February Criterions announced

AlexNoir

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When a Woman Ascends the Stairs
49th Parallel
The Bicycle Thief (AKA Bicycle Thieves)
Green for Danger

Paul Robeson: Portaits of the Artist (box set)
- The Emperor Jones
- Paul Robeson: A Tribute to the Artist
- Sanders of the River
- Jericho
- Body and Soul
- Borderline
- Proud Valley
- Native Land
 

Haggai

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Wow, I'm thrilled to see When a Woman Ascends the Stairs in there! One of the major films from Japanese director Mikio Naruse. I saw about 10 of his movies in a retrospective earlier this year, and I thought that was the best one of the bunch (though several others were great as well, and I missed a couple of the other most well-regarded ones). Excellent news to have that coming from Criterion--I didn't know that was in their plans, or that they even had the rights to any of his movies--which perhaps will lead to some more Naruse releases from them as well.

A Criterion release of Bicycle Thief is certainly good news as well. I have 49th Parallel waiting on my DVR now, but more Powell/Pressburger is always welcome. I'd never even heard of Green for Danger, but it sounds fun from the description. I know nothing about any of the Robeson films (aside from having read Emperor Jones in high school!), so those should make for an interesting introduction.
 

DavidJ

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This announcement brings a smile to my face...




...which watching Bicycle Thieves will strip away.


Still, I can't wait. What a great movie!
 

Jim Peavy

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And I just saw The Bicycle Thief on the old image DVD for the first time a few weeks ago. I thought, "this definitely needs the Criterion treatment" (!).
 

Lord Dalek

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Man! All we need now is a Criterion Rossellini War Trilogy and Ossessione and the Italian Neo-Realists are fully spoken for.
 

Sergio A

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Criterion previously released this comedy thriller on LaserDisc with a decent commentary by the always excellent Bruce Eder - that disc suffered from inferior image and apparently only a few are in circulation - it's a fantastic whodunnit, beautifully shot, set in a wartime hospital with really funny dialogue and a couple of genuinely creepy sequences as well.

It's certainly a bumper announcement - 49th Parallel (aka The Invaders) is minor Powell and Pressburger (albeit their greatest UK hit) but great fun none the less, while Ladri di Biciclette rightly belongs on the list of the ten greatest films ever made as far as I'm concerned - great news all round.
 

John Hodson

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Specs, and some art up at the links:

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 cavalcade of characters played by larger-than-life actors Laurence Olivier, Raymond Massey, Anton Walbrook, and Leslie Howard.

SPECIAL EDITION DOUBLE-DISC SET FEATURES
New, restored high-definition digital transfer
Audio commentary by film and music historian Bruce Eder
The Volunteer, a 1943 Powell and Pressburger war-effort short starring Ralph Richardson
A Pretty British Affair, a BBC documentary on the careers of Powell and Pressburger, which considers their WWII-era collaborators and features rare footage of the filmmakers together
Excerpts from Michael Powell's audio dictations for his autobiography
Original theatrical trailer
Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
PLUS: A new essay by film scholar Charles Barr and an excerpt from Powell's 1941 premiere speech


The Emperor Jones/Paul Robeson: Tribute to an Artist:

Paul Robeson appeared in eleven films during his seventeen-year movie career, but none was more iconic than his breakthrough role in the film version of Eugene O'Neill's The Emperor Jones. Following his legendary stage performance as Brutus Jones, a Pullman porter who powers his way to rule of a Caribbean island, Paul Robeson was cast in his first sound-era film role in director Dudley Murphy's adaptation--and thus was his regal image married to his booming voice for eternity. With The Emperor Jones, Robeson became the first African-American leading man in mainstream movies and, he later said, gained a deeper understanding of cinema's potential to change misconceptions of the black community. Previously censored, The Emperor Jones is presented here in its most complete form. Also included is Saul J. Turell's Academy Award-winning documentary short Paul Robeson: Tribute to an Artist, narrated by Sidney Poitier, which traces his career through his activism and his socially charged performances of his signature song, "Ol' Man River."

