanton.

Special Features:

  • New 4K digital restorations of both films, supervised by director Monte Hellman, with uncompressed monaural soundtracks on the Blu-ray
  • Audio commentaries on both films, featuring Hellman and film historians Bill Krohn and Blake Lucas
  • New interviews with actors John Hackett, B. J. Merholz, Millie Perkins, and Harry Dean Stanton, assistant director Gary Kurtz, and chief wrangler Calvin Johnson, all in conversation with Hellman
  • New conversation between actor Will Hutchins and film programmer Jake Perlin
  • New video essay on actor Warren Oates by critic Kim Morgan
  • PLUS: An essay by critic Michael Atkinson
  • More!

It Happened One Night

It Happened One Night – November 18

Opposites attract with magnetic force in this romantic road-trip delight from Frank Capra, about a spoiled runaway socialite (Claudette Colbert) and a roguish man-of-the-people reporter (Clark Gable) who is determined to get the scoop on her scandalous disappearance. The first film to accomplish the very rare feat of sweeping all five major Oscar categories (best picture, best actor, best actress, best director, and best screenplay), It Happened One Night is among the most gracefully constructed and edited films of the early sound era, packed with clever situations and gags that have entered the Hollywood comedy pantheon. Featuring two actors at the top of their game, sparking with a chemistry that has never been bettered, this is the birth of the screwball comedy.

Special Features:

  • New 4K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
  • New conversation between critics Molly Haskell and Phillip Lopate
  • Frank Capra’s American Dream, a 1997 feature-length documentary
  • Director Frank Capra’s first film, the 1922 silent short The Ballad of Fisher’s Boarding House
  • American Film Institute tribute to Capra from 1982
  • Trailer
  • PLUS: An essay by critic Farran Smith Nehme
  • More!

L'Avventura

L’avventura – November 25

Michelangelo Antonioni invented a new film grammar with this masterwork. An iconic piece of challenging 1960s cinema and a gripping narrative in its own right, L’avventura concerns the enigmatic disappearance of a young woman during a yachting trip off the coast of Sicily, and the search taken up by her disaffected lover (Gabriele Ferzetti) and best friend (Monica Vitti, in her breakout role). Antonioni’s controversial international sensation is a gorgeously shot tale of modern ennui and spiritual isolation.

Special Features:

  • New 4K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
  • Audio commentary featuring film historian Gene Youngblood
  • Selected-scene commentary by filmmaker Olivier Assayas
  • Antonioni: Documents and Testimonials, a fifty-eight-minute 1966 documentary by Gianfranco Mingozzi
  • Writings by director Michelangelo Antonioni, read by actor Jack Nicholson, plus Nicholson’s personal recollections of the director
  • New English subtitle translation
  • Trailer
  • PLUS: An essay by critic Geoffrey Nowell-Smith, along with the statement Antonioni made about the film and the letter that circulated in support of it after its 1960 Cannes premiere

Tootsie

Tootsie – November 25

In Tootsie, the character Michael Dorsey lands the role of a lifetime—as does the actor playing him, Dustin Hoffman. This multilayered comedy from director Sydney Pollack follows the increasingly elaborate deception of a down-on-his-luck New York actor who disguises himself as a woman to get a coveted soap opera gig; while his female persona skyrockets to fame, he finds himself learning to be a better man. Hoffman’s ball-busting yet disarmingly sweet Dorothy Michaels is a sensational comic creation, given support by a stellar cast including Dabney Coleman, Charles Durning, Teri Garr, George Gaynes, Bill Murray, and, in her first Oscar-winning role, Jessica Lange. Imbued with poignant drama, Tootsie is a funny and cutting film from an American moment defined by shifting social and sexual identities.

Special Features:

  • New 4K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
  • Audio commentary featuring director Sydney Pollack, taken from Criterion’s 1991 laserdisc edition of the film
  • New interviews with actor Dustin Hoffman and comedy writer Phil Rosenthal
  • Interview with Dorothy Michaels by film critic Gene Shalit, from the film’s production
  • Making of “Tootsie,” a 1982 documentary directed by Rocky Lang
  • A Better Man: The Making of “Tootsie,” a 2007 documentary directed by Charles Kiselyak and featuring interviews with Pollack; actors Dabney Coleman, Teri Garr, Hoffman, and Jessica Lange; and writers Larry Gelbart and Murray Schisgal
  • Screen and wardrobe test footage of Hoffman
  • Deleted scenes and trailers
  • PLUS: An essay by critic Michael Sragow

