Dorothy Arzner’s pre-Code romantic comedy/tragedy Merrily We Go to Hell (1932) is given a gorgeous presentation by Criterion from a new 4K restoration. This story of a vibrant heiress (Sylvia Sidney) and her marriage to an alcoholic writer (Frederic March) avoids the standard Hollywood cliches which would soon become entrenched as the Production Code imposed rules of behaviour on the characters who populated studio movies.
Criterion have released a stunning restoration of History is Made at Night (1937), Frank Borzage’s startlingly unpredictable mixture of romantic comedy, melodrama, noir and horror, which climaxes as a full-blown disaster film. Production began with only half a script and much of the film was improvised on the fly, yet it emerged as a wonderfully entertaining, continuously surprising testament to Borzage’s belief in the redemptive power of love.
Criterion’s new two-disk Blu-ray showcases Bong Joon-ho’s second feature, Memories of Murder (2003), a complex and disturbing account of an actual Korean serial killer case from the mid-1980s. Both satire and existential horror story, the film displays the same concerns and creative skill which marked Bong’s international 2019 hit, Parasite.
Criterion’s new release showcases Jacques Rivette’s most playful feature, Celine and Julie Go Boating (1974), with a terrific transfer and exhaustive (and exhausting!) supplements, including a an illuminating commentary by Adrian Martin and a second disk containing four-and-a-half hours of documentaries and interviews.
Known as the “father of African cinema”, Ousmane Sembene’s films grapple with issues of identity in the complex social and political conditions of post-colonial Africa. His second feature (and first in colour) Mandabi (1968) is a tragi-comedy about a proud man clinging to an outmoded patriarchal role whose life is upended when a nephew working in France sends him a money order for 25,000 francs.
By the end of his career Luis Bunuel had perfected a style both allusive and precise in its details, giving his work a unique charm fully on display in Criterion’s new Blu-ray set of the final three features: The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (1972), The Phantom of Liberty (1974) and That Obscure Object of Desire (1977).
Two new releases from the Criterion Collection showcase very different approaches to filmmaking. Robert Bresson’s Mouchette (1967) and William Greaves’ Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Two Takes (1968/2005), although both made during the turbulent late ’60s, display radically different styles and attitudes towards exploring authenticity in the cinematic representation of reality.