Special Features
New digital transfer of The Emperor Jones, created from the best surviving elements
Audio commentary for The Emperor Jones by historian Jeffrey C. Stewart
His Artistry and Legacy, a new video program including interviews with filmmaker William Greaves and actors Ruby Dee and James Earl Jones
Robeson on Robeson, a new interview with Paul Robeson Jr. about his father's career and art
Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing


Sanders of The River / Jerico:

Seeking out new territory to explore his artistry, Paul Robeson moved his family to London in 1928. During the next twelve years, he headlined six films within the British film industry, pioneering new heights for black actors and reaching a level of prominence unattainable in Hollywood. Robeson's first British production, Zoltan Korda's Sanders of the River (1935), however, ended up being an embarrassment for the actor, with the studio ultimately turning the story of an African tribal leader into a celebration of the British Empire. As a result, Robeson sought more artistic control, eventually achieving it with Jericho (1938), which featured Robeson in what turned out to be his most satisfying film role, as a World War I officer who escapes his fate as a black man by fleeing to Africa and creating a new world for himself.

Special Features

New, digital transfers created from the best surviving elements
True Pioneer: The British Films of Paul Robeson, a new video program featuring interviews with Paul Robeson Jr. and film historians Stephen Bourne and Ian Christie, and including film clips from Song of Freedom (1936), King Solomon's Mines (1937), and Big Fella (1938)
Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing


Body & Soul / Borderline:

Though the 1920s brought him international acclaim as a stage performer and singer, Paul Robeson still had to prove himself as a viable screen performer. Mainstream avenues were limited, however, and his first two films, both silent, were made in the peripheries of the film business. Body and Soul (1925), directed by the legendary African-American filmmaker Oscar Micheaux, is a direct critique of the power of the cloth, casting Robeson in dual roles as a jackleg preacher and a well-meaning inventor. Borderline (1930), the sole feature by British film theorist Kenneth Macpherson, boldly blends Eisensteinian montage and domestic melodrama, featuring Robeson and his wife, Eslanda, as lovers caught up in a tangled web of interracial affairs. With these first independent works, Robeson was able to reveal his stunning and expressive onscreen physical presence, opening doors in the film world that had never been approached by an African-American actor before.

Special Features

New, digital transfers of Body and Soul and Borderline created from the best surviving elements
Audio commentary for Body and Soul by Oscar Micheaux historian Pearl Bowser
Musical scores by jazz recording artists and composers Wycliffe Gordon (Body and Soul) and Courtney Pine (Borderline)
Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing


The Proud Valley / Native Land:

By the start of World War II, Paul Robeson had given up his lucrative mainstream work to participate in more socially progressive film and stage productions. As David Goliath, in the British The Proud Valley (1940), Robeson is the quintessential "everyman," an American sailor who joins rank-and-file Welsh miners organizing against the powers that be. Concurrently, Robeson committed his support to Paul Strand and Leo Hurwitz's political semi-documentary Native Land (1942). With Robeson's narration and songs, this beautifully shot and edited film takes a critical look at American workers denied their civil liberties. Scarcely shown since its debut, Native Land represents Robeson's shift from narrative cinema to the leftist documentaries that would define the final chapter in his controversial film career.

Special Features

New, digital transfers of The Proud Valley and Native Land created from the best surviving elements
"The Story of Native Land," a new video interview with cinematographer Tom Hurwitz, son of Frontier Films cofounder and Native Land codirector Leo Hurwitz
1958 Pacifica Radio interview with Paul Robeson
Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing


Paul Robeson: Portraits of An Artist:

All-American athlete, scholar, renowned baritone, stage actor, and social activist, Paul Robeson (1898-1976) was a towering figure and a trailblazer many times over. He was perhaps most groundbreaking, however, in the medium of film. The son of an escaped slave, Robeson managed to become a top-billed movie star during the time of Jim Crow America, headlining everything from fellow pioneer Oscar Micheaux's silent drama Body and Soul to British studio showcases to socially engaged documentaries, always striving to project positive images of black characters. Increasingly politically minded, Robeson eventually left movies behind, using his international celebrity to speak for those denied their civil liberties around the world and ultimately becoming a victim of ideological persecution himself. But his film legacy lives on and continues to speak eloquently of the long and difficult journey of a courageous and outspoken African American.