Les Blank - Always for Pleasure

Les Blank: Always for Pleasure – November 25

An uncompromisingly independent filmmaker, Les Blank made documentaries for nearly fifty years, elegantly disappearing with his camera into cultural spots rarely seen on-screen—mostly on the peripheries of the United States, but also occasionally abroad. Seemingly off-the-cuff yet poetically constructed, these films are humane, sometimes wry, always engaging tributes to musicians, food, and all sorts of regionally specific delights. This collector’s set provides a diverse survey of Les Blank’s vast output, including the warmly funny The Blues Accordin’ to Lightnin’ Hopkins, about the legendary Texas musician; Always for Pleasure, which captures the vivacious spirit of New Orleans; Garlic Is as Good as Ten Mothers, a hilarious celebration of the pungent, flavorful “stinking rose” of the title; and eleven other unexpected features, plus eight of Blank’s short films.

Films Include: The Blues Accordin’ to Lightnin’ Hopkins (1968); God Respects Us When We Work, but Loves Us When We Dance (1968); Spend It All (1971); A Well Spent Life (1971); Dry Wood (1973); Hot Pepper (1973); Always for Pleasure (1978); Garlic Is as Good as Ten Mothers (1980); Sprout Wings and Fly (1983); In Heaven There Is No Beer? (1984); Gap-Toothed Women (1987); Yum, Yum, Yum (1990); The Maestro: King of the Cowboy Artists (1994); Sworn to the Drum (1995).

Special Features:

  • New 2K digital restorations of all fourteen films, with uncompressed monaural soundtracks on the Blu-rays
  • Excerpt from Les Blank: A Quiet Revelation, an upcoming documentary by Gina Leibrecht
  • New interviews with director Les Blank’s sons, Harrod and Beau; Blank documentary subject Gerald Gaxiola (a.k.a. the Maestro); filmmakers Skip Gerson, Maureen Gosling, Taylor Hackford, Tom Luddy, and Chris Simon; and chef and author Alice Waters
  • Blank’s short films Lightnin’ Les (1968), Mr. Charlie, Your Rollin’ Mill Is Burnin’ Down (1968), The Sun’s Gonna Shine (1968), More Fess (1978), Julie: Old Time Tales of the Blue Ridge (1991), My Old Fiddle: A Visit with Tommy Jarrell in the Blue Ridge (1995), and The Maestro Rides Again (2005)
  • PLUS: An essay by film scholar Andrew Horton

50 Excellent Novels by Female Writers Under 50 That Everyone Should Read

desmondleica:

I’ve only read “The Namesake,” but I’m sure the rest of these novels are excellent as well.

Originally posted on Flavorwire:

It’s pretty much been settled that everyone should read more books by women. But when looking for recommendations, it’s often all Woolf, Morrison, Lessing, Austen, Brontë. Of course, these are essential authors for a reason, and you should definitely read all of their books. That said, there’s something to catching a writer at the beginning of her career and following her for years that is supremely satisfying — not to mention the fact that young female writers need readers rather more than Jane Austen does. So in an effort to get you in on the ground floor (or at least, like, the third floor), after the jump you’ll find a compendium of 50 novels written by 50 female novelists under 50 that are worth your time. But these aren’t the only 50 books that fit this description! Read through and add on as you will in the comments.

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Maurice Binder and DePatie-Freleng – “Charade” and “The Pink Panther”

Here’s another excerpt from my research on animated title sequences. Here I discuss Maurice Binder (Charade) and DePatie-Freleng (The Pink Panther):

Charade - Title Card

Although Saul Bass is a monumental figure of cinematic graphic design during the Golden Age, he is not the only title designer by any means. Working within the similar genre of Vertigo—that is, adventure, thriller, and mystery—is Maurice Binder. Binder is probably most known for his work on the James Bond film series, most notably the famous gun barrel sequence beginning with Bond’s first outing in Dr. No (1962). While Binder slightly departs from the geometrically-based designs created by Bass with the use of groovy silhouetted dancers, he does bring in a series of color-changing circles—symbolic bullet holes—that advise the audience to expect dangerous adventure: the wild side of Mr. Bond. Binder’s work on Stanley Donen’s Charade (1963) illustrates a more abstract version of what will occur within the film. Charade, another mystery-thriller, recounts the murder of Charles Lampert, the husband of Regina “Reggie” Lampert (Audrey Hepburn), and how three men are in pursuit of the money Charles allegedly stole from them. Thus, these men suspect Reggie of the money; with the help of Brian Cruikshank (Cary Grant), in the form of multiple aliases, Reggie Lampert escapes the clutches of the three men, and ultimately ends up in love with Cruikshank. The opening title sequence displays the multifaceted and entirely intertwining storyline and characters through the use of constantly moving shapes. Perhaps the most elucidating shapes Binder uses are arrows and spiraling pinwheels. Arrows are continuously overlapping and spiraling into a ball of comedically-wonderful confusion, which is precisely the effect of the film. The viewer is always second-guessing who should and should not be trusted, yet it is still a fun and entertaining romantic-comedy of sorts. The pinwheel also accommodates this feeling of fun confusion; the twirling shapes only heighten the awareness of this fast-paced romantic-thriller. The combination of flashy colors and abstract symbols illustrates the core of the film—this chaotic thriller will have a multitude of twists and turns that will leave the viewer wildly entertained.

