Thursday, April 18, 2024

February 2023: Criterion Collection

We have eight movies for you in the shortest month of the year, including an arthouse trilogy getting re-released for 4K. Going in for the first time is another Shakespeare adaptation, but the first of arguably his most famous plays, a duo of films from a French literature champion, and a biting social satire aimed at White Hollywood’s failure to treat Black actors seriously. Also, another re-release of one of the 1990s most legendary comedies that served as a platform for several A-list actors.


Romeo And Juliet (1968)

Releasing on Valentine’s Day, William Shakespeare’s star-crossed lovers’ tragedy has been adapted multiple times, but most notable is Franco Zeffirelli’s version starring newcomers Olivia Hussey and Leonard Whiting. Like his contemporary Luchino Visconti, Zeffirelli uses his opera-directing knowledge to get the most out of the story with gorgeous costumes, striking production design, and crisp cinematography capturing every ounce of romance and drama Zeffirelli squeezes out of this timeless tale of forbidden love. The film won two Oscars and was nominated for Best Picture.

Note: After the announced release from Criterion, both Hussey and Whiting sued Paramount Pictures for emotional and mental distress, claiming sexual abuse by the now-deceased Zeffirelli. As they were minors during the shoot, they claim that they were filmed naked without their consent. 


Two Films By Marguerite Duras (1975-1977)

Already a success as an author, Duras, who received an Oscar nomination for the screenplay to Hiroshima, Mon Amour, moved into the director’s chair where she continued on with her themes of love and lonesomeness. Her most noted directorial work is India Song, in which an ambassador’s wife in 1930’s India has affairs while watching the world she knows to go into decay. Her second film, Baxter, Vera Baxter is a study of a woman’s existential crisis while living in a villa and tells a stranger how she has come to this moment. These two films add to Dumas’ mastery of a radical style of French literature which made a permanent mark across two mediums. 


Hollywood Shuffle (1987)

Writer/director/actor Robert Townsend hit the sweet spot with his satire on the industry amongst African-Americans looking to make it big. Inspired by times he was told he wasn’t “black enough” for a Black role, Townsend goes against the usual Black stereotypes that have plagued Hollywood for decades, writing interesting skits and fascinating characters for all audiences to laugh at and understand the misconception of Black characters written by White producers. It’s a hidden independent gem that gets to the core of a past Hollywood that lacked natural diversity.


Dazed And Confused (1993)

In the first of two re-releases, Richard Linklater’s coming-of-age masterpiece around one day in 1976 started up the careers of several significant actors. Matthew McConaughey’s scene-stealing breakthrough performance, Ben Affleck, Jason London, Milla Jovovich, Parker Posey, Adam Goldberg, and others started their exposure here, which initially didn’t do well at the box office. The soundtrack of the 70s mixed with plenty of weed humor fulfills a moment in time that holds up many years later.


Three Colors Trilogy (1993-1994)

The second re-release is a trio of masterpieces for the Polish auteur Krzysztof Kieślowski marking 30 years since the release of Blue, the first film followed by White and Red. All three connected with the French themes of liberty, equality, and fraternity and touch on different subjects, each with its own color palette and accompanied by Zbigniew Preisner’s haunting score. Juliette Binoche, Julie Deply, and the late Jean-Marie Trintignant star in what were Kieślowski’s final works before his death, marking the finale to a storied career with one of cinema’s most artistic accomplishments of the century. 


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

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