A dazzling lineup of six dramas has been assembled for the Criterion Collection’s May 2015 slate. Along with works from classic filmmakers and actors, special features in the set (Blu-ray only) include interviews with Peter Bogdanovich, Bernardo Bertolucci, Wim Wenders and many more. Booking individual titles begins in mid-April, and Criterion will release the films for general purchase in mid-May.
Synopses below are courtesy of Criterion.
“Make Way for Tomorrow”
“Make Way for Tomorrow,” by Leo McCarey (“An Affair to Remember”), is one of the great unsung Hollywood masterpieces, an enormously moving Depression-era depiction of the frustrations of family, aging, and the generation gap. Beulah Bondi (“It’s a Wonderful Life”) and Victor Moore (“Swing Time”) headline a cast of incomparable character actors, starring as an elderly couple who must move in with their grown children after the bank takes their home, yet end up separated and subject to their offspring’s selfish whims. An inspiration for Yasujiro Ozu’s “Tokyo Story,” this is among American cinema’s purest tearjerkers, all the way to its unflinching ending, which McCarey refused to change despite studio pressure.
Charlie Chaplin’s masterful drama about the twilight of a former vaudeville star is among the writer-director’s most touching films. Chaplin plays Calvero, a once beloved musical-comedy performer, now a washed-up alcoholic who lives in a small London flat. A glimmer of hope arrives when he meets a beautiful but melancholy ballerina (“Richard III’s” Claire Bloom) who lives downstairs. An elegant mix of the comic and the tragic, this poignant film also features Buster Keaton (“The General”) in an extended cameo, marking the only time the two silent comedy icons appeared together on-screen. Made at a time when Chaplin was under attack by the American press and far right, “Limelight” was barely distributed in the United States upon its initial release, but it is now considered one of his essential and most personal works.
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Bette Midler exploded onto the screen with her take-no-prisoners performance in this quintessential film about fame and addiction from director Mark Rydell (“On Golden Pond”). Midler is the rock-and-roll singer Mary Rose Foster (known as the Rose to her legions of fans), whose romantic relationships and mental health are continuously imperiled by the demands of life on the road. Incisively scripted by Bo Goldman (“One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”) and beautifully shot by “Blow Out”‘s Vilmos Zsigmond (with assistance on the dazzling concert scenes by a host of other world-class cinematographers, including Conrad L. Hall, László Kovács, Owen Roizman, and Haskell Wexler), this is a sensitively drawn and emotionally overwhelming melodrama that made the popular singer into a movie star as well.
The master of the political thriller, Costa-Gavras, became an instant phenomenon after the mammoth success of “Z,” and he quickly followed it with the perhaps even more riveting “The Confession.” Based on a harrowing true story, the film stars Yves Montand (“The Wages of Fear”) as an influential Czechoslovak dignitary who, in the early fifties, was abducted, imprisoned, and interrogated by fellow members of his country’s Communist ruling party—their intentions vague, their methods terrifying. Also starring Simone Signoret (“Diabolique”) and Gabriele Ferzetti (“L’avventura”), Costa-Gavras’s film is an unflinching depiction of a troubled historical period and the miasma of twentieth-century politics.
“State of Siege”
Costa-Gavras (“Z”) puts the United States’ involvement in South American politics under the microscope in this arresting thriller. An urban guerrilla group, outraged at the counterinsurgency and torture training clandestinely organized by the CIA in their country (unnamed in the film), abducts a U.S. official (“The Wages of Fear’s” Yves Montand) to bargain for the release of political prisoners; soon the kidnapping becomes a media sensation, leading to violence. Co-written by Franco Solinas (“The Battle of Algiers”), the electrifying “State of Siege” piercingly critiques the American government for helping institute foreign dictatorships while also asking difficult questions about the efficacy of radical violent acts to oppose such regimes.
“The Merchant of Four Seasons”
New German Cinema icon Rainer Werner Fassbinder (“World on a Wire”) kicked off a new phase of his young career when he made the startling “The Merchant of Four Seasons.” In this despairing yet mordantly funny film, Fassbinder charts the decline of a self-destructive former policeman and war veteran struggling to make ends meet for his family by working as a fruit vendor. Fassbinder had skyrocketed to renown on the acclaim of a series of trenchant, quickly made early films, but for this one he took more time and forged a new style—featuring a more complexly woven script and narrative structure and more sophisticated use of the camera, and influenced by the work of his recently discovered idol, Douglas Sirk. The result is a meticulously made, unforgiving social satire.
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