Criterion’s October line-up is rich indeed

Film fans had best start saving up now for next month’s Criterion Collection Line-up, which includes films from Robert Altman, the Coen Brothers, del Toro and Richard Linklater. I am not going to list the entire roster here, but these are few that have me twitching.

BLOOD SIMPLE by Ethan and Joel Coen
Joel and Ethan Coen’s career-long darkly comic road trip through misfit America began with this razor-sharp, hard-boiled neonoir set somewhere in Texas, where a sleazy bar owner releases a torrent of violence with one murderous thought. Actor M. Emmet Walsh looms over the proceedings as a slippery private eye with a yellow suit, a cowboy hat, and no moral compass, and Frances McDormand’s cunning debut performance set her on the road to stardom. The tight scripting and inventive style that have marked the Coens’ work for decades are all here in their first film, in which cinematographer Barry Sonnenfeld abandons black-and-white chiaroscuro for neon signs and jukebox colors that combine with Carter Burwell’s haunting score to lurid and thrilling effect. Blending elements from pulp fiction and low-budget horror flicks, Blood Simple reinvented the film noir for a new generation, marking the arrival of a filmmaking ensemble that would transform the American independent cinema scene.

New, restored 4K digital transfer, approved by cinematographer Barry Sonnenfeld and filmmakers Joel and Ethan Coen, with 5.1 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray
New conversation between Sonnenfeld and the Coens about the film’s look, featuring Telestrator video illustrations
New conversation between author Dave Eggers and the Coens about the film’s production, from inception to release
New interviews with composer Carter Burwell, sound mixer Skip Lievsay, and actors Frances McDormand and M. Emmet Walsh
Trailers
An essay by novelist and critic Nathaniel Rich

BOYHOOD by Richard Linklater
There has never been another movie like Boyhood, from director Richard Linklater. An event film of the utmost modesty, it was shot over the course of twelve years in the director’s native Texas and charts the physical and emotional changes experienced by a child named Mason (Ellar Coltrane), his divorced parents (Patricia Arquette, who won an Oscar for her performance, and Ethan Hawke), and his older sister (Lorelei Linklater). Alighting not on milestones but on the small, in-between moments that make up lives, Linklater fashions a flawlessly acted, often funny portrait that flows effortlessly from one year to the next. Allowing us to watch people age on film with documentary realism while gripping us in a fictional narrative of exquisite everydayness, Boyhood has a power that only the art of cinema could harness.

New 2K digital transfer, supervised by director Richard Linklater, with 5.1 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray
New audio commentary featuring Linklater and nine members of the film’s cast and crew
New documentary chronicling the film’s production, featuring footage shot over the course of its twelve years
New discussion featuring Linklater and actors Patricia Arquette and Ellar Coltrane, moderated by producer John Pierson
New conversation between Coltrane and actor Ethan Hawke
New video essay by critic Michael Koresky about time in Linklater’s films, narrated by Coltrane
Collection of portraits of the cast and crew by photographer Matt Lankes, narrated with personal thoughts from Linklater, Arquette, Hawke, Coltrane, and producer Cathleen Sutherland
An essay by novelist Jonathan Lethem

MCCABE AND MRS MILLER by Robert Altman
This unorthodox dream western by Robert Altman (Nashville) may be the most radically beautiful film to come out of the New American Cinema that transformed Hollywood in the early 1970s. It stars Warren Beatty (Bonnie and Clyde) and Julie Christie (Don’t Look Now) as an enterprising gambler and a bordello madam, both newcomers to the raw Pacific Northwest mining town of Presbyterian Church, who join forces to provide the miners with a superior kind of whorehouse experience. The appearance of representatives of a powerful mining company with interests of its own, however, threatens to be the undoing of their plans. With its fascinating flawed characters, evocative cinematography by the great Vilmos Zsigmond (Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Heaven’s Gate), and soundtrack that innovatively interweaves overlapping dialogue and haunting Leonard Cohen songs, McCabe & Mrs. Miller brilliantly deglamorized and revitalized the most American of genres.

New 4K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
Audio commentary from 2002 featuring director Robert Altman and producer David Foster
New documentary on the making of the film, featuring actors René Auberjonois, Keith Carradine, and Michael Murphy; casting director Graeme Clifford; and script supervisor Joan Tewkesbury
New conversation about the film and Altman’s career between film historians Cari Beauchamp and Rick Jewell
Featurette from the film’s production, shot on location in 1970
Q&A from 1999 with production designer Leon Ericksen, hosted by the Art Directors Guild Film Society
Archival footage from interviews with cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond, in which he discusses his work on the film
Gallery of stills from the set by photographer Steve Schapiro
Excerpts from two 1971 episodes of The Dick Cavett Show featuring Altman and film critic Pauline Kael
Trailer
An essay by film critic Nathaniel Rich

PANS LABYRINTH by Guillermo del Toro
An Academy Award-winning dark fable set five years after the end of the Spanish Civil War, Pan’s Labyrinth encapsulates the rich visual style and genre-defying craft of Guillermo del Toro. Eleven-year-old Ofelia (Ivana Baquero, in a mature and tender performance) comes face to face with the horrors of fascism when she and her pregnant mother are uprooted to the countryside, where her new stepfather (Sergi López), a sadistic captain in General Franco’s army, hunts down Republican guerrillas who refuse to give up the fight. The violent reality in which she lives merges seamlessly with a fantastical interior world when Ofelia meets a faun in a decaying labyrinth and is set on a strange, mythic journey that is at once terrifying and beautiful. In his revisiting of this bloody period in Spanish history, del Toro creates a vivid depiction of the monstrosities of war infiltrating a child’s imagination and threatening the innocence of youth.