The Pink Panther

Veering away from the use of such abstract shapes is a welcome addition to the animated title sequence roster. DePatie-Freleng Enterprises, formed by director Friz Freleng and executive David DePatie, was constructed in 1963 (Beck, 2004). DePatie-Freleng Enterprises’s first assignment was for Blake Edwards’s The Pink Panther (1964), in which the duo created the eponymous character in animated form. This famous panther is seen in pantomime, cleverly interacting with the titles, a glove, and a curious inspector. The panther’s playfulness and sly attitude illuminates the human “panther,” Sir Charles Lytton, who is in search of the pink panther jewel. This is a departure from the majority of Bass’s and Binder’s work because we get an actual character within the sequence. As Beck (2004) points out: “The cool, contemporary style of the design and graphics, Henry Mancini’s distinctive theme music and the pantomime comedy were a complete departure from the cheaply made theatrical cartoons created by competitors,” as well as other opening titles (p. 208). The title sequence readily provides us with the sense of a comedic mystery-thriller; the audience will feel attached to this panther (even in human form) because of his wit and charm. The sequence itself also provides us with the overall action of the film: discovering the jewel and outlasting the nosy inspector; the sequence does not give everything away, but subtly hints about the overarching mystery.

Saul Bass – “Vertigo”

This is an excerpt of a larger piece about animated title sequences I wrote last fall. It discusses Saul Bass and his participation in Hitch’s Vertigo (1958). The overall thesis for the paper is that animated title sequences present the film’s tone and thesis in a relatively short time and in creative way. Here we go:

Vertigo

It would be utterly criminal to discuss title sequences without acknowledging the fantastic graphic designer Saul Bass (1920-1996), the king of title sequences during the 1950s and ‘60s. Bass is also known for poster art for a variety of films, as well as corporate logos. Director Martin Scorsese, who worked with Bass on a handful of films during the early 1990s, states that Bass’s designs are “thinking made visible” (Bass & Kirkham, 2011, p. vi). Bass’s undeniably inventive designs are unmistakable. One needs to look no further than some Otto Preminger, Billy Wilder, or Alfred Hitchcock films to comprehend Bass’s appealingly abstract wonderment. Bass created animated title sequences for a variety of films during the latter part of the Golden Age, including: Carmen Jones (1954), The Man with the Golden Arm (1955), Around the World in Eighty Days (1956), Vertigo (1958), Anatomy of a Murder (1959), North by Northwest (1959), Psycho (1960), Spartacus (1960), Ocean’s Eleven (1960), and It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963). These are classic films that are equally set apart due to Bass’s imaginative designs. Jennifer Bass and Pat Kirkham’s (2011) Saul Bass: A Life in Film & Design takes a fascinating look at Bass’s life and career as a graphic designer for the cinema. Bass and Kirkham (2011) write that Bass’s “designs shaped complex ideas into radically simple forms that offered audiences a set of clues, a sort of hermeneutic key to deeper meanings under the surface of the movie” (p. 107). In other words, Bass was able to abstractly illustrate the underlying themes of those films without giving too much away. His titles also set the tone of the film, allowing the audience to become emotionally ready for what is to come; Bass states: “I saw the title as a way of conditioning the audience, so that when the film actually began, viewers would already have an emotional resonance with it” (Haskin & Bass, 1996, p. 12-13). It is curious that Bass’s usage of abstract and geometrical shapes provides an emotional quality, but it remains true. Further analysis of one of Bass’s most recognizable title sequences—for Hitchcock’s Vertigo—will elucidate not only underlying themes in the film, but also set the emotional pull the film will create.

