The Criterion Collection has announced what they’ll be releasing in August 2021. After a solid July, I’d say this is a quiet slate, and I’m surprised that we haven’t seen much in the way of boxed sets for the several months. Nevertheless, a quiet month is still welcome around here, especially if it features Kore-eda, Pennebaker’s Original Cast Album: “Company”, and Wajda’s Ashes and Diamonds. I have not seen Fukunaga’s Beasts of No Nation, but if it’s as good as the others here then this is an exceptional month.

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


August 10, 2021

After Hours (1998)
d. Hirokazu Kore-eda

From The Criterion Collection:

If you could choose only one memory to hold on to for eternity, what would it be? That’s the question at the heart of Hirokazu Kore-eda’s revelatory international breakthrough, a bittersweet fantasia in which the recently deceased find themselves in a limbo realm where they must select a single cherished moment from their life to be recreated on film for them to take into the next world. After Life’s high-concept premise is grounded in Kore?eda’s documentary-like approach to the material, which he shaped through interviews with hundreds of Japanese citizens. What emerges is a panoramic vision of the human experience—its ephemeral joys and lingering regrets—and a quietly profound meditation on memory, our interconnectedness, and the amberlike power of cinema to freeze time.


August 17, 2021

Original Cast Album: “Company” (1970)
d. D.A. Pennebaker

From The Criterion Collection:

This holy grail for both documentary and theater aficionados offers a tantalizingly rare glimpse behind the Broadway curtain. In 1970, right after the triumphant premiere of Stephen Sondheim’s groundbreaking concept musical Company, the renowned composer and lyricist, his director Harold Prince, the show’s stars, and a large pit orchestra all went into a Manhattan recording studio as part of a time-honored Broadway tradition: the recording of the original cast album. What ensued was a marathon session in which, with the pressures of posterity and the coolly exacting Sondheim’s perfectionism hanging over them, all involved pushed themselves to the limit—including theater legend Elaine Stritch, who fought anxiety and exhaustion to record her iconic rendition of “The Ladies Who Lunch.” With thrilling immediacy, legendary filmmaker D. A. Pennebaker offers an up-close view of the larger-than-life personalities, frayed-nerve energy, and explosive creative intensity that go into capturing the magic of live performance.


August 24, 2021

Ashes and Diamonds (1958)
d. Andrzej Wajda

From The Criterion Collection:

A milestone of Polish cinema, this electrifying international sensation by Andrzej Wajda—the final film in his celebrated war trilogy—entwines the story of one man’s moral crisis with the fate of a nation. In a small Polish town on the final day of World War II, Maciek (the coolly charismatic Zbigniew Cybulski), a fighter in the underground anti-Communist resistance movement, has orders to assassinate an incoming commissar. But when he meets and falls for a young barmaid (Ewa Krzyzewska), he begins to question his commitment to a cause that requires him to risk his life. Ashes and Diamonds’ lustrous monochrome cinematography—wreathed in shadows, smoke, and fog—and spectacularly choreographed set pieces lend a breathtaking visual dynamism to this urgent, incendiary vision of a country at a crossroads in its struggle for self-determination.


August 31, 2021

Beasts of No Nation (2015)
d. Cary Joji Fukunaga

From The Criterion Collection:

The nightmare of war is seen through the eyes of one of its most tragic casualties—a child soldier—in this harrowing vision of innocence lost from Cary Joji Fukunaga. Based on the acclaimed novel by Uzodinma Iweala, Beasts of No Nation unfolds in an unnamed, civil-war-torn West African country, where the young Agu (Abraham Attah, in a haunting debut performance) witnesses carnage in his village before falling captive to a band of rebel soldiers led by a ruthless commander (an explosive Idris Elba), who molds the boy into a hardened killer. Fukunaga’s relentlessly roving camera work and stunning visuals—realism so intensely visceral it borders on the surreal—immerse the viewer in a world of unimaginable horror without ever losing sight of the powerful human story at its center.

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