Saturday, May 18, 2024

Criterion Releases: February 2022

In the shortest of all months, Criterion will have one new release every week. Three new films and one re-release make this February’s slate full of romance for Valentine’s Day, including a legendary Douglas Sirk film and another gem from the great Leo McCarey. Plus, another film from the Coen Brothers and a piece of Hong Kong realism that brings back the memories of people adrift in the agony of a civil war. These are the new releases:

Love Affair (1939)

Among the greatest Best Picture lineup in the history of the Academy Awards was McCarey’s romantic drama, a departure from the screwball comedies with which he had established himself. Irene Dunne and Charles Boyer star as strangers who meet and fall in love while on a transatlantic trip, even though both are involved in other relationships. The story of star-crossed lovers would be remade by McCarey in his more famous version, An Affair to Remember, and its original story would get a direct remake in the 1990s starring the real-life couple Annette Benning and Warren Beatty.

Written On The Wind (1956)

Known for his Technicolor melodramas, which grabbed the attention of future filmmakers including Pedro Almodóvar, Rainer Fassbinder, Todd Haynes, and Lars von Trier, Kirk reconnected with Rock Hudson for a story loosely based on real life. Within the confines of an oil-rich Texan family, an alcoholic (Robert Stack) impulsively marries a secretary (Lauren Bacall) and becomes a problem with the drunkard’s best friend (Hudson). Dorothy Malone won an Oscar for her performance as the deeply neurotic and harmful sister of Robert Stack, who tries to intervene with her own sinister mind, completing Sirk’s family perversion.

Boat People (1982)

Ann Hui created a “Vietnam trilogy” on the exodus of the Vietnamese who fled the country following the communist takeover following the war. Boat People was the last of them, the story of a photographer who goes back to Vietnam to see the country in its rebuilding phase, only to learn the painful truth of what the goal was years after unity. In doing so, he befriends a young woman who is looking for any chance possible to escape the communist prison for a hopeful future. Its political content made it a controversial feature, considering Hong Kong’s relationship at the time (and now) with China, but it still packs a hard punch on the basic theme of freedom.

Miller’s Crossing (1990)

The Coen Brothers’ foray into Prohibition-era gangster drama is a brilliant tale of two gangs and a middle man (Gabriel Byrne) who works on both sides. Threats of a mob war brew between the Irish political boss (Albert Finney) and his Italian counterpart (Jon Polito) over the former’s bookie (John Turturro) who asks the middle man to, “look in your heart,” and avoid the bloodshed. The Coens play to their tune of noir with a taste of their deadpan humor influenced by the novels of Dashiell Hammett, and the fedora being blown across the fields symbolizes the winds of change brewing every other day.

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


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