The Criterion Collection has announced five titles for Blu-ray release in July. On July 9th, the studio will release Kenji Mizoguchi's The Life of Oharu (1952). On July 16th, it will release Peter Brook's Lord of the Flies (1963). On July 23rd, it will release Gabriel Axel's Babette's Feast (1987) and Ang Lee's The Ice Storm (1997). And on July 30th, it will release Guillermo del Toro's The Devil's Backbone (2001).
A peerless chronicler of the soul who specialized in supremely emotional, visually exquisite films about the circumstances of women in Japanese society throughout its history, Kenji Mizoguchi had already been directing movies for decades when he made The Life of Oharu in 1952. But this epic portrait of an inexorable fall from grace, starring the incredibly talented Kinuyo Tanaka as an imperial lady-in-waiting who gradually descends to street prostitution, was the movie that gained its director international attention, ushering in a new golden period for him.
New high-definition digital film restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition
Introductory commentary by scholar Dudley Andrew
Mizoguchi's Art and the Demimonde, an illustrated audio essay featuring Andrew
Kinuyo Tanaka's New Departure, a 2009 film by Koko Kajiyama documenting the actor's 1949 goodwill tour of the United States
New English subtitle translation
PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by film scholar Gilberto Perez
In the hands of the renowned experimental theater director Peter Brook, William Golding's legendary novel on the primitivism lurking beneath civilization becomes a film as raw and ragged as the lost boys at its center. Taking an innovative documentary-like approach, Brook shot Lord of the Flies with an off-the-cuff naturalism, seeming to record a spontaneous eruption of its characters' ids. The result is a rattling masterpiece, as provocative as its source material.
New, restored 4K digital film transfer, supervised by cameraman and editor Gerald Feil, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition
Audio commentary featuring director Peter Brook, producer Lewis Allen, director of photography Tom Hollyman, and Feil
Audio recordings of William Golding reading from his novel Lord of the Flies, accompanied by the corresponding scenes from the film
Deleted scene, with optional commentary and reading by Golding
Interview with Brook from 2008
Collection of behind-the-scenes material, featuring home movies, screen tests, outtakes, and stills
New interview with Feil
Excerpt from Feil's 1972 documentary The Empty Space, showcasing Brook's theater methods
Something Queer in the Warehouse, a piece composed of never-before-seen footage shot by the boy actors during production, with new voice-over by Tom Gaman, who played Simon
PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by film critic Geoffrey Macnab and an excerpt from Brook's book The Shifting Point
At once a rousing paean to artistic creation, a delicate evocation of divine grace, and the ultimate film about food, the Oscar-winning Babette's Feast is a deeply beloved cinematic treasure. Directed by Gabriel Axel and adapted from a story by Isak Dinesen, this is the layered tale of a French housekeeper with a mysterious past who brings quiet revolution in the form of one exquisite meal to a circle of starkly pious villagers in late nineteenth-century Denmark. Babette's Feast combines earthiness and reverence in an indescribably moving depiction of pleasure that goes to your head like fine champagne.
New 2K digital film restoration, with 2.0 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition
New interview with actor Stéphane Audran
Karen Blixen: Storyteller, a 1995 documentary about the author of the film's source story, who wrote under the pen name Isak Dinesen
New visual essay by filmmaker Michael Almereyda
New interview with sociologist Priscilla Parkhurst Ferguson about the significance of cuisine in French culture
PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by film scholar Mark Le Fanu and Dinesen's 1950 story
Suburban Connecticut, 1973. While Richard Nixon's "I am not a crook" speech drones from the TV, the Hood and Carver families try to navigate a Thanksgiving break simmering with unspoken resentment, sexual tension, and cultural confusion. With clarity, subtlety, and a dose of wicked humor, Academy Award–winning director Ang Lee renders Rick Moody's acclaimed novel of upper-middle-class American malaise as a trenchant, tragic cinematic portrait of lost souls. Featuring a tremendous cast of established actors (Kevin Kline, Joan Allen, Sigourney Weaver) and rising stars (Tobey Maguire, Christina Ricci, Elijah Wood, Katie Holmes) The Ice Storm is among the finest films of the 1990s.
