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May has arrived! And this month’s offering of Criterion releases contain the collection’s signature mix of high and lowbrow content, with an ‘80s high school sex comedy sharing space with a nearly 10-hour Japanese drama. Each release has been remastered, so you know you’ll be getting the best video quality available.
In honor of Asian American Heritage month, Asian cinema is particularly well represented in May’s Criterion drops with the Taiwanese classic “Flowers of Shanghai,” and the Japanese epic “The Human Condition,” among the most notable releases. Plus, Criterion’s bonus features and interviews with the cast and directors serve as indispensable pieces of film history.
All of Criterion’s new releases are available on Amazon, so becoming an Amazon Prime is the best way to ensure you get your Blu-rays within a couple of days. The membership costs $12.99 a month for more Criterion Collection classics to add to your collection, and be sure to check back for our picks in June!
Release Date: May 11
In 1979 Cameron Crowe, then a wunderkind writer for “Rolling Stone” magazine, went undercover at a San Diego high school and documented the experience in the book, “Fast Times at Ridgemont High: A True Story.” Crowe began his film career by adapting the book into a screenplay, and the rest is history. Amy Heckerling directed this whip-smart high school comedy with an ensemble cast of then unknown actors who went on to Hollywood stardom. “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” helped launch the careers of Sean Penn, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Forest Whitaker, and even features a cameo from Nicolas Cage. The endlessly quotable sex comedy still feels as fresh as ever. The new edition also features a new conversation with Heckerling and Crowe, moderated by Olivia Wilde.
Release Date: May 11
This little-seen pre-Code era classic hails from Dorothy Arzner, the only female director to helm feature length films in the 1930s. The film follows a wealthy couple driven apart by infidelity and alcoholism who decide to experiment with an open relationship. Arzner took a scalpel to wealth and monogamy decades before it was cool. Now that societal discourse has caught up to the film, Criterion is releasing a new 4K restoration on Blu-ray.
Release Date: May 18
This Taiwanese period piece from Hou Hsiao-hsien takes place in a luxurious brothel, using the opulent setting as a backdrop for the devastating pain felt by both its clients and employees. The auteur’s mastery of filmmaking is apparent, as he uses incredibly long takes and demonstrates a great deal of restraint to maximize the film’s emotional payoff. It’s an essential entry in the career of one of Taiwan’s greatest filmmakers. In addition to the standard 4K remaster, Criterion’s release features a new documentary on the making of the film, “Beautified Realism.”
Release Date: May 25
This bold, uncompromising film noir is an absolute must-see for any fan of 1940s cinema. Tyrone Power plays a sleazy, carnival worker-turned-spiritual-grifter whose insatiable lust for money and fame leads him down a dark rabbit hole of self destruction. It’s one of the great examples of an actor breaking away from their type, as he gleefully sheds the swashbuckling hero image that had previously defined his career. Equal parts character study, social satire, and pure pulpy noir fun, “Nightmare Alley” is a film you’ll want to revisit again and again. The Criterion edition is worth owning for the cover art alone!
Release Date: June 8
Cinephiles with a lot of time on their hands should check out, “The Human Condition.” The 1959 Japanese epic by Masaki Kobayashi, is a 9-and-a-half-hour masterpiece that tells the story of a Japanese man as he goes from a labor camp supervisor to a soldier, to a Russian prisoner of war. The journey is more important than any of his destinations, as the film makes use of its massive running time to explore its ambitious title. The end result works both as a nuanced depiction of one man’s life and a sweeping commentary on the way corrupt systems can strip us of our humanity. This high-definition restoration represents everything that makes the Criterion Collection so great.