Criterion In April: PHOENIX, BARCELONA, BRIEF ENCOUNTER, ONLY ANGELS HAVE WINGS, Plus Robert Drew Kennedy Docs

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Criterion In April: PHOENIX, BARCELONA, BRIEF ENCOUNTER, ONLY ANGELS HAVE WINGS, Plus Robert Drew Kennedy Docs

The titles speak for themselves (almost).

In April, the Criterion Collection will release a pleasingly varied selection of films. Christian Petzold's Phoenix fell off my radar after I saw it last year but it's the kind of thoughtful drama that keeps resonating and resurfacing in my mind. Whit Stillman's Barcelona is not as immediately invigorating as Metropolitan, but the travails of 'Americans in Europe' proves to be a wise rumination on the often confusing natures of love and privilege. It will become available as part of a new box set that will also include Stillman's The Last Days of Disco.

Howard Hawks' Only Angels Have Wings is a personal favorite; I remember watching it years ago and marveling at its matter-of-fact transmutation from romantic comedy to action thriller to something even more touching and memorable than I could ever have imagined. David Lean's Brief Encounter is a film I stayed away from for years becase of its reputation as a romantic drama but eventually I discovered that it's far more gritty and working class than I would ever have imagined from watching latter-day Leans.

For me, the wild card in this bunch is The Kennedy Films of Robert Drew & Associates, a collection of four documentaries capturing John F. Kennedy both before and after he became U.S. President. The talent involved behind the camera is impressive indeed.

Here are all the details on the individual titles and collections, as provided in an official statement from the Criterion Collection.

ONLY ANGELS HAVE WINGS - Blu-Ray & DVD Editions
Electrified by the verbal wit and visual craftsmanship of the great Howard Hawks (Red River), Only Angels Have Wings stars Jean Arthur (Mr. Smith Goes to Washington) as a traveling entertainer who gets more than she bargained for during a stopover in a South American port town. There she meets a handsome yet aloof daredevil pilot, played by Cary Grant (Notorious), who runs an airmail company, staring down death while servicing towns in treacherous mountain terrain. Both attracted to and repelled by his romantic sense of danger, she decides to stay on, despite his protestations. This masterful and mysterious adventure, featuring Oscar-nominated special effects, high-wire aerial photography, and Rita Hayworth (Gilda) in a small but breakout role, explores Hawks's recurring themes of masculine codes and the strong-willed women who question them.

SPECIAL EDITION FEATURES
• New 4K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
• Audio excerpts from a 1972 conversation between filmmakers Howard Hawks and Peter Bogdanovich
• New interview with film critic David Thomson
• Howard Hawks and His Aviation Movies, a new program featuring film scholars Craig Barron and Ben Burtt
• Lux Radio Theatre adaptation of the film from 1939, starring Cary Grant, Jean Arthur, Rita Hayworth, Richard Barthelmess, and Thomas Mitchell, and hosted by director Cecil B. DeMille
• Trailer
• PLUS: An essay by critic Michael Sragow

1939 • 121 minutes • Black & White • Monaural • 1.37:1 aspect ratio

BLU-RAY EDITION
SRP $39.95
PREBOOK 3/15/16
STREET 4/12/16


BARCELONA - Blu-Ray & DVD Editions
Whit Stillman followed his delightful indie breakthrough Metropolitan with another clever and garrulous comedy of manners, this one with a darker edge. A pair of preppy yet constitutionally mismatched American cousins--a salesman and a navy officer--argue about romance and politics while working in the beautiful Spanish city of the film's title. Set during the eighties, Barcelona explores topics both heady (American exceptionalism, Cold War foreign policy) and hilarious (the ins and outs of international dating, the proper shaving method) while remaining a constantly witty delight, featuring a sharp young cast that includes Taylor Nichols (Boiler Room), Chris Eigeman (Kicking and Screaming), and Mira Sorvino (Mighty Aphrodite).