Alfred Hitchcock’s psychological-thriller Vertigo (1958) is a cinematic masterpiece. In 2012, Vertigo triumphed over Orson Welles’s Citizen Kane (1941) in the British Film Institute’s Sight and Sound Poll; this was the first time another film ranked higher than Citizen Kane since the Poll’s inception in 1962 (Pogrebin, 2012). Perhaps the most mesmerizing point of the film is during Bass’s opening title sequence. A combination of live-action and animation, the title sequence is an incalculable feat of swirling forms that transfix the viewer. The majority of the sequence is the continuous emergence of spiraling Lissajous forms, based on images created by Jules Lissajous, a late-1800s French mathematician (Bass & Kirkham, 2011, p. 180). This mass of swirling figures not only relates to the vertiginous quality that will be easily apparent in the film (as hinted by the film’s title, as well), but the Lissajous forms also evince a sense of volatile danger, impending catastrophe, and mind-affecting hypnotism—all qualities evident within the film. Through the construction of intertwining pendulums, Bass was able to create these constantly-changing, minuscule maelstroms: raging tempests that reside in the fractured character of Judy Barton, played by Kim Novak (Bass & Kirkham, 2011, p. 180). Bass’s use of the Lissajous forms zooms in on the visible fragmentation of Judy’s mind. It is important to note that Judy Barton is posing as Madeleine Elster; the latter is obsessed with a painting of a woman named Carlotta, who looks precisely like Madeleine and, therefore, Judy. The multiplicity of characters within the singular is easily illustrated through Bass’s design, especially when the Lissajous spirals intersect and overlap; these dizzying forms also effortlessly relate to Scottie Ferguson (James Stewart), who suffers from vertigo. The forms project confusion and disorder onto the audience, too. These intricate patterns set a definite tone of the film, one of uneasiness and uncertainty. Yet, they are still beautiful and entrancing; they are almost willing the viewer to accept this confusion. That is the brilliance of Saul Bass and, of course, Alfred Hitchcock. The ability for simple, yet complex, rotating geometrical shapes to not only set a tone of uncertainty, but to also indicate the fragmentation and swirling storms that infect one of the film’s central characters is fascinating and admirable. Bass continued the use of meaningful geometrical shapes in two other Hitchcock films: North by Northwest (1959) and Psycho (1960). Bass was able to create “compelling, at times near-abstract sequences that capture the undertones of and echo key elements in these three remarkable films” (Bass & Kirkham, 2011). As in all of his designs, Saul Bass was able to lay down the emotional pull of these films, while also placing clues as to what will occur during the film.

More excerpts may appear soon! Thanks for reading!

Criterion Collection – October 2014 Releases

The Criterion Collection just announced their October 2014 titles. Here they are:

My Darling Clementine

My Darling Clementine – October 14

John Ford takes on the legend of the O.K. Corral shoot-out in this multilayered, exceptionally well-constructed western, one of the director’s very best films. Henry Fonda cuts an iconic figure as Wyatt Earp, the sturdy lawman who sets about the task of shaping up the disorderly Arizona town of Tombstone, and Victor Mature gives the performance of his career as the boozy, tubercular gambler and gunman Doc Holliday. Though initially at cross-purposes, the pair ultimately team up to confront the violent Clanton gang. Affecting and stunningly photographed, My Darling Clementine is a story of the triumph of civilization over the Wild West from American cinema’s consummate mythmaker.

Special Features:

  • New 4K digital restoration of the theatrical release version of the film, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
  • High-definition presentation of the 103-minute prerelease version of the film
  • New audio commentary featuring John Ford biographer Joseph McBride
  • New interview with western historian Andrew C. Isenberg about the real Wyatt Earp
  • Comparison of the two versions by the UCLA Film & Television Archive’s Robert Gitt
  • New video essay by Ford scholar Tag Gallagher
  • A Bandit’s Wager, a 1916 short costarring Ford and directed by his brother, Francis Ford, featuring new music composed and performed by Donald Sosin
  • NBC broadcast reports from 1963 and 1975 about the history of Tombstone and Monument Valley
  • Lux Radio Theatre adaptation from 1947 starring Henry Fonda and Cathy Downs
  • Trailer
  • PLUS: An essay by critic David Jenkins New cover by F. Ron Miller

F for Fake

F for Fake – October 21

Trickery. Deceit. Magic. In F for Fake, a free-form documentary by Orson Welles, the legendary filmmaker (and self-described charlatan) gleefully reengages with the central preoccupation of his career: the tenuous line between illusion and truth, art and lies. Beginning with portraits of the world-renowned art forger Elmyr de Hory and his equally devious biographer, Clifford Irving, Welles embarks on a dizzying journey that simultaneously exposes and revels in fakery and fakers of all stripes—not the least of whom is Welles himself. Charming and inventive, F for Fake is an inspired prank and a clever examination of the essential duplicity of cinema.

