Criterion Goes Blu-Ray

Criterion Blu-ray LogoA few months ago I just said, “fuck it,” and bought a Blu-Ray player.

I was reluctant to do so—I have a pretty substantial Standard-Def DVD collection. I don’t want to keep re-buying my favorite movies over and over again in different formats for the rest of my miserable goddamn life.

But then I watched 3:10 to Yuma in Blu-Ray at a friend’s place and caved at the sight of Christian Bale’s pores during those close-up shots. I went out and purchased a player. Since then, I have bought only two Blu-Ray DVDs, and rented like three. Sigh.

Here, finally, perhaps my investment in that clunky, noisy, load-screen heavy machinery will pay off:

Criterion is going Blu-Ray, and has announced its first Blu-Ray titles as The Third Man and The Man Who Fell To The Earth (to be released on November 18th), with Chungking Express, Last Emperor and Bottle Rocket to follow (on November 25th).

All five are jam-packed with interviews, commentary and (unnecessary) making-of documentaries, as all Criterion DVDs are (actually, a weird exception is Chungking Express, which has very few gratuitous extras). Check out some of the specifications below:

Bottle Rocket Criterion Blu-ray

Bottle Rocket Criterion DVD
SRP: $39.95 – DVD and Blu-ray
Street date: 11/25/08

Wes Anderson first illustrated his lovingly detailed, slightly surreal cinematic vision in this witty and warm portrait of three young middle-class misfits. Fresh out of a mental hospital, gentle Anthony (Luke Wilson) finds himself once again embroiled in the machinations of his best friend, elaborate schemer Dignan (Owen Wilson). With the aid of getaway driver Bob (Robert Musgrave), they develop a needlessly complex, mildly successful plan to rob a small bookstore—then go “on the lam.” Also featuring Lumi Cavazos as Inez, the South American housekeeper Anthony falls in love with, and James Caan as local thief extraordinaire Mr. Henry, Bottle Rocket is a charming, hilarious, affectionate look at the folly of dreamers. Shot against radiant southwestern backdrops, it’s the film that put Anderson and the Wilson brothers on the map.

– New, restored high-definition digital transfer supervised and approved by director Wes Anderson and director of photography Robert Yeoman
– Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack (DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 on Blu-ray)
– Commentary by director/co-writer Anderson and co-writer/star Owen Wilson
– The Making of “Bottle Rocket”: an original documentary by filmmaker Barry Braverman featuring Anderson, James L. Brooks, James Caan, Temple Nash Jr., Kumar Pallana, Polly Platt, Mark Mothersbaugh, Robert Musgrave, Richard Sakai, David and Sandy Wasco, Andrew and Luke and Owen Wilson, and Robert Yeoman
– The original thirteen-minute black-and-white Bottle Rocket short film from 1992
– Eleven deleted scenes
– Anamorphic screen test, storyboards, location photos, and behind-the-scenes photographs by Laura Wilson
– Murita Cycles, a 1978 short film by Braverman
– The Shafrazi Lectures, no. 1: Bottle Rocket
– PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by executive producer James L. Brooks, an appreciation by Martin Scorsese, and original artwork by Ian Dingman

Chungking Express Criterion DVD

Chungking Express Criterion DVD
SRP: $39.95 – DVD and Blu-ray
Street date: 11/25/08

The whiplash, double-pronged Chungking Express is one of the defining works of nineties cinema and the film that made Hong Kong filmmaker Wong Kar-wai an instant icon. Two heartsick Hong Kong cops (Takeshi Kaneshiro and Tony Leung), both jilted by ex-lovers, cross paths at the Midnight Express take-out restaurant stand, where the ethereal pixie waitress Faye (Faye Wong) works. Anything goes in Wong’s gloriously shot and utterly unexpected charmer, which cemented the sex appeal of its gorgeous stars and forever turned canned pineapple and the Mamas and the Papas’ “California Dreamin’” into tokens of romantic longing.

– New, restored high-definition digital transfer
– Remastered Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack supervised by director
Wong Kar-wai (DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 on Blu-ray)
– Audio commentary by noted Asian cinema critic Tony Rayns
– U.S. theatrical trailer
– New and improved English subtitle translation
– PLUS: A booklet featuring a new essay by critic Amy Taubin and excerpts from a 1996 Sight and Sound interview with Wong by Rayns
– More!

Fanfan La Tulipe Criterion DVD

Fanfan La Tulipe Criterion DVD
SRP: $29.95
Street date: 11/18/08

Legendary French star Gérard Philipe swashbuckled his way into film history as the peasant soldier Fanfan in Christian-Jaque’s devil-may-care romantic action-comedy. In eighteenth-century France, Fanfan joins King Louis XV’s army to avoid a forced marriage to a local lass. And thus begins an adventure that sees Fanfan getting himself out of close scrapes and into tight squeezes with Gina Lollobrigida’s impostor fortune teller, Adeline, on his way to fighting in the Seven Years’ War. Filled to the brim with dazzling stunts and randy innuendo, Fanfan la Tulipe, which won the best director prize at Cannes and was a smash hit upon its initial release, remains one of France’s all-time most beloved films.

– New, restored digital transfer
– New video program about actor Gérard Philipe
– A clip from the colorized version of the film
– Theatrical trailer
– Optional English-dubbed soundtrack
– New and improved English subtitle translation
– PLUS: A booklet featuring a new essay by Kenneth Turan and an excerpt from Georges Sadoul’s monograph on Philipe

The Spy Who Came In From The Cold Criterion DVD

The Spy Who Came In From The Cold Criterion DVD
SRP: $39.95
Street date: 11/25/08

John Le Carré’s acclaimed bestselling novel, about a Cold War spy on one final, dangerous mission, is every bit as precise and ruthless onscreen in this adaptation directed by Martin Ritt. Richard Burton delivers one of his career-defining performances as Alec Leamas, whose hesitant but deeply felt relationship with a beautiful librarian (Claire Bloom) puts what he hopes will be his last assignment, in East Germany, in jeopardy. An intelligent, hard-edged, and even tragic thriller, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold is etched with realism and suffused with genuine political and personal anxiety.

