The Christmas tree is out on the curb for recycling, the lights are packed away, and you’ve already broken your New Year’s resolutions. Let’s face it folks, a long cold winter is here, but there’s plenty for film fans to warm up to, thanks to the fine folk at the Criterion Collection. Over the next couple of months the company that specializes in releasing special edition DVDs and Blu-rays–often filled to the rafters with exclusive commentaries and interviews, rare “making of” documentaries, companion booklets and other features–has a full slate of must-haves for any serious collector’s library. From vintage Hollywood favorites and landmark foreign films to more modern titles, there’s truly something here for everyone’s taste.
The following is a sampling of upcoming Criterion releases for the first quarter of 2016 (for a more complete list of available Criterion titles, please check out our retail site):
The Complete Lady Snowbird (DVD and Blu-ray) — One of the first female stars of Japanese swordplay cinema, Meiko Kaji is “Lady Snowblood” (1973), wandering the countryside of 19th-century Japan seeking revenge on the thieves who raped her mother and killed her family. Based on a popular comic book series, this violent action tale was one of Quentin Tarantino’s inspirations for “Kill Bill, Vol. 1.” And, captured and condemned to death for her deadly rampage, Kaji is given a chance to escape the hangman by going undercover and recovering incriminating documents from a political subversive, in “Lady Snowblood: Love Song of Vengeance” (1974). But things get complicated when she falls for the radicals’ leader (future filmmaker Juzo Itami). Includes featurettes and theatrical trailers. In Japanese with English subtitles.
The American Friend (1975)(DVD and Blu-ray) — Terminally ill Berlin art restorer Jonathan Zimmerman (Bruno Ganz) was just looking to get his affairs in order when he made a new client of slick American art broker Tom Ripley (Dennis Hopper). It develops that Ripley has some shady connections…and is trying to wheedle the dying man into performing a contract hit. Wim Wenders’ electric nod to U.S. film noir, adapted from Patricia Highsmith’s prose, also stars Gérard Blain, Nicholas Ray, Samuel Fuller. Includes deleted scenes, featurettes and theatrical trailer. In German with English subtitles.
Bitter Rice (1948)(DVD and Blu-ray) — In the rice fields of Italy’s Po Valley, Silvana (Silvana Mangano), a beautiful young laborer, finds herself falling into a fast friendship with Francesca (Doris Dowling), a new hand just arrived from Rome. However,the new pal is actually a jewel thief on the run…and when Francesca’s sleazy boyfriend Walter (Vittorio Gassman) comes to town, he’s ready to pull them both into his latest angle. Compelling Neo-Realist staple also stars Raf Vallone. Includes featurettes and theatrical trailer. In Italian with English subtitles.
Gilda (1946)(DVD and Blu-ray) –At loose ends in Buenos Aires, vagabond gambler Johnny Farrell (Glenn Ford) thought his luck was finally on the uptick when he made an unlikely friend of–and got a job offer from–wealthy casino owner Ballin Mundson (George Macready). Cold reality set in when he met the boss’s wife (Rita Hayworth), a sultry chanteuse with whom he’d had a torrid past. Noirish and unforgettable drama, marked by Hayworth’s signature cabaret numbers (among them “Put the Blame on Mame”), also stars Joseph Calleia, Steven Geray. Includes audio commentary, featurettes and theatrical trailer.
Inside Llewyn Davis (2013)(DVD and Blu-ray) — Set in 1961 and loosely inspired by the life story of folk singer Dave Van Ronk, the Coen Brothers’ idiosyncratic drama follows stoic musician Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac) on a hard-luck, bitterly comic journey through the Greenwich Village music scene. Ever on the hunt for a couch to crash on for the night, Llewyn struggles to maintain his artistic integrity, cope with shocking news from his former girlfriend (Carey Mulligan), and locate a missing cat. Justin Timberlake, John Goodman, and F. Murray Abraham co-star. Includes audio commentary, featurettes, bonus documentaries “Inside ‘Inside Llewyn Davis'” (2013), “Another Place, Another Time” (2014), “Sunday” (1961), and theatrical trailers.
Repo Man (1984)(DVD and Blu-ray) — Young L.A. punk Otto (Emilio Estevez) finds the direction his life’s been lacking when he gets caught up in the sleazy dealings of wired auto reposessor Bud (Harry Dean Stanton) and his carjacking cohorts. Things turn truly bizarre, though, when they’re commissioned by shadowy government agents to repo a sedan with a strange, glowing payload in the trunk. Alex Cox’s bizarrely nihilistic and influential directing debut co-stars Tracey Walter, Sy Richardson and Olivia Barash; songs by Iggy Pop, The Circle Jerks, The Plugz and more. Includes audio commentary by Cox and others, deleted scenes, interviews and theatrical trailers.
Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom (1975)(DVD and Blu-ray) — Director Pier Paolo Pasolini’s last film was also his most graphic and controversial. A group of ’40s Fascist leaders kidnaps local teenagers and subjects them to degradation, rape, mutilation, and murder, with the youths’ suffering symbolizing the horrors of Mussolini’s Italy. A hellish tale of explicit sex and violence, available here in a new, uncut print from the Pasolini Foundation and the Museum of Modern Art. Paolo Bonacelli, Giorgio Cataldi, Aldo Valletti star. Includes documentaries, interviews and the theatrical trailer. In Italian with English subtitles/Dubbed in English.
