Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s 49th Parallel and Ingmar Bergman’s Persona are now up for pre-order on iTunes in high-definition. 49th Parallel will be available to purchase on September 10th and Persona will be available a week later, on September 17th.
49th Parallel: At once a compelling piece of anti-isolationist propaganda and a quick-witted wartime thriller, 49th Parallel is a classic early work from the inimitable British filmmaking team of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger. When a Nazi U-boat crew, headed by the ruthless Eric Portman, is stranded in Canada during the thick of World War II, the men evade capture by hiding out in a series of rural communities, before trying to cross the border into the still-neutral United States. Both soul-stirring and delightfully entertaining, 49th Parallel features a colorful cast of characters played by larger-than-life actors Laurence Olivier, Raymond Massey, Anton Walbrook, and Leslie Howard.
Persona: This genre-blurring, minimalist masterpiece from Ingmar Bergman follows a young nurse (Bibi Andersson) and her patient (Liv Ullmann), an actress who has mysteriously gone mute. The women retreat to a seaside cottage to aid the actress’s rehabilitation, but the intimacy of their emotions and motivations embroil them in a stranger, stronger bond. A classic of world cinema, Persona has long been considered one of the major works of 20th century art.
I’ve yet to see either of these films, but I am a big fan of the directors of each. Powell and Pressburger have directed such classics as The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, I Know Where I’m Going!, Black Narcissus, and The Red Shoes (my personal favorite of this directorial team; Powell also directed the fantastic yet controversial Peeping Tom), and Bergman directed many films, including Summer with Monika, The Seventh Seal, Wild Strawberries, The Magician, The Virgin Spring, Autumn Sonata, Fanny and Alexander, and countless others.
With the news of these two films, I’m hoping that we’ll be seeing a Criterion Blu-ray release of 49th Parallel and Persona some time in the near future (2014 seems probable). 49th Parallel is already available on DVD by the Criterion Collection (# 376). Here’s hoping!