June 15, 2010


The Criterion Collection announced their next wave of Blu-ray editions today! There are a number of distribution companies that I have followed and dealt with as a film programmer over the years. Ever since the laser disc days, Criterion has consistently succeeded in their mission to be "dedicated to gathering the greatest films from around the world and publishing them in editions that offer the highest technical quality and award-winning, original supplements." Although Criterion recently lost their rights to a number of classic films, they still hold most of the key cards in the deck with films by Truffaut, Kurosawa, Bergman, Ozu, Suzuki, Powell, and Fellini. The September release schedule includes some fantastic titles that I think Spy Vibers will want to see:

Spy Vibe's TOP pick in this batch, Stanley Donen's
Charade (1963). People often describe this as one of the best Hitchcock films Hitch never made. An amazing cast includes Cary Grant, Audrey Hepburn, and James Coburn. The film has wonderful wit, fashion, and even a great Spy Vibe scene 1 with a luger "assassination" atop a ski resort. Spy Vibe looked briefly at writer Peter Stone and Donen's Charade, Arabesque (1966), and Stone's Mirage (1965) here. Criterion: In this deliciously dark comedic thriller, a trio of crooks relentlessly pursue a young American, played by Audrey Hepburn, outfitted in gorgeous Givenchy, through Paris in an attempt to recover the fortune her dead husband stole from them. The only person she can trust is a suave, mysterious stranger, played by Cary Grant. Director Stanley Donen goes splendidly Hitchcockian for Charade, a glittering emblem of sixties style and macabre wit.

Godard's feature debut,
Breathless (1960), is a stylistic and seminal film from the French New Wave that features a jazzy score and cool, jump-cut editing. Criterion: There was before Breathless, and there was after Breathless. Jean-Luc Godard burst onto the film scene in 1960 with this jazzy, free-form, and sexy homage to the American film genres that inspired him as a writer for Cahiers du cinéma. With its lack of polish, surplus of attitude, anything-goes crime narrative, and effervescent young stars Jean-Paul Belmondo and Jean Seberg, Breathless helped launch the French New Wave and ensured that cinema would never be the same.

There are just some movies that I have been waiting for for years. Oshima's
Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence (1983), was one of my faves during the 1980s (along with Diva). Ryuichi (YMO) Sakamoto's score is one of the best soundtracks of all time. When I lived in Japan I bought a rare, solo piano version he released and it remains one of my favorite recordings ever (and you know I'm a music guy). Heads up to Bowie fans: Criterion's editions of The Man Who Fell To Earth are about to go out of print! Also on the OOP list is John Schlesinger's classic Billy Liar (1963). Criterion: In this captivating, exhilaratingly skewed World War II drama from Nagisa Oshima, David Bowie regally embodies the character Celliers, a high-ranking British officer interned by the Japanese as a POW. Music star Ryuichi Sakamoto (who also composed this film’s hypnotic score) plays the camp commander, who becomes obsessed with the mysterious blond major, while Tom Conti is British lieutenant colonel Mr. Lawrence, who tries to bridge the emotional and language divides between his captors and fellow prisoners. Also featuring actor-director Takeshi Kitano in his first dramatic role, Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence is a multi layered, brutal, at times erotic tale of culture clash that was one of Oshima’s greatest successes.

It's also worth mentioning that another beautiful film with an outstanding soundtrack, Camu's
Black Orpheus (1959), will be released this august on Blu-ray. The score by Jobim and Bonfa helped to launch the bossa nova scene that still echoes today. Bossa nova is the sound of Tokyo in the summer! Criterion: Winner of both the Academy Award for best foreign-language film and the Cannes Film Festival’s Palme d’Or, Marcel Camus’ Black Orpheus (Orfeu negro) brings the ancient Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice to the twentieth-century madness of Carnival in Rio de Janeiro.

Your Criterion Picks?
As Spy Vibers, what films do you think deserve the Criterion treatment? Thanks to David at Permission to Kill, I think I'd have to put one of the Shaw Brothers movies on that list. Stylish and hilarious! Which films would you like to see given special treatment with a Hi-def transfer and historical supplements?


  1. Jason, I wanted to let you know that I've started a new blog, The Neo Edwardian Hipster

    The subtitle of the blog is "The Persuaders & Their Era, 1965-1975", so I plan on featuring spies, style, and other era-specific interests. Hope you take a look...I've also linked Spy Vibe as a matter of necessity! ;)

  2. Awesome!!! I will post an announcement and link.


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