Restored high-definition digital film transfer, supervised and approved by director Ang Lee and director of photography Frederick Elmes, with 2.0 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack
Audio commentary featuring Lee and producer-screenwriter James Schamus
Documentary featuring interviews with actors Joan Allen, Kevin Kline, Tobey Maguire, Christina Ricci, Sigourney Weaver, and Elijah Wood
Interview with novelist Rick Moody
Footage from a 2007 event honoring Lee and Schamus at New York's Museum of the Moving Image
Visual essays featuring interviews with the film's cinematographer and production and costume designers
The most personal film by Guillermo del Toro is also among his most frightening and emotionally layered. Set during the final week of the Spanish Civil War, The Devil's Backbone tells the tale of a ten-year-old boy who, after his freedom-fighting father is killed, is sent to a haunted rural orphanage full of terrible secrets. Del Toro effectively combines gothic ghost story, murder mystery, and historical melodrama in a stylish concoction that reminds us—as would his later Pan's Labyrinth—that the scariest monsters are often the human ones.
New 2K digital film restoration, approved by director Guillermo del Toro and cinematographer Guillermo Navarro, with 5.1 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition
Audio commentary featuring Del Toro
Video introduction by Del Toro from 2010
New interviews with Del Toro about the process of creating the ghost Santi and the drawings and designs made in preparation for the film
¿Que es un fantasma?, a 2004 making-of documentary
Spanish Gothic, a 2010 interview with Del Toro about the genre and its influence on his work
Interactive director's notebook, with Del Toro's drawings and handwritten notes, along with interviews with the filmmaker
Four deleted scenes, with optional commentary
New featurette about the Spanish Civil War as evoked in the film
Program comparing Del Toro's thumbnail sketches and Carlos Giménez's storyboards with the final film
Selected on-screen presentation of Del Toro's thumbnail sketches alongside the sections of the final film they represent (Blu-ray edition only)
New English subtitle translation
PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by critic Mark Kermode
HOORAY!!! July will be a bountiful month for me -- finally! "The Ice Storm" and "Babette's Feast" are at the top of my list! (Been holding on to both of these DVD titles forever, and itchin' to upgrade.... Still waiting for "Mishima," though....) Never seen "The Life of Oharu," but it might be worth a shot. Seen "Lord of the Flies" a couple of times and that was enough; caught "The Devil's Backbone" on IFC or some cable channel once and it was worth seeing once, in my opinion. Two out of five films is pretty terrific, if you ask me...!!
And, to "alien2010": YES, SERIOUSLY!!! It's devastating and emotionally tumultuous.... That said, it's definitely not for everyone -- maybe you had to have lived in the 70's to fully appreciate the zeitgeist of that decade....
Geez Aimforsilence, as much as i love Wes Anderson, Criterion has been more than kind to him over the years and on Blu, whearas other directors are still waiting for just one of their titles to be on criterion Blu. Wes has like four out of Six on Criterion Blu.
Exactly what I've thought...I see the pleas for Life Aquatic every month during the Criterion announcements. Wes Anderson's first 5 movies are already in the Collection (including Aquatic, only on DVD so far). I like Anderson myself but the guy has gotten more than his share of respect from Criterion, as you say it's nice to see new movies and new directors to this label.
Oh dear God, Criterion's best monthly release ever. I have "The Devil's Backbone" region 2 and the PQ is just o.k. So I'm really looking forward to the Criterion release. It is a great great film. And "The Ice Storm"? Sublime. Ditto on "Babette's Feast". I'm a very happy Blu Ray person now.
This months announcements are very nice indeed. There are several gotta have titles and others that I'll eventually pick up during a sale. The art work on Lord Of The Flies and The Devils Backbone are both fantastic. The Ice Storm I remember liking a lot and will get get during a sale later. The other films have my interest but I will wait for reviews before passing judgment.
