The Criterion Collection

Blu-ray Review: Fantastic Set For Altman’s Beloved ‘Nashville’

Nashville

When I expressed excitement over the fact that Robert Altman’s stunning “Nashville” was being released in a Criterion Collection Blu-ray edition a few months back, a colleague asked me why I loved the film and I had trouble verbalizing my feelings about Altman’s sprawling, brilliant tapestry of characters. Watching the excellent new documentary about the making-of the film on the Criterion release makes it clear that I’m not alone.

Blu-ray Review: Fascinating Satire of ‘Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion’

Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion

Elio Petri’s “Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion,” winner of the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film and Grand Prize at the 1970 Cannes Film Festival, has been inducted into the Criterion Collection, the most important series of Blu-ray releases on the market. This is such a unique, bizarre film, one that I wasn’t familiar with until this release, which continues to prove that Criterion isn’t just a great company for known classics like Robert Altman’s “Nashville” but some films that may have fallen through the cracks of cinema history as well.

Blu-ray Review: Ozu’s ‘Tokyo Story’ Gets Criterion Remaster

Tokyo Story

It’s not surprising that filmmakers led the way in the reappraisal of Ozu’s beloved “Tokyo Story,” which recently ranked #3 on the Sight & Sound poll of all-time best films and was remastered for a Criterion Blu-ray/DVD combo pack release now in stores. Ozu’s film is such a perfect blend of realism and conscious filmmaking. What I men is that it clearly strives to be about relatable, believable human behavior and yet one can also so clearly see the techniques which Ozu uses (or lack thereof given his never-moving camera) to achieve such realism.

Blu-ray Review: Chaplin Section of Criterion Collection Now Includes ‘City Lights’

City Lights

CHICAGO – Charlie Chaplin’s “City Lights” used to be more widely considered to be one of the best films ever made. In early editions of the Sight & Sound poll (the every-decade poll of film historians and critics), it appeared in the top ten regularly. Its esteem seems to have slipped a bit over the decades as some now prefer other Chaplin to “Lights” (me, I adore “Great Dictator” and “Gold Rush,” both available in Criterion Blu-ray editions as well) but the new Criterion edition reminds one why so many people consider this one of the best. It’s still a glorious gem.

Blu-ray Review: Antonioni’s ‘La Notte’ Joins Criterion Collection

La Notte

CHICAGO – 1961’s “La Notte” helped build Michelango Antonioni’s international reputation after the success of “L’avventura” and lifted stars Marcello Mastroianni and Jeanne Moreau to an arthouse plateau. The film hasn’t aged as well as some of Antonioni’s best, in my opinion, although the 4K restoration on the new Criterion Blu-ray certainly helps one appreciate the visual compositions of its incredibly influential director. The release is a bit slight on supplemental material but fans of the filmmaker or star will simply be happy to have one of his more notable works in HD.

Blu-ray Review: Criterion Remasters Five of Cassavetes’ Best

Criterion Cassavetes

CHICAGO – It’s rare that I feel comfortable using this kind of hyperbole in a Blu-ray review but here it goes — having watched it again on Criterion Blu-ray, after not seeing it in years, I’m more convinced than ever that John Cassavetes’ “A Woman Under the Influence” is one of the best films ever made. Maybe it’s because I’m older now and have a family of my own, but my most recent viewing of this masterpiece was heartwrenching in a totally different way. It’s stunning.

Blu-ray Review: Criterion Remaster of Richard Linklater’s ‘Slacker’

Slacker

CHICAGO – Richard Linklater’s “Slacker” is one of the most important films of the ’90s. Appearing at the 1991 Sundance Film Festival, this incredibly low-budget piece of work helped launch the indie film movement of the decade, teaching people that anyone could make a movie. Shot on 16MM for less than $25k, “Slacker” ushered in an era of DIY filmmaking. Kevin Smith has said that “Clerks” wouldn’t exist without it. And the ironic thing is that you can now watch one of the most influential low-budget films on the high-definition format of Blu-ray, courtesy of The Criterion Collection.

Blu-ray Review: ‘La Cage Aux Folles’ Joins Criterion Collection

La Cage Aux Folles

CHICAGO – 1978’s release of the French farce “La Cage Aux Folles” was a cultural event in New York City, where it played for months to audiences who had never seen anything like it. History has somewhat reappraised the film, especially so after the release of the Mike Nichols’ remake “The Birdcage,” and seen it as more than mere popular entertainment, crediting it with opening minds to lifestyles previously closeted.

Blu-ray Review: Devastating Honesty of Bergman’s ‘Autumn Sonata’

Autumn Sonata

CHICAGO – “Autumn Sonata,” Ingrid Bergman’s last film and first collaboration with cinema’s other great Bergman (Ingmar), is a challenging film. Is it pure melodrama or is it raw human emotion? The line is a fine one, enhanced by the theatricality of the film, one that opens with a character breaking the 4th wall. And yet I choose to take “Autumn Sonata” seriously and not as emotional manipulation, a decision enhanced by the enlightening essay in the Criterion edition by Farran Smith Nehme, which reveals how much of both Bergman’s own issues with parenthood may have impacted this caustic commentary on how we don’t really change, even as death is staring us in the face.

Blu-ray Review: Jack Benny, Carole Lombard in Classic Comedy ‘To Be or Not to Be’

To Be or Not To Be

CHICAGO – We like to think that creative progress has led to a more open-minded era of today than decades ago but the fact is that I really don’t think a major studio with major actors would make a film today that felt as honestly dangerous as Ernst Lubitsch’s “To Be or Not To Be” did when it was released. A dangerous Jack Benny comedy? You bet.

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