Special Features:

  • New, restored digital transfer, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition
  • Audio commentary from 2005 by cowriter and star Oja Kodar and director of photography Gary Graver
  • Introduction from 2005 by filmmaker Peter Bogdanovich
  • Orson Welles: One-Man Band, a documentary from 1995 about Welles’s unfinished projects
  • Almost True: The Noble Art of Forgery, a fifty-two-minute documentary from 1997 about art forger Elmyr de Hory
  • 60 Minutes interview from 2000 with Clifford Irving about his Howard Hughes autobiography hoax
  • Hughes’s 1972 press conference exposing Irving’s hoax
  • Extended, nine-minute trailer
  • PLUS: An essay by critic Jonathan Rosenbaum New cover by Neil Kellerhouse

La Dolce Vita

La Dolce Vita – October 21

The biggest hit from the most popular Italian filmmaker of all time, La dolce vita rocketed Federico Fellini to international mainstream success—ironically, by offering a damning critique of the culture of stardom. A look at the darkness beneath the seductive lifestyles of Rome’s rich and glamorous, the film follows a notorious celebrity journalist—played by a sublimely cool Marcello Mastroianni—during a hectic week spent on the peripheries of the spotlight. This mordant picture was an incisive commentary on the deepening decadence of the European 1960s, and it provided a prescient glimpse of just how gossip- and fame-obsessed our society would become.

Special Features:

  • New 4K digital restoration by the Film Foundation, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
  • New visual essay by : : kogonada
  • New interview with filmmaker Lina Wertmüller, who worked as assistant director on the film
  • Scholar David Forgacs discusses the period in Italy’s history when the film was made
  • New interview with Italian film journalist Antonello Sarno about the outlandish fashions seen in the film
  • Audio interview with actor Marcello Mastroianni from the early 1960s, conducted by film historian Gideon Bachmann
  • Felliniana, a presentation of ephemera related to La dolce vita from the collection of Don Young
  • PLUS: An essay by critic Gary Giddins New cover by Eric Skillman

The Complete Jacques Tati

The Complete Jacques Tati – October 28

Though he made only a handful of films, director, writer, and actor Jacques Tati ranks among the most beloved of all cinematic geniuses. With a background in music hall and mime performance, Tati steadily built an ever more ambitious movie career that ultimately raised sight-gag comedy to the level of high art. In the surrogate character of the sweet and bumbling, eternally umbrella-toting and pipe-smoking Monsieur Hulot, Tati invented a charming symbol of humanity lost in a constantly modernizing modern age. This set gathers his six hilarious features—Jour de fête, Monsieur Hulot’s Holiday, Mon oncle, PlayTime, Trafic, and Parade—along with seven delightful Tati-related short films.

 

Jour de fête

In his enchanting debut feature, Jacques Tati stars as a fussbudget of a postman who is thrown for a loop when a traveling fair comes to his village. Even in this early work, Tati was brilliantly toying with the devices (silent visual gags, minimal yet deftly deployed sound effects) and exploring the theme (the absurdity of our increasing reliance on technology) that would define his cinema. Here, Jour de fête is presented in three versions: the original 1949 black-and-white release, a 1964 version featuring hand-painted color sequences and newly incorporated footage, and the full-color 1994 rerelease, which finally realized Tati’s original vision for the film.

Monsieur Hulot’s Holiday

Monsieur Hulot, Jacques Tati’s endearing clown, takes a holiday at a seaside resort, where his presence provokes one catastrophe after another. Tati’s masterpiece of gentle slapstick is a series of effortlessly well-choreographed sight gags involving dogs, boats, and firecrackers; it was the first entry in the Hulot series and the film that launched its maker to international stardom. We are presenting Monsieur Hulot’s Holiday in the 1978 rerelease version, reedited by Tati himself, along with the original 1953 theatrical version.

Mon Oncle

Slapstick prevails again when Jacques Tati’s eccentric, old-fashioned hero, Monsieur Hulot, is set loose in Villa Arpel, the geometric, oppressively ultramodern home of his brother-in-law, and in the antiseptic plastic hose factory where he gets a job. The second Hulot movie and Tati’s first color film, Mon oncle is a supremely amusing satire of mechanized living and consumer society that earned the director the Academy Award for best foreign-language film. This edition features both the original French release and My Uncle, the version Tati created for English-speaking audiences.

Playtime

Jacques Tati’s gloriously choreographed, nearly wordless comedies about confusion in an age of high technology reached their apotheosis with PlayTime. For this monumental achievement, a nearly three-year-long, bank-breaking production, Tati again thrust the loveably old-fashioned Monsieur Hulot, along with a host of other lost souls, into a bafflingly modern world, this time Paris. With every inch of its superwide frame crammed with hilarity and inventiveness, PlayTime is a lasting testament to a modern era tiptoeing on the edge of oblivion.

