Criterion Releases: August 2020
And now as we start to make the turn toward autumn, and Barnes & Noble’s 50% off sale is happening now, Criterion has another batch of works for you, including a must-have collection from a renowned director who led the way in feminist-driven stories during the French New Wave. Three new films are added to the collection and a German New Wave satire on political media gets renewed for the month. Here is the next list of influential works from the Big C.
Director Jean Renoir was acclaimed in this decade for The Grand Illusion and The Rules of Game, but his melodrama was cited as a good film, nothing more. But Toni is an important feature of the French New Wave and Italian neorealism because the movie was shot on location with non-professional actors. An Italian man goes to Southern France in search of work, staying at a boarding house owned by a local woman who he falls in love with until he meets a Spanish seamstress also arriving in town. Luchino Visconti was an assistant director and helped him with his directing ambitions later on and so did many others.
The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum (1975)
The main film getting a re-release, then husband-and-wife directing duo Volker Schlöndorff and Margarethe von Trotta created an atmosphere of trial-by-media that was so common in West Germany as the country was under siege by left-wing terrorists. A woman unwittingly sleeps with a man whose connections mark her for life as a living Mata Hari and both the press and the police make sure she becomes a living symbol of evil in the area. How relevant is that today with all the social media and the quick suspicions and the filthy political ambitions of many wanting to tear someone down for being at the wrong place at the wrong time?
Town Bloody Hall (1979)
It’s a documentary, but when watching, you can easily forget about that. The setting is April 30, 1971, at The Town Hall in New York City. Several feminist advocates in the women’s liberation movement debated author Norman Mailer for his work, “The Prisoner of Sex,” which they found it unfair for critiquing the movement and questioned Mailer’s own views because of past works that were considered misogynistic. (Strange Fact: He nearly killed his then-wife in 1962 with a ballpoint pen in a drunken rage.) The battle of intelligentsia and the sexes is a funny struggle amongst a cultural debate that dominated the 1970s caught by D.A. Pennebaker and his wife, Chris Hegedus, but problems prevent them from piecing it together until its release in 1979.
The Comfort of Strangers (1990)
Paul Schrader directed and Harold Pinter adapted Ian McEwan’s novel about an English couple (Rupert Everett and Natasha Richardson) in Venice who finds friends in another couple (Christopher Walken and Helen Mirren) that have a sadist-like relationship. Even though the trip is meant for the English couple to rejuvenate their own relationship and get married, they end up being trapped in the other couple’s own mind games which points their own vile feelings against one another. It was received with lukewarm reviews upon release, but it has gotten a second life of revaluation.
The Complete Films of Agnes Varda
The main attraction is this collection directed by the late Left Bank director from her short films to the last ones made before her death. Her career was an impressive one, strictly art-house who made documentaries, fiction, and visual metaphors. Her breakthrough Cleo From 5 to 7 would not have happened if it weren’t for early films like La Pointe Courte (1955) and Ô saisons, ô châteaux (1958). Exploration of marriage in Le bonheur (1965) and life in California in Lions Love (. . . and Lies) (1969). Independent women and the struggles they face in Réponse de femmes (1975) and Vagabond (1985). Honoring her late husband Jacques Demy with The Young Girls Turn 25 (1993) and The World of Jacques Demy (1995). And visual essays about what she sees Faces Places (2017) and how she feels about herself Varda by Agnès (2019). Her legacy is cemented forever in this set.
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