Film snob? Yeah. maybe I’m a bit of one by the standards of most. All that really means is, that I’ve seen A LOT of movies, many more than your casual viewer or even your average self proclaimed ‘movie buff’
. Sure I get a bit of attitude sometimes. I get snarky. Sitting through yet another carbon copy Jim Carrey
film or nonsensical Adam Sandler goofy-voice-a-thon
holds no value to me anymore. I’ve seen it too many times already. When I get into my blackest movie moods, when it seems like the industry is trying to melt my mind, I take a deep breath and go grab one of my Criterion Collection
DVDs out of the stack. I’m not the only one who digs classy, thought-provoking films, and Criterion
, both in their selection of films and unparalleled treatment of them in their releases, are the go-to guys for smart cinema. So what I’m saying is, you’ll have to wait just a little bit longer for my review of “Resident Evil: Degeneration”
, because I’m gonna try and give you thankless kids a little education here before you blow me off and go throw yourself in the bland mindlessness of "Eagle Eye"
Here's four of the recent releases by Criterion that are worthy of note:
This is absolutely one of the most stirring films (not involving space ships, superheros or mythological creatures) I’ve seen in years. When director Costa Gavras
decides to tell a tale, you can be sure he’s got something worth saying. In his 1982 film "Missing"
he lets the true story speak for itself. Based on a non-fiction book called “The Execution of Charles Horman”
, this tale of a father (Jack Lemmon
) and distraught wife (Sissy Spacek
) looking for a young man missing and possibly dead at the hands of the new Chilean government, is stunning. Literally. It’s an education in corruption, both in foreign governments and our own. According to the film, the American government itself was complicit in the death of one of it’s own citizens because he may have known too much about American involvement in the coup in Chili.
Wondering why you’ve never heard of this? The book and the movie were removed from sale after a lawsuit from the American ambassador to Chili (and probably some insinuated threats). Only recently has this tale been able to be told and Criterion
does a bad ass job of doing so, complete with a 37 page booklet and an extra disk of supplemental materials filled with interviews with the director, actors, the people who the characters were based on in real life, the writer, etc, etc. This is the very definition of important viewing, both for those who already have faced the facts of how corrupt our system is, and those who really need to face it.
I always wondered when Criterion
was going to get around to putting this out. Clearly either someone at that company is director Wes Anderson
’s biggest fan, or they've got some incriminating photos. Every single one of his films has been released by them in a pristine edition except this one. His first film. Until now.
*fade to black. Open with helicopter shot over a war-torn city and the words, “In a world…”*
is decidedly not that
sort of Hollywood type film. Made in 1996, this was the first feature by nascent director writer Anderson
, and the first film for star brothers Luke
and Owen Wilson
, the latter who co-wrote it. “Bottle Rocket”
was not universally loved by any means upon release but it’s now-familiar Wes-y charms are evident and will likely shine brighter now for his fan base than they did then. Perhaps we weren’t all ready for his style then, were unprepared, because now this seems like it could have come out at any point of his career, so familiar are his themes, visual style and (awesome) sound-tracking habits.
The story centers its heart on Luke Wilson
’s character Anthony
, who is getting out of a psychiatric hospital for ‘exhaustion’
and falls for a beautiful non-English speaking hotel maid. While Luke
plays it all doe eyed and ‘nice guy’
gets to have all the fun as his friend Dignan
who dreams of being a criminal based mainly on his romanticized ideas of them from watching too many Hollywood movies. Keep in mind, Spill
readers, this could easily become you.
’s got their life planned out and diagrammed and notated all the way through to the end (the DVD comes with a booklet recreating his ‘life plan’
notebook. He’s a pain in the ass but you put up with a lot from your childhood friends, don’t ya? We’ve all got that buddy we’re terminally embarrassed by but you love anyway, only most of our old buddies aren’t trying to get us involved in heist capers. Not mine anyways. Most of them just smoke too much pot and play video games all day....
(thinks about it)
Anyone want to trade?
There’s two discs of goodness here, the second with a new documentary about the making of the film, the original 1992 black and white short film that got them the money to expand it into a feature, eleven deleted scenes, a lecture on the film by Shafrazi
, and more. As usual, you get your money’s worth with a Criterion
version of a movie. Have a friend who loves “Rushmore”
or “The Royal Tennenbaums”
? And by friend, I mean chick. Guaranteed action if you buy them a copy of this. Cyrus
swears by it.
