Alex Cox’s Walker (1987): Criterion Blu-ray review

William Walker (Ed Harris) sees American expansionism as a mission from God in Alex Cox's Walker (1987)

Criterion’s Blu-ray release of Alex Cox’s masterpiece Walker (1987) revives this deconstruction of America’s self-mythologizing at a time when its themes are more pertinent than ever; imperial attacks on domestic and foreign societies driven by a toxic mixture of religious self-righteousness and unfettered capitalist greed have been on the rise for decades and Walker traces the roots back to the mid-19th Century doctrine of Manifest Destiny.

Jean-Pierre Melville’s Le cercle rouge (1970): Criterion Blu-ray review

Three unlikely partners come together to rob a Paris jewellery store in Jean-Pierre Melville's masterful Le cercle rouge (1970)

Criterion have re-released Jean-Pierre Melville’s masterful heist movie Le cercle rouge (1970) in a new dual-format 4K UHD/Blu-ray edition based on a 4K restoration by StudioCanal. Although there are no new extras (supplements adding up to almost two hours date back to the company’s original 2003 DVD release), the film looks better than ever, its narrative stripped to essentials as a meditation on professionalism, fate and the moral ambiguity of characters on both sides of the law.

The Coen Brothers’ Miller’s Crossing (1990):
Criterion Blu-ray review

Bernie Bernbaum (John Turturro) becomes a dangerous doppelgänger for Tom Reagan (Gabriel Byrne) in the Coen Brothers' Miller's Crossing (1990)

With their new Blu-ray release, Criterion add the Coen Brothers’ third feature, Miller’s Crossing (1990), to the Collection. One of the darkest, most sombre films in the Coen canon, this moody gangster story updates hardboiled noir as a complex meditation on male fragility and violence. Sumptuously shot by Barry Sonnenfeld, it features a superb cast of great character actors.

Thomas Vinterberg’s Festen (The Celebration,1998):
Criterion Blu-ray review

Christian (Ulrish Thomsen) is thrown out of the family hotel by his brother Michael (Thomas Bo Larsen) in Thomas Vinterberg’s Festen (The Celebration, 1998)

Criterion give a stellar release to Thomas Vinterberg’s Festen (The Celebration, 1998), the first feature completed under the Dogme 95 manifesto rules; a brilliant, emotionally raw exploration of masculine trauma, it retains all its power to shock and move a quarter century after its release and stands as perhaps the most lasting result of Dogme’s reaction to the complacency of bourgeois cinema.

Year End 2021

The Count (Udo Kier) is worried about his blood supply in Paul Morrissey's Blood for Dracula (1974)

It’s been a good year for movies on disk, with a remarkable range of releases from many companies which are devoting considerable resources to rediscovering, restoring and preserving movies in numerous genres. Ranging across nationalities and spanning cinema history, there was plenty to divert attention from a real world which has become so depressing and exhausting.

Gordon Parks’ The Learning Tree (1969): Criterion Blu-ray review

Newt (Kyle Johnson) navigates growing up in a racist society in Gordon Parks' The Learning Tree (1969)

Criterion’s new Blu-ray revives Gordon Parks’ semi-autobiographical film The Learning Tree (1969), significant as the first movie produced by a Hollywood studio directed by a Black filmmaker. In this coming-of-age story set in a small Kansas town in the 1920s, the typical problems faced by a boy leaving childhood are complicated by the deeply embedded racist attitudes which surround him.

The Hughes Brothers’ Menace II Society (1993):
Criterion Blu-ray review

The police appear without warning in the Hughes Brothers' Menace II Society (1993)

The Hughes Brothers’ Menace II Society (1993), an aggressively stylish debut made when the twins were just twenty, is a nihilistically violent depiction of life in Watts in which kids grow up surrounded by violence and learn that there are few other ways to deal conflict. Criterion’s new Blu-ray, mastered from a 4K restoration, is vividly colourful, with a collection of excellent new and archival supplements,

Blasts from the past

Gualtiero Jacopetti (1919-2011)

Nelson Pereira dos Santos’ ethnographic satire:
How Tasty Was My Little Frenchman (1971)

Innocence and corruption in the films of Alexander Mackendrick

Stanley Kubrick part 1: Becoming Kubrick

>