The Criterion Collection has announced what they’ll be releasing in March 2021. Of course, they announced their big title — World of Wong Kar Wai — a few days ago, and I posted on it here, but today we get the full slate of releases. First up is a standalone release of Touki bouki, a film that is also available in their first World Cinema Project box set, release back in 2012; this is nice because that set didn’t really have supplements, and this not only has a few interviews but also contains one of Mambéty’s short films, Contras’ City. Will other films from the three WCP sets be released as standalone titles? We will see, but there certainly are plenty of worthy candidates. After that we get a film I have heard a lot about but have never sat down to go through its lengthy runtime (though I am excited to): Jacques Rivette’s Céline and Julie Go Boating. The following week is the release of the big boxset, after which, to end the month, we get two films from the 1990s: Mike Leigh’s Secrets & Lies and Albert Brooks’ Defending Your Life.

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

March 9, 2021

Touki Bouki (1973)
d. Djibril Diop Mambéty

From The Criterion Collection:

With a stunning mix of the surreal and the naturalistic, Djibril Diop Mambéty paints a fractured portrait of the disenchantment of postindependence Senegal in the early 1970s. In this picaresque fantasy-drama, the disaffected young lovers Anta and Mory, fed up with Dakar, long to escape to the glamour and comforts they imagine France has to offer, but their plan is confounded by obstacles both practical and mystical. Alternately manic and meditative, Touki bouki has an avant-garde sensibility characterized by vivid imagery, bleak humor, unconventional editing, and jagged soundscapes, and it demonstrates Mambéty’s commitment to telling African stories in new ways.

March 16, 2021

Céline and Julie Go Boating (1974)
d. Jacques Rivette

From The Criterion Collection:

Whiling away a summer in Paris, director Jacques Rivette, working in close collaboration with his stars and coconspirators Juliet Berto and Dominique Labourier, set out to rewrite the rules of cinema in the spirit of pure play—moviemaking as an anything-goes romp through the labyrinths of imagination. The result is one of the most exuberantly inventive and utterly enchanting films of the French New Wave, in which Julie (Labourier), a daydreaming librarian, meets Céline (Berto), an enigmatic magician, and together they become the heroines of a time-warping adventure involving a haunted house, psychotropic candy, and a murder-mystery melodrama. Incorporating allusions to everything from Lewis Carroll to Louis Feuillade, Céline and Julie Go Boating is both one of the all-time-great hangout comedies and a totally unique, enveloping cinematic dream space that delights in the endless pleasures and possibilities of stories.

March 30, 2021

Secrets & Lies (1996)
d. Mike Leigh

From The Criterion Collection:

Writer-director Mike Leigh reached new levels of expressive power and intricacy in his ongoing contemplation of unembellished humanity with this resonant exploration of the deceptions, small and large, that shape our relationships to those we love. When Hortense (Marianne Jean-Baptiste), a Black optometrist who was adopted as a child, begins the search for her birth mother, she doesn’t expect that it will lead her to Cynthia (Brenda Blethyn, winner of the Cannes Film Festival’s best actress award), a desperately lonely white factory worker whose tentative embrace of her long-lost daughter sends shock waves through the rest of her already fragile family. Born from a painstaking process of rehearsal and improvisation with a powerhouse ensemble cast, Secrets & Lies is a Palme d’Or–winning tour de force of sustained tension and catharsis that lays bare the emotional fault lines running beneath the surface of everyday lives.

March 30, 2021

Defending Your Life (1991)
d. Albert Brooks

From The Criterion Collection:

Is there love after death? Acerbic everyman Albert Brooks finds a perfect balance between satirical bite and romantic-comedy charm as the writer, director, and star of this wonderfully warm and imaginative existential fantasy. After he dies suddenly, the hapless advertising executive Daniel Miller (Brooks) finds himself in Judgment City, a gleaming way station where the newly deceased must prove they lived a life of sufficient courage to advance in their journey through the universe. As the self-doubting Daniel struggles to make his case, a budding relationship with the uninhibited Julia (Meryl Streep) offers him a chance to finally feel alive. Buoyed by a brilliant supporting cast that includes Rip Torn, Lee Grant, and Buck Henry, Defending Your Life is a rare feat of personal, philosophical filmmaking that happens to also be divinely entertaining.

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