The Emigrants (1971)/The New Land (1972)(DVD and Blu-ray) — With the shrinking yield from their farm in mid-19th-century Sweden unable to sustain their family, Karl-Oskar Nilsson (Max von Sydow) and his wife Kristina (Liv Ullmann) cast their lot with neighbors embarking on an arduous quest for a new life in America. Jan Troell’s sweeping, sumptuously filmed epic “The Emigrants” also stars Eddie Axberg, Sven-Olof Bern. Troell, von Sydow, and Ullmann continued the saga of the Nilssons in “The New Land,” as the hardships the family encountered while setting down roots in rural Minnesota were exacerbated in a community torn by the Civil War. Axberg, Pierre Lindstedt co-star. Includes the bonus documentary “To Paint with Pictures” (2005), featurettes and theatrical trailers. In Swedish with English subtitles.
Death by Hanging (1968)(DVD and Blu-ray) — Convicted of a capital crime in Japan and sentenced to die, a Korean inmate (Yu Do-Yun) is somberly led to the gallows. However, he not only survives the execution, he finds his memory erased by the trauma. The hapless response of the prison officials in attendance, as they argue in circles about how–and if they should–continue to proceed, fuels Nagisa Oshima’s darkly subversive satire; Kei Satô, Fumio Watanabe, Toshirô Ishidô also star. Includes the bonus documentary “Diary of Yunbogi” (1965), featurette and theatrical trailer. In Japanese with English subtitles.
The Kid (1921)(DVD and Blu-ray) — The first feature-length film from writer/director/star Charlie Chaplin, this heartfelt silent seriocomedy has the Little Tramp finding an abandoned baby in an alleyway trashcan. Five years later, the Tramp is a glazier, and the kid (now played by Jackie Coogan) helps him get work by breaking windows. But when the youngster’s opera singer mother (Edna Purviance), wants him back, his derby-hatted “dad” fights the authorities to keep him.Includes audio commentary; deleted scenes, featurettes, newsreel footage, the bonus short “Nice and Friendly” (1922) and theatrical trailers. Silent with music score.
The Graduate (1967)(DVD and Blu-ray) –The Oscar-winning coming-of-age comedy that launched star Dustin Hoffman’s career and spoke to a generation. Follow aimless college grad Benjamin Braddock as he is seduced by the glamorous family friend Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft), only to fall in love with her daughter, Elaine (Katharine Ross). Music by Simon and Garfunkel; Mike Nichols directs. Includes audio commentary, featurettes, vintage TV interviews, screen tests and theatrical trailer.
I Knew Her Well (1965)(DVD and Blu-ray) — Beautiful country girl Adriana (Stefania Sandrelli) made her way to Rome, looking to parlay her striking good looks into success as a model and actress. As she passes from one exploitative male to another, however, the lovely naif becomes sadly acquainted with the ugly side of the glamorous life. Sixties-redolent saga co-stars Jeane-Claude Brialy, Ugo Tognazzi, Nino Manfredi, Karin Dor, and Franco Nero. Includes featurettes and theatrical trailer. In Italian with English subtitles.
Paris Belongs to Us (1961)(DVD and Blu-ray) — A young woman, curious about the death of a stranger, joins an acting troupe he was involved with and hears of a global conspiracy that has marked the other members for death. A bizarre blend of drama, suspense, and paranoid fantasy, this early French New Wave feature stars Betty Schneider, Giani Esposito, Jean-Claude Brialy, with cameos by filmmakers Claude Chabrol and Jean-Luc Godard. Jacques Rivette directs. Includes a featurette and the bonus short “Le Coup Du Berger” (1956). In French with English subtitles.
The Manchurian Candidate (1962)(DVD and Blu-ray) — One of the finest political thrillers ever made, director John Frankenheimer’s blend of Cold War paranoia and sly satire stars Laurence Harvey as a decorated Korean War “hero” who was held captive and has been brainwashed by the Soviets into killing political targets for them. Frank Sinatra is the war buddy who learns of the plot and must stop Harvey from triggering a national coup d’état; with Angela Lansbury, Janet Leigh, James Gregory and Henry Silva. Includes audio commentary by Frankenheimer, interviews, featurettes and theatrical trailer.
A Brighter Summer Day (1991)(DVD and Blu-ray) — Taipei, the early ’60s: Like many teens whose families fled the mainland upon Mao’s revolution, disaffected S’ir (Chang Chen) knew a youth strained by Taiwan’s barriers to assimilation and the pervasiveness of Western pop culture. His chances of breaking out dim when he finds himself caught between sides in a violent juvenile gang war. Edward Yang’s epic, loosely autobiographical opus co-stars Lisa Yang, Chang Kuo-Chu, Elaine Jin. Includes audio commentary, featurettes and the bonus documentary “Our Time, Our Story” (2002). In Mandarin and Taiwanese with English subtitles.
Bicycle Thieves (1948)(DVD and Blu-ray) — Many critics consider this Oscar-winning classic to be one of the greatest films ever made. Director Vittorio De Sica used non-professional actors to tell the simple, human tragedy of a working-class father whose bike, which he needs for his job, is stolen, sending him and his son on a harrowing search through the streets of Rome. Stars Lamberto Maggiorani, Enzo Staiola, and Lianella Carell. Includes interviews and bonus documentaries. In Italian with English subtitles/Dubbed in English.
A Poem Is a Naked Person (1974)(DVD and Blu-ray) — Limited to private screenings for 40 years, documentarian Les Blank’s feature-length, free-form portrait of legendary singer, songwriter, and session man Leon Russell comes to wide release at last. Filmed over two years at the Tulsa church that Russell converted into a studio and collaborative hub for friends and colleagues (among them Eric Anderson, George Jones and Willie Nelson), the film offers a singular look into the man as well as his music. Includes featurettes and theatrical trailers.