November over at The Criterion Collection may look a smidge slim, offering up just four new titles, but each new addition to the collection is a seminal selection well-deserving of the Criterion treatment. Of most interest, however, is Donna Deitch’s feature debut “Desert Hearts,” a seminal lesbian drama that’s been going through something of a resurgence as of late, thanks to last year’s 30th anniversary and a continued adoration for its forward-thinking subject matter.
As we recently explored, in the early ’80s, Deitch was a film school grad with only docs under her belt, eager to make a different kind of feature about lesbians in love, and “without the help of Kickstarter or industry backing, she launched an unorthodox grassroots campaign that eventually gained the support of Gloria Steinem, Lily Tomlin, and Stockard Channing. The result was a hit at Sundance in 1986 that went on to become a groundbreaking lesbian classic that still resonates today.”
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Deitch’s film will be joined by George Cukor’s Katharine Hepburn-starring classic “The Philadelphia Story,” along with Terry Gilliam’s inventive “Jabberwocky” and Jean-Pierre Melville’s bitingly funny “Le samouraï.”
More information below, all provided by the Criterion Collection.
“Donna Deitch’s swooning and sensual first narrative feature, ‘Desert Hearts,’ was groundbreaking upon its 1985 release: a love story about two women, made entirely independently, on a self-financed shoestring budget, by a woman. In the 1959-set film, an adaptation of a beloved novel by Jane Rule, straitlaced East Coast professor Vivian Bell (Helen Shaver) arrives in Reno to file for divorce but winds up catching the eye of someone new, the younger free spirit Cay (Patricia Charbonneau), touching off a slow seduction that unfolds against a breathtaking desert landscape. With undeniable chemistry between its two leads, an evocative jukebox soundtrack, and vivid cinematography by Robert Elswit, ‘Desert Hearts’ beautifully exudes a sense of tender yearning and emotional candor.”
“The Philadelphia Story”
“With this furiously witty comedy of manners, Katharine Hepburn revitalized her career and cemented her status as the era’s most iconic leading lady—thanks in great part to her own shrewd orchestrations. While starring in the Philip Barry stage play ‘The Philadelphia Story,’ Hepburn snapped up the screen rights, handpicking her friend George Cukor to direct. The intoxicating screenplay by Donald Ogden Stewart pits the formidable Philadelphia socialite Tracy Lord (Hepburn, at her most luminous) against various romantic foils, chief among them her charismatic ex-husband (Cary Grant), who disrupts her imminent marriage by paying her family estate a visit, accompanied by a tabloid reporter on assignment to cover the wedding of the year (James Stewart, in his only Academy Award–winning performance). A fast-talking screwball comedy as well as a tale of regrets and reconciliation, this convergence of golden-age talent is one of the greatest American films of all time.”
“Amid the filth and muck of England in the Dark Ages, a fearsome dragon stalks the land, casting a shadow of terror upon the kingdom of Bruno the Questionable. Who should emerge as the town’s only possible savior but Dennis Cooper (Michael Palin), an endearingly witless bumpkin who stumbles onto the scene and is flung into the role of brave knight? Terry Gilliam’s first outing as a solo director—inspired by Lewis Carroll’s poem “Jabberwocky” and made on the heels of Gilliam’s success as a member of the iconic comedy troupe Monty Python—showcases his delight in comic nonsense, with a cast chock-full of beloved British character actors. A giddy romp through blood and excrement, this fantasy remains one of the filmmaker’s most uproarious visions of society run amok.”
“In a career-defining performance, Alain Delon plays Jef Costello, a contract killer with samurai instincts. After carrying out a flawlessly planned hit, Jef finds himself caught between a persistent police investigator and a ruthless employer, and not even his armor of fedora and trench coat can protect him. An elegantly stylized masterpiece of cool by maverick director Jean-Pierre Melville, ‘Le samouraï’ is a razor-sharp cocktail of 1940s American gangster cinema and 1960s French pop culture—with a liberal dose of Japanese lone-warrior mythology.”