Trafic

In Jacques Tati’s Trafic, the bumbling Monsieur Hulot, kitted out as always with tan raincoat, beaten brown hat, and umbrella, takes to Paris’s highways and byways. In this, his final outing, Hulot is employed as an auto company’s director of design, and accompanies his new product (a camper outfitted with absurd gadgetry) to an auto show in Amsterdam. Naturally, the road there is paved with modern-age mishaps. This late-career delight is a masterful demonstration of the comic genius’s expert timing and sidesplitting knack for visual gags, and a bemused last look at technology run amok.

Parade

For his final film, Jacques Tati takes his camera to the circus, where the director himself serves as master of ceremonies. Though it features many spectacles, including clowns, jugglers, acrobats, contortionists, and more, Parade also focuses on the spectators, making this stripped-down work a testament to the communion between audience and entertainment. Made for Swedish television (with Ingmar Bergman’s legendary director of photography Gunnar Fischer serving as one of its cinematographers), Parade is a touching career send-off that recalls its maker’s origins as a mime and theater performer.

Special Features:

  • New digital restorations of all six feature films, with uncompressed monaural soundtracks on the Blu-rays of Jour de fête, Monsieur Hulot’s Holiday, Mon oncle, Trafic, and Parade and uncompressed stereo soundtrack on the Blu-ray of PlayTime
  • New digital restorations of all seven short films: On demande une brute (1934), Gai dimanche (1935), Soigne ton gauche (1936), L’école des facteurs (1946), Cours du soir (1967), Forza Bastia (1978), and Dégustation maison (1978)
  • Two alternate versions of Jour de fête, a partly colorized 1964 version and the full-color 1994 rerelease version
  • Original 1953 theatrical release version of Monsieur Hulot’s Holiday
  • My Uncle, the version of Mon oncle that director Jacques Tati created for English-language audiences
  • Introductions by actor and comedian Terry Jones to Monsieur Hulot’s Holiday, Mon oncle, and PlayTime
  • Archival interviews with Tati
  • In the Footsteps of Monsieur Hulot, a 1989 documentary about Tati’s beloved alter ego
  • Five visual essays by Tati expert Stéphane Goudet
  • New interview with film scholar Michel Chion on the sound design of Tati’s films
  • “Jour de fête”: In Search of the Lost Color, a 1988 documentary on the process of realizing Tati’s original color vision for that film
  • Once Upon a Time . . . “Mon oncle,” a 2008 documentary about the making of that film
  • Everything Is Beautiful, a 2005 piece on the fashion, furniture, and architecture of Mon oncle
  • Selected-scene commentaries on PlayTime by Goudet, theater director Jérôme Deschamps, and critic Philip Kemp
  • Tativille, a documentary shot on the set of PlayTime
  • Beyond “PlayTime,” a short 2002 documentary featuring on-set footage
  • An Homage to Jacques Tati, a 1982 French TV program featuring Tati friend and set designer Jacques Lagrange
  • Audio interview with Tati from the U.S. premiere of PlayTime at the 1972 San Francisco International Film Festival
  • Interview with PlayTime script supervisor Sylvette Baudrot from 2006
  • Tati Story, a short biographical film from 2002
  • Professor Goudet’s Lessons, a 2013 classroom lecture by Goudet on Tati’s films
  • Alternate English-language soundtracks for Monsieur Hulot’s Holiday and PlayTime
  • New English subtitle translations
  • PLUS: A booklet featuring essays by critics David Cairns, James Quandt, Jonathan Rosenbaum, and Kristin Ross New covers by David Merveille

The Vanishing

The Vanishing – October 28

A young man embarks on an obsessive search for the girlfriend who mysteriously disappeared while the couple were taking a sunny vacation trip, and his three-year investigation draws the attention of her abductor, a mild-mannered professor with a diabolically clinical mind. An unorthodox love story and a truly unsettling thriller, Dutch filmmaker George Sluizer’s The Vanishing unfolds with meticulous intensity, leading to an unforgettable finale that has unnerved audiences around the world.

