Today The Criterion Collection announced their May line-up, which, like last month, includes four new releases (but one of which is a nice box set). Again, setting an unsettling trend, for the fourth time this year, there are zero upgrades, unless (again like last month) you count the unboxing of a title that was in a boxset an upgrade. But, to reiterate: 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.

Easy Rider CoverMay 3, 2016

Easy Rider (1969)
d. Dennis Hopper

Last month, the Criterion Collection unboxed David Lean’s Brief Encounter, one of my favorite films. This month, they are unboxing Dennis Hopper’s Easy Rider, which I like much less and which was in the great boxset America Lost and Found: The BBS Story.

From The Criterion Collection:

This is the definitive counterculture blockbuster. The down-and-dirty directorial debut of former clean-cut teen star Dennis Hopper, Easy Rider heralded the arrival of a new voice in film, one pitched angrily against the mainstream. After the film’s cross-country journey—with its radical, New Wave–style editing, outsider-rock soundtrack, revelatory performance by a young Jack Nicholson, and explosive ending—the American road trip would never be the same.

In a Lonely Place CoverMay 10, 2016

In a Lonely Place (1950)
d. Nicholas Ray

The Criterion Collection continues its beautiful trend of releasing strong films noir with Nicholas Ray’s In a Lonely Place, based, at least in some aspects, upon Dorothy B. Hughes’ novel (which itself was part of the amazing Women Crime Writers boxset from The Library of America last year). Interesting bit of trivia: this is the first film with Humphrey Bogart to join the collection in its DVD/Blu-ray era, and it’s a great one by my estimation!

From The Criterion Collection:

When a gifted but washed-up screenwriter with a hair-trigger temper — Humphrey Bogart, in a revelatory, vulnerable performance — becomes the prime suspect in a brutal Tinseltown murder, the only person who can supply an alibi for him is a seductive neighbor (Gloria Grahame) with her own troubled past. The emotionally charged In a Lonely Place, freely adapted from a Dorothy B. Hughes thriller, is a brilliant, turbulent mix of suspenseful noir and devastating melodrama, fueled by powerhouse performances. An uncompromising tale of two people desperate to love yet struggling with their demons and each other, this is one of the greatest films of the 1950s, and a benchmark in the career of the classic Hollywood auteur Nicholas Ray.

The Naked IslandMay 17, 2016

The Naked Island (1960)
d. Kaneto Shindo

I have never seen Shindo’s film, though I’ve heard it’s beautiful. I’m personally always excited when another Japanese film comes to the collection, so this year has been fantastic by that count.

From The Criterion Collection:

Director Kaneto Shindo’s documentary-like, dialogue-free portrayal of daily struggle is a work of stunning visual beauty and invention. The international breakthrough for one of Japan’s most innovative filmmakers — who went on to make such other marvelous movies as Onibaba and Kuroneko — The Naked Island follows a family whose home is on a tiny, remote island off the coast of Japan. They must row a great distance to another shore, collect water from a well in buckets, and row back to their island — a nearly backbreaking task essential for the survival of these people and their land. Featuring a phenomenal modernist score by Hikaru Hayashi, this is a truly hypnotic experience, with a rhythm unlike that of any other film.

The Player CoverMay 24, 2016

The Player (1992)
d. Robert Altman

It’s been a long time since I saw this clever film, but I remember really enjoying it. Another Altman film — and another Warner Bros. film — is always welcome!

From The Criterion Collection:

A Hollywood studio executive with a shaky moral compass (Tim Robbins) finds himself caught up in a criminal situation that would fit right into one of his movie projects, in this biting industry satire from Robert Altman. Mixing elements of film noir with sly insider comedy, The Player, based on a novel by Michael Tolkin, functions as both a nifty stylish murder story and a commentary on its own making, and it is stocked with a heroic supporting cast (Peter Gallagher, Whoopi Goldberg, Greta Scacchi, Dean Stockwell, Fred Ward) and an astonishing lineup of star cameos that make for a remarkable Hollywood who’s who. This complexly woven grand entertainment (which kicks off with one of American cinema’s most audacious and acclaimed opening shots) was the film that marked Altman’s triumphant commercial comeback in the early 1990s.

The Road Trilogy CoverMay 31, 2016

The Road Trilogy
Alice in the Cities (1974)
Wrong Move (1975)
Kings of the Road (1976)
d. Wim Wenders

In January, The Criterion Collection released Wim Wenders’ great The American Friend. I know a lot of folks have been even more excited for The Road Trilogy. I’ve never seen any of these, but I’m thrilled that I’ll soon have the opportunity to fix that.

From The Criterion Collection:

In the 1970s, Wim Wenders was among the first true international breakthrough artists of the revolutionary New German Cinema, a filmmaker whose fascination with the physical landscapes and emotional contours of the open road proved to be universal. In the middle of that decade, Wenders embarked on a three-film journey that took him from the wide roads of Germany to the endless highways of the United States and back again. Starring Rüdiger Vogler as the director’s alter ego, Alice in the Cities, Wrong Move, and Kings of the Road are dramas of emotional transformation that follow their characters’ searches for themselves, all rendered with uncommon soulfulness and visual poetry.

Alice in the Cities CoverAlice in the Cities:

The first of the road films that would come to define the career of Wim Wenders, the magnificent Alice in the Cities is an emotionally generous and luminously shot journey. A German journalist (Rüdiger Vogler) is driving across the United States to research an article; it’s a disappointing trip, in which he is unable to truly connect with what he sees. Things change, however, when he is forced to take a young girl named Alice (Yella Rottländer) with him on his return trip to Germany, after her mother (Lisa Kreuzer) — whom he has just met — leaves the child in his care. Though they initially find themselves at odds, the pair begin to form an unlikely friendship.

Wrong Move CoverWrong Move:

Wim Wenders updates a late-eighteenth-century novel by Goethe with depth and style, transposing it to 1970s West Germany and giving us the story of an aimless writer (Rüdiger Vogler) who leaves his hometown to find himself and befriends a group of other travelers. Seeking inspiration to help him escape his creative funk, he instead discovers the limits of attempts to refashion one’s identity. One of the director’s least seen but earthiest and most devastating soul searches, Wrong Move features standout supporting performances from New German Cinema regulars Hanna Schygulla and Peter Kern and, in her first film appearance, Nastassja Kinski.

Kings of the Road CoverKings of the Road:

A roving film projector repairman (Rüdiger Vogler) saves the life of a depressed psychologist (Hanns Zischler) who has driven his Volkswagen into a river, and they end up on the road together, traveling from one rural German movie theater to another. Along the way, the two men, each running from his past, bond over their shared loneliness. Kings of the Road, captured in gorgeous com-positions by cinematographer Robby Müller and dedicated to Fritz Lang, is a love letter to the cinema, a moving and funny tale of male friendship, and a portrait of a country still haunted by war.

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