I'm quite pleased to see Criterion is upgrading its edition of Ang Lee's The Ice Storm. It's a blu-ray release I've been awaiting for years and will be mine on release day.
The rest of the lineup is quite strong, particularly The Devil's Backbone, The Life of Oharu and The Lord of the Flies. I'll preorder all of them (though I'll also plan to buy them at 50% off during Barnes & Noble's sale, if it happens).
Nice illustration & design work on the covers, too, especially for The Lord of the Flies and The Devil's Backbone.
I never understood the appeal of The Ice Storm. (I always thought it was most loved by those who were nostalgic about a decade, being too young, that they didn't remember.) My opinion of it vis a vis the generally positive public reception reminded me of The Sweet Hereafter.
jarmitage - you might be waiting a loooooong time for Criterion to release Boondock Saints since they try to only release important/great films, Boondock doesn't come close to meeting either of those criteria.
@Mika: I'd argue a significant number of Criterion releases could be classified as "controversial" or hidden gems. I'd also argue that just because a movie is controversial doesn't mean it's good. Sometimes obscure movies remain obscure for a reason.
MikaLove - Act like you know something about Criterion. They first "took on" Lord of the Flies many years ago when it was released by them on DVD. And if you don't think they take on challenging fare, how do you explain last month's announcement of Shoah?
I am getting all of them. Babette's Feast is a very special movie to me. Brings back fond memories of Freshman year in college.
My best friend was visiting me in college during Thanksgiving. I really missed home and it was so good to have someone special visit from home. I wanted to take her to see a film at my favorite cinema. Didn't know anything about Babette's Feast and didn't interest me at all but that was playing at the time. It turned out to be such an amazing and pleasant surprise.
As someone who appreciates controversy I'd think you'd know that Salo is about a lot more than simple sexual perversion. You want sex presented in a sensual, positive way? I'm not sure if I've seen it done better than in In the Mood for Love, a recent Criterion release.
There's nothing wrong with having a pet movie you'd like to see released by Criterion. We all have them, which is abundantly in every Criterion thread both here and on Facebook (mine is Matewan) but the fact is that Criterion can't keep everyone happy. Personally, I think they've wasted a lot of choices too--Closeup, Pierre le fou, Vivre sa Vie, Heaven's Gate, Fear and Loathing, Blow Out, Videodrome are just a few that come to mind, but then they've also released some really great movies that probably would never see the light of day with any other distributor.
What do you mean by "wasted a lot of choices"? Pierre le Fou, Vivre sa Vie, Heaven's Gate are great films that have fortunately been issued by Criterion with deserved care! What comes to my mind, however, is The Rock, Armageddon!
@Adrian: Armageddon is shit but The Rock actually isn't that bad, given the type of movie it is. In listing those movies I was just illustrating to Mika what he/she already knows, that everyone has examples of Criterion movies they think are "unworthy' just as everyone has their pet favorites they wish Criterion would honor. I listed some Criterion movies that in my opinion are a waste of time. You disagree. Mika probably has a very different idea. That's the way it goes.
I wish people could get over the idea that Criterion is the Bee's Knees. There is nothing that deserves or does not deserve to be in "The Collection." A film given the "Criterion Treatment" may not even look like it looked when it was projected in a theatre with a fresh print.
Where is "Kwaidan"? Criterion's 2000 transfer was really shoddy and it was missing over 20 minutes of footage! I know I will give in if The Masters of Cinema releases a Blu-ray (their DVD wiped the floor with Criterion's). I want American viewers to see the film how it was meant to be seen... It's really, really sad that such a masterpiece is on IMDb for free (in the cut version and atrocious print). This is one of the most beautiful movies ever made and should be re-release in HD! I really respect Criterion, but their treatment of "Kwaidan" is truly awful. I want to see Bergman's "Cries and Whispers" on Blu-ray as well. It would also be great if they got the rights to "The Elephant Man", "Persona" and "Raise the Red Lantern".