Special Features

All new, digital transfers created from the best surviving elements
Audio commentaries by historians Jeffrey C. Stewart (The Emperor Jones) and Pearl Bowser (Body and Soul)
Musical scores by Wycliffe Gordon (Body and Soul) and Courtney Pine (Borderline)
1958 Pacifica Radio interview with Paul Robeson
Four new video programs featuring interviews with actors Ruby Dee and James Earl Jones, filmmaker William Greaves, cinematographer Tom Hurwitz, film historians Ian Christie and Stephen Bourne, and Paul Robeson Jr., and including film clips from Song of Freedom (1936), King Solomon's Mines (1937), and Big Fella (1938)
Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
PLUS: A book featuring an excerpt from Paul Robeson's Here I Stand, new essays by Clement Alexander Price, Hilton Als, Charles Burnett, Ian Christie, Deborah Willis, and Charles Musser, and a reprinted article by Harlem Renaissance writer Geraldyn Dismond


Bicycle Thieves:

Hailed around the world as one of the greatest movies ever made, Vittorio De Sica's Academy Award-winning Bicycle Thieves (Ladri di biciclette) defined an era in cinema. In postwar, poverty-stricken Rome, a man, hoping to support his desperate family with a new job, loses his bicycle, his main means of transportation for work. With his wide-eyed young son in tow, he sets off to track down the thief. Simple in construction and dazzlingly rich in human insight, Bicycle Thieves embodied all the greatest strengths of the neorealist film movement in Italy: emotional clarity, social righteousness, and brutal honesty.

Special Features

SPECIAL EDITION DOUBLE-DISC SET FEATURES
New, restored high-definition digital transfer
Working with De Sica, a collection of new interviews with screenwriter Suso Cecchi D'Amico, actor Enzo Staiola (Bruno), and film scholar Callisto Cosulich
Life as It Is, a new program on the history of Italian neorealism in cinema, with scholar Mark Shiel
Documentary on screenwriter and longtime Vittorio De Sica collaborator Cesare Zavattini, directed by Carlo Lizzani
Optional English dubbed soundtrack
New and improved English subtitle translation


Green For Danger:

In the midst of Nazi air raids, a postman dies on the operating table at a rural English hospital. But was the death accidental? A delightful and wholly unexpected murder mystery, British writer/director Sidney Gilliat's Green for Danger features Trevor Howard and Sally Gray as suspected doctors, and Alastair Sim in a marvelous turn as Scotland Yard's insouciant Inspector Cockrill. A screenwriter who had worked with Hitchcock on such films as The Lady Vanishes and Jamaica Inn, Gilliat slyly upends whodunit conventions with wit and style.

Special Features

New, restored high-definition digital transfer
Audio commentary by film and music historian Bruce Eder
New interview with British film historian Geoff Brown
Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
PLUS: A new essay by writer Geoffrey O'Brien and a director's statement


When a Woman Ascends The Stairs:

When a Woman Ascends the Stairs might be Japanese filmmaker Mikio Naruse's finest hour--a delicate, devastating study of a woman, Keiko (played heartbreakingly by Hideko Takamine), who works as a bar hostess in Tokyo's very modern postwar Ginza district, who entertains businessmen after work. Sly, resourceful, but trapped, Keiko comes to embody the conflicts and struggles of a woman trying to establish her independence in a male-dominated society. When a Woman Ascends the Stairs shows the largely unsung yet widely beloved master Naruse at his most socially exacting and profoundly emotional.

Special Features

New, restored high-definition digital transfer
Audio commentary by Japanese-film scholar Donald Richie
New video interview with Tatsuya Nakadai
Theatrical trailer
New and improved English subtitle translation
PLUS: A booklet featuring essays by film scholars Audie Bock, Catherine Russell, and Phillip Lopate
 

BarryM

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I saw "Green For Danger" years ago on Public TV and it's a great British film. If you're wonderfing what else Trevor Howard was doing around the time of "Brief Encounter" and "The Third Man", this one's for you. Looking forward to buying my copy.....
 