Special Features:

  • New 2K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
  • New interview with director George Sluizer
  • New interview with actor Johanna ter Steege
  • Trailer
  • PLUS: An essay by critic Scott Foundas New cover by Lucien S. Y. Yang

The Little Matchgirl: A Synesthetic-esque Experience

The Little Matchgirl: A Synesthetic-esque Experience

     Setting paradigmatic music to breathtaking illustrations was the premise for Walt Disney’s third feature film, Fantasia (1940). Even though the film began as a reboot for Disney’s beloved Mickey Mouse, it developed, with the help of famed conductor Leopold Stokowski, into the now-classic film. Fantasia’s reception, however, was lukewarm; critics praised the film, but the general public found it to be rather highbrow and audiences longed for the company’s more traditional films, like its predecessors: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) and Pinocchio (1940). The lack of acceptance for Fantasia—Walt Disney’s most personal film—left its creator heartbroken for the rest of his life. Through reissues, the film found success in the latter part of the twentieth century, and Roy E. Disney, Walt’s nephew, revitalized the idea and produced Fantasia 2000 (1999), which extended the original concept of an ever-changing Fantasia. An adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Matchgirl (2006) was produced for a third Fantasia film, which, unfortunately, never saw the light of day. Andersen’s tale recounts the last moments of the matchgirl’s life: desperate to keep warm, the girl lights the matches she intends to sell, and envisions a better life in the vivid flames before her. Tragically, the matchgirl succumbs to the brutality of the winter around her, but is brought to heaven by a corporeal version of her loving grandmother. The Little Matchgirl, directed by Roger Allers, delves into the very same vein that Walt Disney tapped into with his 1940 feature film. The stark and brilliant unification of music and images, set to Andersen’s devastating tale, illustrates the importance of synchronization between two sensory experiences: that is, an auditory and visual synesthesia.

The Little Matchgirl’s presence—the weight of its emotional pull—is placed, for the most part, on the chosen piece of music; the music for this piece is Alexander Borodin’s String Quartet No. 2 in D Major: Third Movement – Notturno (Andante). One must remember that this short is dialogue-less, and so the non-diegetic music chosen is given an even higher importance. Borodin’s String Quartet No. 2, therefore, acts as the dialogue in a language that anyone can understand. True, the language is not that of the spoken word, but it more closely resembles that of an emotional language. For some animation authorities, such as Ülo Pikkov, there is apparently some sort of detachment between the music of a piece and the corresponding visuals, at least for the audience. Pikkov (2010) states that “[d]ue to the abstract nature of music, audiences perceive music and visual elements of a film not as whole but as separate, although mutually complementary phenomena” (p. 164). It is entirely true that these two elements are “mutually complementary,” but it appears that, for The Little Matchgirl, it is more than just mutually complementary; there is a higher significance of the music due to the fact that both dialogue and sound effects are absent. “The harmonious relationship between the visual design and sound of the animated film,” relates Pikkov (2010), “is the foundation of its fidelity and the measure of its artistic quality” (p. 172). Whereas some audience members feel some dissociation between the music and the visuals, the explicit combination of the two helps to construct the film’s diegesis. Allers, like his predecessors, bridged the gap between abstract music and visual elements, creating an emotional gravitas that immediately allows the viewer to emotionally invest within the short, its story, and its protagonist.

Borodin’s String Quartet No. 2 serves as an understanding of the matchgirl’s thoughts. The piece gives an almost eerie and melancholic tone to the story, yet there is still brisk excitement and a deep warmth that pervades during the matchgirl’s visions; the richness of the lower ranges of the cellos and basses creates a brooding and hopeless sentiment, and the higher strings construct the feeling of warmth and cheer, an almost believable alternate reality. With this strict divide, it makes sense that the mournful sections of the short—where the matchgirl is trying to survive her harsh reality—are largely dominated by the lower strings; likewise, when the matchgirl envisions a better life—one with luxury, warmth, food, and her affectionate grandmother—we are more likely to hear the violins and violas. The two distinct voices, melancholy and hope, remain relatively separate through the entirety of the short. However, once the matchgirl tries to make her visions persist, the voices clash together. As the matchgirl struggles for that hope, that dream of being reunited with her grandmother, attacks of melancholic symphony ultimately lead us back to her demise. Once the matchgirl has passed, the upper strings reconvene and the melody becomes hopeful, as we now understand, and easily see, that her grandmother, in corporeal form, carries the matchgirl off into a glowing other-world, presumably heaven. The last reverberating note, held out in a soothing vibrato, translates into the final message of a better afterlife for our protagonist.

