Marcel Pagnols’ Marseille Trilogy, Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog” and Nicholas Ray’s “They Live by Night” are among the new titles joining the Criterion Collection this June. In addition, Kenji Mizoguchi’s “Ugetsu” and Sam Peckinpah’s “Straw Dogs” are being upgraded in new Blu-ray editions. More information below.
“Having refined his craft in the silent era, Kenji Mizoguchi was an elder statesman of Japanese cinema-fiercely revered by Akira Kurosawa and other younger directors-by the time he made ‘Ugetsu.’ And with this exquisite ghost story, a fatalistic wartime tragedy derived from stories by Akinari Ueda and Guy de Maupassant, he created a touchstone of his art, his long takes and sweeping camera guiding the viewer through a delirious narrative about two villagers whose pursuit of fame and fortune leads them far astray from their loyal wives. Moving between the terrestrial and the otherworldly, ‘Ugetsu’ reveals essential truths about the ravages of war, the plight of women, and the pride of men.
“They Live by Night”
“Legendary director Nicholas Ray began his career with this lyrical film noir, the first in a series of existential genre films overflowing with sympathy for America’s outcasts and underdogs. When the wide-eyed fugitive Bowie (Farley Granger), having broken out of prison with some bank robbers, meets the innocent Keechie (Cathy O’Donnell), each recognizes something in the other that no one else ever has. The young lovers envision a new, decent life together, but as they flee the cops and contend with Bowie’s fellow outlaws, who aren’t about to let him go straight, they realize there’s nowhere left to run. Ray brought an outsider’s sensibility honed in the theater to this debut, using revolutionary camera techniques and naturalistic performances to craft a profoundly romantic crime drama that paved the way for decades of lovers-on-the-run thrillers to come.”
“The Marseille Trilogy”
“In the 1930s, Marcel Pagnol, a leading light of the Paris theater, set out for new horizons as a filmmaker in his native Provence. His early masterpieces ‘Marius,’ ‘Fanny,’ and ‘César’ mix theatrical stagecraft with realistic location photography to create an epic love story from the fabric of everyday life. Gruff, sentimental César (music-hall star Raimu) owns a waterfront bar in the old port of Marseille, where his son, Marius (Pierre Fresnay), wipes down tables and dreams of a life at sea. The prosperous, middle-aged sailmaker Panisse (Fernand Charpin), wanting to wed Marius’s sweetheart, Fanny (Orane Demazis), sets up a generation-spanning romantic triangle, the story of which unfolds in a series of fateful twists in the films of The Marseille Trilogy, which first earned Pagnol his place in cinema history. ‘If Pagnol is not the greatest auteur of the sound film,’ critic André Bazin wrote, ‘he is in any case something akin to its genius.'”
“The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog”
“With his third feature film, ‘The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog,’ Alfred Hitchcock took a major step toward greatness and made what he would come to consider his true directorial debut. This haunting silent thriller tells the tale of a mysterious young man (matinee idol Ivor Novello) who takes up residence at a London boardinghouse, just as a killer who preys on blonde women, known as the Avenger, descends upon the city. The film is animated by the palpable energy of a young stylist at play, decisively establishing the director’s formal and thematic obsessions. In this edition, The Lodger is accompanied by Downhill, another 1927 silent exploration of Hitchcock’s “wrong man” trope, also headlined by Novello-making for a double feature that reveals the great master of the macabre as he was just coming into his own.”
“In this thriller, arguably Sam Peckinpah’s most controversial film, David (Dustin Hoffman), a young American mathematician, moves with his English wife, Amy (Susan George), to the village where she grew up. Their sense of safety unravels as the local men David has hired to repair their house prove more interested in leering at Amy and intimidating David, beginning an agonizing initiation into the iron laws of violent masculinity that govern Peckinpah’s world. Working outside the U.S. for the first time, the filmmaker airlifts the ruthlessness of the western frontier into Cornwall in ‘Straw Dogs,’ pushing his characters to their breaking points as the men brutalize Amy and David discovers how far he’ll go to protect his home-culminating in a harrowing climax that lays out this cinematic mastermind’s eloquent and bloody vision of humanity.”