Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Criterion Collection: April 2023

In this upcoming month’s set of releases, Criterion gives the 4K UHD re-release treatment to two of its already existing editions while adding two more to the collection. These new additions are from the 2020s; an anthology series about Black Britannia from the 1960s to the 1980s and a recent Palme d’Or-winning, Oscar-nominated satire that this author adores and has written plenty about. The two pre-existing features are a classic Bergman staple and one of Terry Gilliam’s more mainstream features. It’s a great month to ring in springtime this year.


The Seventh Seal (1957)

Following the acclaim of Wild Strawberries, Bergman takes us back to the Crusades where a knight has to play a game of chess with Death itself. On the line is not just the life of the knight, but also the lives of a group of survivors escaping the Plague who are evading all forms of death with limited time. Faith, morality, and fate are intertwined in Bergman’s masterpiece of Man against Nature, and the meaning of it all. It made Max von Sydow an international name and made Bergman a more permanent fixture on the world stage. 


The Fisher King (1991)

From a script not written by Gilliam (but by Richard LaGravenese, who later directed his own work), this comedy was a fresh, radical fantasy invoking King Arthur and the Holy Grail in New York City. Jeff Bridges is a radio host reeling from indirectly creating a tragedy who meets a homeless man in Robin Williams that seeks to find the cup of cups. With Amanda Plummer and Mercedes Ruehl (who won an Oscar for her performance), this new direction from Gilliam is one of his best films, using the Big Apple as his oyster while making it quintessentially a tale that he could have written himself. 


Small Axe (2020)

Steve McQueen (Hunger, 12 Years A Slave) directed five features that depict Black Britain from the 1960s to the 1980s, an era he grew up in, undergoing various changes that harmed the community and defined their integration with the country. All of them, from youth to adulthood, reflect the changing time of Britain when the Windrush generation of its island colonies and African diaspora created new lives in the UK despite the open hostility Whites saw upon their arrival.

In Mangrove, a popular restaurant becomes the center of political activism and police brutality which results in a real-life court drama. Lovers Rock follows one romantic evening at a house party filled with young people jamming to sounds rooted in their Caribbean backgrounds. John Boyega stars in Red, White, And Blue about a real-life man who enters London’s police force rife with racism but refuses to quit. In Alex Wheatle, the titular character ends up in prison where he begins to discover his calling as an author. Finally, Education tells the story of a boy who cannot get through Britain’s education system due to institutional prejudice and how hard his mother fights to have her son schooled properly like any other boy.


Triangle of Sadness (2022)

I don’t know what else I can say about this film. I ranked it in my Top 10 of 2022 and the biting power of writer/director Ruben Ostlund has stuck with me since. All three of its Oscar nominations are deserved (Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay), but it should have gotten more, especially for Dolly de Leon’s performance. Ostlund again attacks the establishment with the nerve to mock the wealthy for being snobby, the young for being too self-centered on what love is (especially on Instagram), and the hypocrisy of declaring yourself liberally minded when prejudices are still attached to your thinking. And that Blu-Ray cover is the chef’s kiss to what this story is all about. 


Follow me on Twitter: @brian_cine (Cine-A-Man)

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