The visual imagery of The Little Matchgirl elucidates the immense struggle our protagonist faces. Set in pre-revolutionary Russia, during the times when child labor and exploitation were still in practice, we see the matchgirl in a rather bleak and oppressive landscape. The color palette of the short is polarized: there is that of an unsaturated grey that completely washes out the entirety of the scene, and there is the warm, saturated oranges and yellows that appear whenever the matchgirl has her visions. Just as the String Quartet No. 2 illustrates the matchgirl’s emotions, the color palette effectively explicates her physical and psychological state. In the grey portions of the short, the matchgirl is quite alone; even though there is an abundance of people walking around her, the matchgirl remains an outsider, the abject “other” that society does not understand or accept. The grey haze that consumes her life, therefore, makes the matchgirl an endearing character and we are drawn to her because of her readily apparent hardships. The other side of the color palette’s spectrum appears when the matchgirl has visions of what she desires. This is a complete reversal and a welcome departure from her desolate surroundings. Unlike Alice, who creates an imaginary world out of boredom, the matchgirl creates this vivaciously colorful world out of necessity. The saturated colors, thus, depict the warmth in which she so craves: that of physical warmth, but also of an emotional warmth in the form of her grandmother. The short’s color palette—stark grey and bright orange—exemplifies the matchgirl’s reality and alternate reality, respectively.

The framing of the shots, the shot angles adopted, and the editing pace also allows for an understanding of the matchgirl’s struggles. For about the first two minutes of the short, the matchgirl is usually seen either from a long shot or a medium shot; this immediately gives the effect of severe isolation, especially when she is the solitary figure within the frame. The distance between the matchgirl and the camera not only represents this isolation, but also the severity of her emotional wellbeing. The majority of the shot angles employed during the first few minutes are high angles, looking down upon the matchgirl. Again, this adds to the isolation the she is feeling. It also puts the viewer into a position of power: she is made even smaller, lonesome, and unimportant in this society. The camera moves in much closer, giving a child-like attention to detail, as the matchgirl’s visions begin. Even though the viewer is an observer, we are able to latch on to and understand her desires more easily when close ups and extreme close ups are employed. As her visions increase, the camera pulls back to fully embrace and experience the lavish world which she has created in her mind. As the short switches between her reality and her alternate reality, the editing becomes more quickly paced and more rapid cutting ensues as the music intensifies until she is finally reunited with her grandmother, the time in which the little matchgirl is extinguished. The pace of the scene dramatically slows as the viewer now begins to appreciate why the matchgirl strove to reconnect with some source of love and happiness, even if it is only in her mind; the little matchgirl’s suffering is finally at an end and the viewer can now cope with her death, knowing that she will lovingly be taken care of by her grandmother as her slumped over body concretely remains in that unforgiving reality that she has finally escaped. Not only does the music and color palette reflect the matchgirl’s life, but the technical aspects of filmmaking, namely camera placement and editing, do as well.

Andersen’s The Little Matchgirl is an undeniably devastating story, one that is only slightly changed for this cinematic adaptation. The unifying elements, Borodin’s String Quartet No. 2 and the classic hand-drawn visuals, ground the story, creating an emotionally driven piece that allows the viewer to fully immerse him- or herself into the psyche of the little matchgirl. The music and images are not mutually exclusive: each relies on the other to create this synesthetic-esque experience. Without one of these elements the short loses some of its emotional weight, and so both are necessary to best tell the matchgirl’s tale. Not only do these two aspects complement each other, but they also enhance the short and provide a deeper understanding of the matchgirl’s inner and outer world. The music transcends the viewer into her emotional state whereas the color palette elucidates the coldness of her reality and the warmth of her alternate reality. The cinematic techniques—framing, shot angles, and editing—also enriches and manipulates the viewer’s thoughts about the protagonist. With a separation between these two elements, a complete understanding of the matchgirl would be difficult to surmise without the use of dialogue or voice-over. However, the premise of the short is to create an understanding without those elements. Therefore, the synchronization between the corresponding music and visuals, alongside the chosen cinematic techniques, is paramount and highly effective.

References

Pikkov, Ü (2010). Animasophy: Theoretical writings on the animated film. (E. Näripea, Trans.). Tallinn, Estonia: Estonian Academy of Arts, Department of Animation. (Original work published 2010).

“Picnic at Hanging Rock” – Blu-ray Unboxing

Hello, again! I have an unboxing of Criterion’s release of Peter Weir’s Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975). I first saw the film last year and I was completely floored by how mysterious and beautiful it is. While the story has no real ending—no conclusions are made to the disappearance of some girls while picnicking at Hanging Rock (just like the original novel it’s based on; the novelist, Joan Lindsay, did originally write a last chapter explaining what occurred, but that chapter was removed from the novel’s first and subsequent publishings)—I feel like you don’t need it. It’s difficult to explain, so I suggest you pick up a copy of Criterion’s release or watch it on Hulu Plus. It’s truly an astounding film, and I’m glad I bought it. Criterion’s set looks great and also includes a new release of Lindsay’s novel. Take a look:

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