Criterion Collection Announces February 2011 release slate

Joshua Brunsting

by: Joshua Brunsting
November 15th, 2010

With 2010 drawing ever so close to its final days, those at the Criterion Collection are already looking forward to what they will be releasing come the second month of 2011.

And boy, oh boy, it’s one hell of a lineup. After the break, check out the full listing of the Criterion Collection’s February 2011 releases, and some of my thoughts on these exciting picks.

First off, two films will be getting the Blu-ray treatment, in the form of both DOUBLE LIFE OF VERONIQUE and the amazing Federico Fellini film, AMARCORD. Both are previous releases within the collection, and while the artwork may not have been updated (but then again, Criterion isn’t one to upgrade their Blu-ray re-release artwork), the transfers will be. Both films are absolute visual wonders, particularly AMARCORD, which is far and away the more beloved of the two. DOUBLE LIFE, however, is a really fantastic film from director Krzysztof Kieslowski, best known for films like THE DECALOGUE.

DOUBLE LIFE will be available on February 1st, with AMARCORD coming the week after, on the 8th. Both are must-owns for any true cinephile.

Now, onto the new releases, and it’s a foursome that Criterion geeks havebeen waiting for withbaited breath.

First off, the big announcement – Andrea Arnold’s 2009 masterpiece, FISH TANK. This writer’s secondfavorite film of last year (right behind WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE), FISH TANK follows a 15 year old girl named Mia, who “is in a constant state of war with her family andthe world around her, without any creative outlet for her considerable energies save a secret loveof hip-hop dance. When she meets her party-girl mother’s charming new boyfriend Connor (Michael Fassbender), she is amazed to find he returns her attention, and believes he might help her start to make sense of her life.” 

The film is a stunning, kitchen sink style drama that takes the now popular neo-neo-realist style of filmmakers like Ramin Bahrani, and uses a truly moving andpowerful narrative as the canvas on which to paint with those verite-like colors. It’s got top notch performances from top to bottom, and is easily one of my 20 favorite films from the past decade. Yes, it’s that good. And so is this release.

Along with interviews with both Kierston Wareing and Fassbender, the film comes with three of Arnold’s short films, MILK (1998), DOG (2001), and WASP (2003) which won the director an Oscar. Toss in a great piece of cover art (that sums up the film’s sense of alienation as well as its inherent sense of energy), a trailer and some audition footage, and you have the must-own release of the month. The film hits DVD and Blu-ray on the 22nd.

Next, yet another rumored release, the fantastic, energetic, and raw Alexander Mackendrick film, SWEET SMELL OF SUCCESS. The film follows a journalist who is completely against his sister’s impending nuptials with a jazz musician. “Sidney Falco, a sleazy PR man, will do anything to get publicity for his clients, and he sees Hunsecker’s situation as an opportunity to win the writer’s favor. So, he sets out to break up the affair anyway he can.”  This is a fantastic film, one that I only just saw for the first time a few weeks ago. The film has a collection of great performances, but really, the gold standard here is Mackendrick’s direction and James Wong Howe’s cinematography. It’s a stunning piece of filmmaking, with such an absolutely breathtaking use of black and white, that each frame is alive with a sense of narrative and cinematic energy.

The DVD and Blu-ray come with a new commentary by scholar James Naremore, a documentary on the film’s director, as well as one on the film’s cinematographer.  The release also comes with a collection of interviews with people like historian Neil Gabler, and even James Mangold, who talks about Mackendrick, his “instructor andmentor.” What else can I say.  Pick this one up.  It also hits on the 22nd.

Wrapping up the trio of long rumored releases, Kore-Eda Hiokazu hits the collection with his beloved film, STILL WALKING. The family drama follows a group of siblings who visit their parents’ home on the anniversary of their brother’s death.  he film takes place during one day, and is considered by many the closest thing to a film from Yasujiro Ozu, that anyone not named Yasujiro Ozu has created. I haven’t seen the film yet, but I know that the description of a family drama in the same sentence as an Ozu comparison has me massively interested. Plus, it may have one of the best pieces of cover art I have seen in a very long time.

The film comes with a making of documentary, interviews with Kore-eda and DP Yutaka Yamazaki, and a trailer. Not the biggest release, but it is one of the more interesting. It hits on the 8th.

Finally, Luchino Visconti returns to the Collection with SENSO. This one hits DVD and Blu-ray on the 22nd, and follows an Austrian officer who is challenged by another to a duel. However, when a beautiful countess enters the picture, that all changes. Again, this is a film that I’m ashamed to say that I’ve never seen, so it is at the top of my must-see list. The film’s transfer was created alongside both the Cineteca di Bologna and Martin Scorsese’s Film Foundation, and includes a making of documentary, as well as one on Visconti and the film as well. There is also the rarely seen English language version of the film, THE WANTON COUNTESS, as well as a visual essay, a BBC special, and new subtitle translations. Count me in.

What film are you most looking forward to picking up?

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