Today The Criterion Collection announced their April line-up, which includes four new titles, but, for the third time this year, zero upgrades, unless you count the unboxing of Brief Encounter or the boxing of the Whit Stillman films an upgrade. Though I’d love to see more upgrades, I’m still over the moon about Criterion’s 2016 line-up.

The blurbs are from The Criterion Collection’s website (so are the links) — go there to see the details on the supplements.

Only Angels Have WingsApril 12, 2016

Only Angels Have Wings (1939)
d. Howard Hawks

A wonderful way to start the month!

From The Criterion Collection:

Electrified by the verbal wit and visual craftsmanship of the great Howard Hawks, Only Angels Have Wings stars Jean Arthur as a traveling entertainer who gets more than she bargained for during a stopover in a South American port town. There she meets a handsome yet aloof daredevil pilot, played by Cary Grant, who runs an airmail company, staring down death while servicing towns in treacherous mountain terrain. Both attracted to and repelled by his romantic sense of danger, she decides to stay on, despite his protestations. This masterful and mysterious adventure, featuring Oscar-nominated special effects, high-wire aerial photography, and Rita Hayworth in a small but breakout role, explores Hawks’s recurring themes of masculine codes and the strong-willed women who question them.

BarcelonaApril 19, 2016

Barcelona (1994)
d. Whit Stillman

I know little about Whit Stillman’s works, though for months people have been excited at the prospect of this one arriving on Blu-ray. This will be available as a standalone edition or as part of a new box-set, shown below. Stillman’s films don’t look to be my type of film, but I’m excited to give them a shot.

From The Criterion Collection:

Whit Stillman followed his delightful indie breakthrough Metropolitan with another clever and garrulous comedy of manners, this one with a darker edge. A pair of preppy yet constitutionally mismatched American cousins—a salesman and a navy officer—argue about romance and politics while working in the beautiful Spanish city of the film’s title. Set during the eighties, Barcelona explores topics both heady (American exceptionalism, Cold War foreign policy) and hilarious (the ins and outs of international dating, the proper shaving method) while remaining a constantly witty delight, featuring a sharp young cast that includes Taylor Nichols, Chris Eigeman, and Mira Sorvino.

Stillman BoxFrom The Criterion Collection:

Over the course of the 1990s, writer-director Whit Stillman made a trilogy of films about the acid tongues and broken hearts of some haplessly erudite young Americans in New York and abroad. Set in the eighties, these films would trace the arc of that decade, led by Stillman’s Oscar-nominated debut, Metropolitan, which introduced moviegoers to a strange, endangered species of privileged New Yorker dubbed the “urban haute bourgeoisie.” Chronologically, the tale continues with The Last Days of Disco, in which, with an earnest wink, Stillman mourns the close of New York’s nightclub era via the story of two young party-going women juggling day jobs in book publishing. Finally, Barcelona plunks down a pair of love-starved upper-class men in a foreign city riddled with anti-American sentiment. At once effervescent and melancholy, these are comedies about the ends of eras, social change as seen through the eyes of reluctant, unflaggingly sardonic romantics.

PhoenixApril 26, 2016

Phoenix (2014)
d. Christian Petzold

I’ve heard great things about this one, with some critics calling it the best film of its year. Always intrigued by the contemporary films Criterion chooses to release.

From The Criterion Collection:

This evocative and haunting drama, set in a rubble-strewn Berlin in 1945, is like no other film about post–World War II Jewish identity. After surviving Auschwitz, a former cabaret singer (Nina Hoss, in a dazzling, multilayered performance), her face disfigured and reconstructed, returns to her war-ravaged hometown to seek out the gentile husband who may or may not have betrayed her to the Nazis. Without recognizing her, he enlists her to play his wife in a bizarre hall-of-shattered-mirrors story that’s as richly metaphorical as it is preposterously engrossing. Revenge film or tale of romantic reconciliation? One doesn’t know until the superb closing scene of this marvel from Christian Petzold, perhaps the most important figure in contemporary German cinema.

Kennedy BoxApril 26, 2016

The Kennedy Films of Robert Drew & Associates
-Adventures on the New Frontier (1961)
-Crisis (1963)
-Faces of November (1964)
d. Robert Drew

This is an exciting announcement of four documentaries (three at around an hour and one short at 12 minutes) that really take us close to some aspects of Kennedy’s election and administration.

From The Criterion Collection:

Seeking to invigorate the American documentary format, which he felt was rote and uninspired, Robert Drew brought the style and vibrancy he had fostered as a Life magazine correspondent to filmmaking in the late fifties. He did this by assembling an amazing team—including such eventual nonfiction luminaries as Richard Leacock, D. A. Pennebaker, and Albert Maysles—that would transform documentary cinema. In 1960, the group was granted direct access to John F. Kennedy, filming him on the campaign trail and eventually in the Oval Office. This resulted in three films of remarkable, behind-closed-doors intimacy—Primary, Adventures on the New Frontier, and Crisis—and, following the president’s assassination, the poetic short Faces of November. Collected here are all four of these titles, early exemplars of the movement known as Direct Cinema and featuring the greatest close-up footage we have of this American icon.

Brief EncounterApril 26, 2016

Brief Encounter (1945)
d. David Lean

This film has already been released on Blu-ray from Criterion, but only as part of a larger box set. With this, more film fans can come to know this amazing film without having to pick up all of the others at a higher price (though I’d still recommend the box).

From The Criterion Collection:

After a chance meeting on a train platform, a married doctor (Trevor Howard) and a suburban housewife (Celia Johnson) enter into a muted but passionate, and ultimately doomed, love affair. With its evocatively fog-enshrouded setting, swooning Rachmaninoff score, and pair of remarkable performances (Johnson was nominated for an Oscar for her role), this film, directed by David Lean and based on Noël Coward’s play Still Life deftly explores the thrill, pain, and tenderness of an illicit romance, and has influenced many a cinematic brief encounter since its release.

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