Newly graded 2K digital master, supervised by director Guillermo del Toro, with 5.1 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray
Alternate DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 surround soundtrack on the Blu-ray
Audio commentary by del Toro from 2007
New interview with del Toro by novelist Cornelia Funke about fairy tales, fantasy, and Pan’s Labyrinth
New interview with actor Doug Jones
Four 2007 making-of documentaries, examining the characters, production, special effects, themes, and music of the film
Interactive director’s notebook
Footage of actor Ivana Baquero’s audition for the film
Animated comics featuring prequel stories for the film’s menagerie of creatures
Programs comparing selected production storyboards and del Toro’s thumbnail sketches with the final film; visual effects work for the Green Fairy; and elements of the film’s score
Trailers and TV spots
An essay by film critic Michael Atkinson

SHORT CUTS by Robert Altman
The work of two great American artists merges in Short Cuts, a kaleidoscopic adaptation of the stories of renowned author Raymond Carver by maverick director Robert Altman. Epic in scale yet meticulously observed, the film interweaves the stories of twenty-two characters as they struggle to find solace and meaning in contemporary Los Angeles. The extraordinary ensemble cast includes Tim Robbins, Julianne Moore, Robert Downey Jr., Jack Lemmon, and Jennifer Jason Leigh—all giving fearless performances in what is one of Altman’s most compassionate creations.

New, restored 4K digital transfer, approved by cinematographer Walt Lloyd, with 2.0 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray
Alternate 5.1 soundtrack mix, plus isolated music track
Conversation between Altman and actor Tim Robbins from 2004 Luck, Trust & Ketchup: Robert Altman in Carver Country, a 1993 feature-length documentary on the making of Short Cuts
To Write and Keep Kind, a 1992 PBS documentary on the life of author Raymond Carver
One-hour 1983 audio interview with Carver, conducted for the American Audio Prose Library
Original demo recordings of the film’s Doc Pomus-Mac Rebennack songs, performed by Dr. John
Deleted scenes
A look inside the marketing of Short Cuts
An essay by film critic Michael Wilmington

In addition to PANS LABYRINTH, Del Torro has Trilogía de Guillermo del Toro, which contains PANS, along with CHRONOS and THE DEVILS BACKBONE.
That set has the following features
High-definition digital restoration of Cronos, 2K digital restoration of The Devil’s Backbone, and newly graded 2K digital master of Pan’s Labyrinth, all supervised and approved by director Guillermo del Toro, with 2.0 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack for Cronos and 5.1 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtracks for The Devil’s Backbone and Pan’s Labyrinth on the Blu-rays
Alternate DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 surround soundtrack for Pan’s Labyrinth on the Blu-ray
Audio commentaries
Interviews with del Toro, director of photography Guillermo Navarro, and actors Doug Jones, Federico Luppi, and Ron Perlman
Welcome to Bleak House, a 2010 video tour by del Toro of his personal collections
New piece on Pan’s Labyrinth featuring del Toro and novelist Cornelia Funke
Interactive director’s notebooks for The Devil’s Backbone and Pan’s Labyrinth
Making-of documentaries for The Devil’s Backbone and Pan’s Labyrinth
Geometria, a 1987 short horror film by del Toro finished in 2010
Footage of actor Ivana Baquero auditioning for Pan’s Labyrinth in 2005
Original Spanish-language voice-over introduction for Cronos
Introductions by del Toro for The Devil’s Backbone and Pan’s Labyrinth
The Devil’s Backbone deleted scenes, with commentary by del Toro
Presentation of del Toro’s thumbnail sketches for The Devil’s Backbone and Pan’s Labyrinth
Programs comparing del Toro’s thumbnail sketches and production storyboards for The Devil’s Backbone and Pan’s Labyrinth with the final films
Piece on The Devil’s Backbone’s depiction of the Spanish Civil War
Animated comics featuring prequel stories for the creatures of Pan’s Labyrinth
Gallery of stills from Cronos, captioned by del Toro
Trailers and TV spots
English subtitle translations approved by del Toro
Deluxe box set for the Blu-ray, featuring new illustrations by Vania Zouravliov
Blu-ray: A 100-page hardcover book featuring an introduction by author Neil Gaiman and essays by critics Michael Atkinson, Mark Kermode, and Maitland McDonagh, along with production notes and sketches by del Toro and illustrators Carlos Giménez and Raúl Monge
DVD: Essays by Atkinson, Kermode, and McDonagh, and production notes for Cronos by del Toro

 

For me, SHORT CUTS, BOYHOOD, BLOOD SIMPLE and TRILOGIA are all must owns. Great films by some modern masters.

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