Blu-ray Review: New Criterion Releases For May 2014

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Average: 5 (2 votes)

The Criterion Collection continues to impress through the remarkable range of what it offers cineastes on a monthly basis. Look at the highlights of their May 2014 Blu-ray offerings, all currently available in stores and for online order. What on Earth do “Overlord,” “Like Someone in Love,” and “Red River” have in common? One is set in World War II, one during the Chisholm Trail, and one in present day. One is British, one defiantly American, and one is Japanese. Abbas Kiarostami really couldn’t have more distinctly different cinematic intentions than Howard Hawks. And yet Criterion wisely understands that film lovers love all different kinds of film. Pick your favorite.

For me, the best film is “Like Someone in Love,” the best release is “Red River.” “Overlord” remains an interesting curiosity, a film that blends archival footage and fictional filmmaking to achieve something unique. Directed by Stuart Cooper and shot by Stanley Kubrick’s visually remarkable cinematographer John Alcott, “Overlord” sometimes approaches a you-are-there cinema verite but it’s a film that always reminds me of its filmmaking when I find the war movies that engross me emotionally more rewarding. Criterion’s release is a notable one, especially when one considers how hard this film was to even see as recently as a decade ago.

Following his masterful “Certified Copy” led some critics and viewers to underrate the fascinating “Like Someone in Love” when it was released stateside early last year. Give it another chance. It holds up well on repeat viewing and I adore its centerpiece drive and ambiguous ending, a truly daring way to close a unique film. I wish the Criterion release was a little more complex in terms of special features but this is a film that even most Criterion collectors probably haven’t seen and so I’m just happy it will find a wider audience.

In terms of special features, nothing of recent inclusion in the Criterion catalog can match “Red River,” a massive box set that comes with two Blu-rays, two DVDs, and a paperback edition of the book on which it’s based, which was previously out of print. Hawks’ first western is a daring, epic adventure, most notable for the way it balances Wayne’s macho style with the less-macho style of Montgomery Clift. The transfer here is truly fantastic, finding just the right degree of grain without over-polishing the image. It makes one wish that Criterion has released the 40 movies in the recently-released John Wayne Epic Collection. A boy can dream…

Overlord was released on Blu-ray and DVD on May 13, 2014
Overlord was released on Blu-ray and DVD on May 13, 2014
Photo credit: The Criterion Collection


Seamlessly interweaving archival war footage and a fictional narrative, Stuart Cooper’s immersive account of one 20-year-old’s journey from basic training to the battle front lines at D-day brings all the terrors and isolation of war to its viewers with jolting authenticity. Overlord, impressionistically shot by Stanley Kubrick’s longtime cinematographer John Alcott, is both a document of WWII and a dreamlike meditation on man’s smallness in a large, incomprehensible machine.

Special Features:
o Audio commentary featuring director Stuart Cooper and actor Brian Stirner
o Mining the Archive, a new video featuring Imperial War Museum film archivists detailing the war footage used in the film
o Capa Influences Cooper, A new photo essay featuring Cooper on photographer Robert Capa
o A Test Of Violence (1969), Cooper’s short film about Spanish artist Juan Genoves
o Cameramen at War, the British Ministry of Information’s 1943 film tribute to newsreel and service film unit cameramen
o Germany Calling, a 1941 British Ministry of Information propaganda film, clips of which appear in Overlord
o Journals from two D-day soldiers, read by Brian Stirner
o Theatrical trailer
o PLUS: A new essay by critic Kent Jones, a short history of the Imperial War Museum, and excerpts from the Overlord novelization, by Cooper and Christopher Hudson
o A short history of the Imperial War Museum
o Excerpts from the Overlord novelization, by Cooper and Christopher Hudson

Like Someone in Love was released on Blu-ray and DVD on May 20, 2014
Like Someone in Love was released on Blu-ray and DVD on May 20, 2014
Photo credit: The Criterion Collection

“Like Someone in Love”

Abbas Kiarostami has spent his incomparable career exploring the spaces that separate illusion from reality and the simulated from the authentic. At first, his extraordinary, sly Like Someone in Love, which finds the Iranian director in Tokyo, may appear to be among his most straightforward films. Yet with this simple story of the growing bond between a young part-time call girl and a grandfatherly client, Kiarostami has constructed an enigmatic but crystalline investigation of affection and desire as complex as his masterful, close-up engagement with the workings of the mercurial human heart.

Special Features:
o New Digital Master, Approved By Director Abbas Kiarostami, With 3.0 Surround DTS-HD Master Audio Soundtrack On The Blu-ray
o Forty-Five-Minute Documentary On The Making Of The Film
o Trailer
o New English Subtitle Translation
o One Blu-ray And One DVD, With All Content Available In Both Formats
o Plus: A Booklet Featuring An Essay By Film Scholar And Critic Nico Baumbach

Red River was released on Blu-ray and DVD on May 27, 2014
Red River was released on Blu-ray and DVD on May 27, 2014
Photo credit: The Criterion Collection

“Red River”

John Wayne gives “one of the best performances of his career” as Tom Dunson, a cattle baron who built his ranch with hard work and a determination to kill any man who would dare try to take his land. But when plummeting livestock values endanger his beloved ranch, Tom and his adopted son set our to get a fair price for their cattle by driving them through the treacherous Chisholm Trail from Texas to Kansas. Battling Indians, stampedes and dissension among the ranch hands, Tom proves that he’ll stop at nothing to reach his destination. He’ll risk danger, hardship, betrayal…and perhaps even his own sanity.

Special Features:
o New 2K Digital Restoration Of The Rarely Presented Original Theatrical Release Version, The Preferred Cut Of Director Howard Hawks, With Uncompressed Monaural Soundtrack On The Blu-ray
o New 2K Digital Restoration Of The Longer, Prerelease Version of Red River, With Uncompressed Monaural Soundtrack On The Blu-ray
o New Interview With Filmmaker Peter Bogdanovich About Red River And The Two Versions
o New Interview With Critic Molly Haskell About Hawks And Red River
o New Interview With Flim Scholar Lee Clark Mitchell About The Western Genre
o Audio Excerpts From A 1972 Conversation Between Hawks And Bogdanovich
o Audio Excerpts From a 1970 Interview With Novelist And Screenwriter Borden Chase
o Lux Radio Theatre Adaptation Of Red River From 1949, Featuring John Wayne, Joanne Dru, And Walter Brennan
o Trailer
o Two Blu-rays And Two DVDs, With All Content Available In Both Formats
o A Booklet Featuring An Essay By Critic Geoffrey O’Brien And A 1991 Interview With Hawks’s Frequent Editor Christian Nyby; A New Paperback Edition Of Chase’s Original Novel, Previously Out Of Print

“Ovelord,” “Like Someone in Love,” and “Red River” are all available in stores now on Blu-ray and DVD from The Criterion Collection.” Contributor Brian Tallerico


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