David_P

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Dec 12, 2003
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I wish Criterion would do an anamorphic re-release of "Armageddon"... like they re-released Brazil. Throw in the staggering full-bit-rate DTS soundtrack that the Japanese version had.

David
 

Mario Gauci

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Having just watched the superlative Brit-Noir THEY MADE ME A FUGITIVE (1947) just a couple of days ago immediately set me thinking about picking up the bare-bones R2 DVD of GREEN FOR DANGER (1946)...Boy, am I glad now that I didn't follow my instincts
!

For the record, I have watched GREEN FOR DANGER (1946) just once several years ago on Italian TV so I'm very eager to reacquaint myself with it via this (presumably) definitive DVD reelase. While it has Trevor Howard and Sally Gray in the cast (both from the afore-mentioned FUGITIVE), the film is Alaistair Sim's show all the way as the investigating detective. Frank Launder and Sidney Gilliatt are the contemporaries of other famous British cinema duos like Powell and Pressburger and the Boulting Brothers and GREEN FOR DANGER is arguably the pinnacle of their cinematic achievements.

As for 49TH PARALLEL (1941), I don't agree that it's a minor work for Powell and Pressburger; while it admittedly lacks the visual and cerebral flourishes of THE LIFE AND DEATH OF COLONEL BLIMP (1943), A CANTERBURY TALE (1944) and A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH (1946) - to mention 3 other wartime movies of theirs - it's ultimately one of their most enjoyable works and still a superbly-crafted suspense/propaganda film. And who can top that splendid cast: Laurence Olivier, Leslie Howard, Anton Walbrook, Raymond Massey, Eric Portman, Nial MacGinnis and Finlay Currie? One mustn't forget that the Archers followed this one with ONE OF OUR AIRCRAFT IS MISSING (1942) which, frankly, I need to revisit on VHS one of these days...

With regards to BICYCLE THIEVES (1948), further comments would be superfluous about this greatest of Italian neo-realist films; I may have grown to admire Roberto Rossellini's challenging works more over the years but one can't deny the relevance of De Sica's great post-war quartet of films.

I'm only vaguely interested in the Paul Robeson set and the Naruse title: I can't recall if I did see SANDERS OF THE RIVER (1935) or not, but I did catch Robeson in KING SOLOMON'S MINES (1937) and would obviously love to catch him in the James Whale version of SHOWBOAT (1936). I'm aware of Naruse's growing reputation among serious cinephiles but, if he's anything like Ozu, I'll probably pass (for the moment, anyway)...
 

Mario Gauci

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Yes, I know about that one John but, as a personal principle, I don't upgrade VHS to DVD unless there are significant supplements (or alterations to the main feature itself) involved.

I'm not slighting the Powell & Pressburger film (or any of the others which I haven't upgraded) but there is simply too much "new" stuff which I haven't watched that needs to be purchased that I have to draw the line somewhere.

And it's not even a financial matter: thankfully, I have a like-minded twin brother who also gives his own credit card a thorough trashing in this respect; where I'm coming up short, constantly, is shelf space
!!
 

Deepak Shenoy

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Jul 3, 1998
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No Le Jour Se Leve yet ? Been waiting for that for a while and it is frustrating to see that is available but only as a part of their expensive Janus films boxset. Hopefully the hold-up on the few titles exclusive to this boxset is just to create additional supplements and not to encourage more people to buy their boxset.

In any case I have enough titles I want in this batch and so it's a good thing in some ways that they are taking their own time to release all the titles I want.

-D
 

BarryM

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Hokey Smoke, Bullwinkle! BOTH "Green For Danger" AND "49th Parallel"??!!

Crickey, am I excited!

Just two of the most delicious British films of the 1940's....plain and simple.

Now...if they get around to "Spy In Black" and a decent print of "Dead Of Night"......
 

Jim_K

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Definitly picking up 49th Parallel.


I'm very interested in seeing Green for Danger.
 

Adam_S

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someone stretched the text box on 49th parallel...



it's, uh, okay, but I'd rather the title were limited to the lower third of the cover rather than being obnoxious.
 

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