– New, restored high-definition digital transfer
– New interviews with author John Le Carré and cinematographer Oswald Morris
– The Secret Center: John Le Carré (2000), a BBC documentary on the author’s extraordinary life and work
– Acting in the ’60s: Richard Burton, a 1967 interview with the BBC’s Kenneth Tynan examining the actor’s performances
and accomplishments
– Gallery of set designs
– Theatrical trailer
– PLUS: A booklet featuring a new essay by critic
Michael Sragow and a reprinted interview with Ritt
– More!

The Third Man Criterion DVD

The Third Man (BLU-RAY) Criterion
SRP: $39.95
Street date: 11/18/08

Pulp novelist Holly Martins travels to shadowy, postwar Vienna, only to find himself investigating the mysterious death of an old friend, black-market opportunist Harry Lime—and thus begins this legendary tale of love, deception, and murder. Thanks to brilliant performances by Joseph Cotten, Alida Valli, and Orson Welles; Anton Karas’s evocative zither score; Graham Greene’s razor-sharp dialogue; and Robert Krasker’s dramatic use of light and shadow, The Third Man, directed by the inimitable Carol Reed, just continues to grow in stature as the years pass.

– Restored high-definition digital transfer
– Uncompressed mono soundtrack
– Video introduction by writer-director Peter Bogdanovich
– Two audio commentaries: one by filmmaker Steven Soderbergh and screenwriter Tony Gilroy, and one by film scholar Dana Polan
– Shadowing “The Third Man” (2005), a ninety-minute feature documentary on the making of the film
– Abridged recording of Graham Greene’s treatment, read by actor Richard Clarke
– “Graham Greene: The Hunted Man,” an hour-long, 1968 episode of the BBC’s Omnibus series, featuring a rare interview with the novelist
– Who Was the Third Man? (2000), a thirty-minute Austrian documentary featuring interviews with cast and crew
– The Third Man on the radio: the 1951 “A Ticket to Tangiers” episode of The Lives of Harry Lime series, written and performed by Orson Welles, and the 1951 Lux Radio Theatre adaptation of The Third Man
– Illustrated production history with rare behind-the-scenes photos, original UK press book, and U.S. trailer
– Actor Joseph Cotten’s alternate opening voice-over narration for the U.S. version
– Archival footage of postwar Vienna
– A look at the untranslated foreign dialogue in the film
– PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by Luc Sante

The Man Who Fell to Earth (BLU-RAY) Criterion

The Man Who Fell to Earth (BLU-RAY) Criterion
SRP: $39.95
Street date: 11/18/08

The Man Who Fell to Earth is a daring exploration of science fiction as an art form. The story of an alien on an elaborate rescue mission provides the launching pad for Nicolas Roeg’s visual tour de force, a formally adventurous examination of alienation in contemporary life. Rock legend David Bowie, in his acting debut, completely embodies the title role, while Candy Clark, Buck Henry, and Rip Torn turn in terrific supporting performances. The film’s hallucinatory vision was obscured in the American theatrical release, which deleted nearly twenty minutes of crucial scenes and details. The Criterion Collection is proud to present Roeg’s full uncut version, in this exclusive director-approved high-definition widescreen transfer.

– High-definition digital transfer, supervised and approved by director Nicolas Roeg
– Uncompressed stereo soundtrack
– Audio commentary by Roeg and actors David Bowie and Buck Henry
– Video interview with screenwriter Paul Mayersberg
– Performance, video interviews with actors Candy Clark and
Rip Torn
– Audio interviews with costume designer May Routh and production designer Brian Eatwell
– Audio interview from 1984 with author Walter Tevis, conducted by Don Swaim
– Multiple stills galleries, including Routh’s costume sketches; behind-the-scenes photos; and production and publicity stills, introduced by set photographer David James
– Gallery of posters from Roeg’s films
– Trailers
– PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by critic Graham Fuller

The Last Emperor (BLU-RAY) Criterion

The Last Emperor (BLU-RAY) Criterion
SRP: $39.95
Street date: 11/18/08

Bernardo Bertolucci’s The Last Emperor won nine Academy Awards, unexpectedly sweeping every category in which it was nominated—quite a feat for a challenging, multilayered epic directed by an Italian and starring an international cast. Yet the power and scope of the film was, and remains, undeniable—the life of Emperor Pu Yi, who took the throne at age three, in 1908, before witnessing decades of cultural and political upheaval, within and without the walls of the Forbidden City. Recreating Ching-dynasty China with astonishing detail and unparalleled craftsmanship by cinematographer Vittorio Storaro and production designer Ferdinando Scarfiotti, The Last Emperor is also an intimate character study of one man reconciling personal responsibility and political legacy.

Something really appeals to me about seeing Orson Welles’ pores in hi-def. However, knowing criterion and Blu-Ray, these babies will probably also feature exorbitant, unnecessary prices.

Conrad is currently a student enrolled at Bard College at Simon's Rock. He is studying English and Studio Art. Born and raised in New York, Conrad's interests include, but are not limited to: drawing, writing, film, music, comics, philosophical rhetoric, field hockey, and kicking people when they are down. Conrad enjoys using the third person.

Read More from Conrad Rothbaum
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