“Chung King Express”
Is it just me? I still don’t really get the appeal of Wong Kar-wai
’s much lauded 1994 pop romance film, "Chungking Express"
. The first time I saw it was when Quentin Tarantino
was raving to everyone about how good it was so I supposed that maybe I was just expecting something with a bit of action. I remember being bored out of my mind watching it. It’s been years since that viewing and I thought maybe giving it a second try with different expectations would finally open the doors to my understanding of why this is supposed to be such a great flick…
The film is made up of two separate stories, both about love-struck cops getting over past relationships and forming new strange ties to new women, tied together only by their patronage of a sandwich shop. In the first, Takeshi Kaneshiro
is buying a can of pineapple a day to get over his girlfriend. Don’t ask. I’ve read the explanation and it still doesn’t really make sense. He tries to get some rebound love from a gangster chick (Brigitte Lin
, wearing a blond wig) but ultimately ends up with nothing. The second story has a little more entertainment value with Tony Leung
who meets a seriously wacky girl working at the sandwich shop (Faye Wong
) who falls for him secretly and starts breaking into his apartment during the day, moving stuff around, redecorating, and generally behaving like someone about to boil a pet rabbit. However, once Leung
realizes this is going on (he’s kind of oblivious) he is charmed. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the Japanese are strange.
I realize that Kar-wai
is a director more about style than plot. I get that he sets up a beautiful shot, has lots of almost completely hidden to casual viewing film references, and even has self-referential jokes within it’s casting (at least according to the essay by Amy Taubin
in the booklet that came with the disc). Why is it when almost nothing happens in a ‘stylish’
film, it’s art but when a ‘stylish’
film has got a bit of stuff-blowing-up or kung-fu action, the critics treat it like a bastard step-child? I did my research. I understand all the conceits that are supposed to make "Chungking Express"
a great film. Still don’t like it. Maybe I’ll try again in another ten years. Or maybe I'll just wait for the remake with Tony Jaa
There is oddly little for a Criterion
release on this single-disc version of the film. Other than the excellent transfer, it has a commentary by an Asian cinema critic Tony Rayns
, a short, and not terribly interesting or revealing, episode of a 1996 British TV show featuring interviews with Wong Kar-wei
, and that’s about it. Kind of paltry offerings on this one, but fans of the film will be happy with what is improved, especially the superior subtitling.
Sure, I’m a Lars Von Trier
fan. That’s a bold statement in some circles that can elicit some ugly responses. People who don’t like Von Trier
, REALLY don’t like Von Trier
. I get it, I really do. Here’s a guy who has made a career out of being the anti-Spielberg
. His message in almost all his films is that innocence, hopefulness, and imagination are naive and lead to tragedy and horror in a world filled with evil men. Big surprise not everybody takes to his stuff. Hell, I don’t even agree with his desperately in need of psychiatric drugs POV, but he is such a unique visionary as a director that he’s impossible to ignore.
While “Breaking the Waves”
, “Dancer in the Dark”
may be entertaining for bigger audiences than a narrow swathe of critics and pasty-skinned, black t-shirted art snobs, his early “Europe”
trilogy of films require the most dedicated of fans for their viewings. 1991’s “Europa”
, changed to “Zentropa”
in America to avoid people mistaking it for the film “Europa Europa”
, is the final chapter in this series and is certainly the most watchable even if the purely metaphorical storyline about an American idealist in post WWII Germany can be unbearably tedious for those not as into the whole non-linear expressionistic story telling thing.
While I may have been barely conscious at points trying to follow the ambling, barely sensical tale, (Max Von Sydow
’s hypnotic narration, and I mean that literally, doesn’t help with the staying awake factor) there can be no denying that Lars Von Trier
knows how to frame an image. The black and white with spots of color pictures he paints with are sometimes devastating and immediate in their power and sometimes quietly beautiful. I found myself pausing the film at points and rewinding just to get a closer look at the visual splendor.
So I guess I can say that all things considered, I liked "Europa"
. Even if I had hated the story (which I didn’t, but I wouldn’t go so far as to say I liked it either) I’d have to recommend a caffeinated viewing of “Europa”
just for the astonishing and utterly unique cinematography.
Lots of extras here to choose from. In addition to the booklet with an essay about the film by Howard Hampton, the two disk set comes with:
-Audio commentary with Lars Von Trier
and the producer
-A rather revealing documentary about the making of “Europa”
-a documentary about Von Trier
featuring more behind the scenes "Europa"
stuff and the press conference from it’s Cannes
-”Anecdotes From “Europa”
-a short doc with interviews with some more of the technical crew
-2005 interviews with more crew
-2005 interview with Von Trier
discussing the “Europa trilogy”
-”Europa-The Faecal Location”
a 2005 short film.
Click Here to Buy Missing - Criterion Collection
Click Here to Buy Bottle Rocket - Criterion Collection
Click Here to Buy Chungking Express - Criterion Collection
Click Here to Buy Europa - Criterion Collection