DIRECTOR-APPROVED SPECIAL EDITION FEATURES
• New, restored 2K digital transfer, supervised by director Whit Stillman and cinematographer John Thomas, with 2.0 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray
• Audio commentary from 2002 featuring Stillman and actors Chris Eigeman and Taylor Nichols
• New video essay by film critic Farran Smith Nehme about the trilogy made up of Metropolitan, Barcelona, and The Last Days of Disco
• The Making of "Barcelona," a short documentary from 1994 featuring behind-the-scenes footage and on-set interviews with Stillman and cast members
• Deleted scenes and alternate ending, with commentary by Stillman, Eigeman, and Nichols
• Segment from a 1994 episode of the Today show featuring Stillman
• Episode of The Dick Cavett Show from 1991 with Stillman
• Trailer
• PLUS: An essay by film scholar Haden Guest

1994 • 101 minutes • Color • 2.0 Surround • 1.85:1 aspect ratio

BLU-RAY EDITION
SRP $39.95
STREET 4/19/16

A WHIT STILLMAN TRILOGY: METROPOLITAN, BARCELONA, THE LAST DAYS OF DISCO
Over the course of the 1990s, writer-director Whit Stillman made a trilogy of films about the acid tongues and broken hearts of some haplessly erudite young Americans in New York and abroad. Set in the eighties, these films would trace the arc of that decade, led by Stillman's Oscar-nominated debut, Metropolitan, which introduced moviegoers to a strange, endangered species of privileged New Yorker dubbed the "urban haute bourgeoisie." Chronologically, the tale continues with The Last Days of Disco, in which, with an earnest wink, Stillman mourns the close of New York's nightclub era via the story of two young party-going women juggling day jobs in book publishing. Finally, Barcelona plunks down a pair of love-starved upper-class men in a foreign city riddled with anti-American sentiment. At once effervescent and melancholy, these are comedies about the ends of eras, social change as seen through the eyes of reluctant, unflaggingly sardonic romantics.

METROPOLITAN
One of the great American independent films of the 1990s, the surprise hit Metropolitan, by writer-director Whit Stillman, is a sparkling comedic chronicle of a middle-class young man's romantic misadventures in New York City's debutante society. Stillman's deft, literate dialogue and hilariously highbrow observations earned this first film an Academy Award nomination for best original screenplay. Alongside the wit and sophistication, though, lies a tender tale of adolescent anxiety.

1990 · 99 minutes · Color · Monaural · 1.66:1 aspect ratio

THE LAST DAYS OF DISCO
The Last Days of Disco is a cleverly comic return to an early 1980s Manhattan party scene from director Whit Stillman. At the center of the film's roundelay of revelers are the icy Charlotte (Underworld's Kate Beckinsale) and the demure Alice (Boys Don't Cry's Chloë Sevigny), by day toiling as publishing house assistants and by night looking for romance and entertainment at a Studio 54-like club. The Last Days of Disco is an affectionate yet unsentimental look at the end of an era, brimming with Stillman's trademark dry humor.

1998 · 113 minutes · Color · 5.1 surround · 1.78:1 aspect ratio

BARCELONA
Whit Stillman followed his delightful indie breakthrough Metropolitan with another clever and garrulous comedy of manners, this one with a darker edge. A pair of preppy yet constitutionally mismatched American cousins--a salesman and a navy officer--argue about romance and politics while working in the beautiful Spanish city of the film's title. Set during the eighties, Barcelona explores topics both heady (American exceptionalism, Cold War foreign policy) and hilarious (the ins and outs of international dating, the proper shaving method) while remaining a constantly witty delight, featuring a sharp young cast that includes Taylor Nichols (Boiler Room), Chris Eigeman (Kicking and Screaming), and Mira Sorvino (Mighty Aphrodite).

1994 · 101 minutes · Color · 2.0 Surround · 1.85:1 aspect ratio

DIRECTOR-APPROVED SPECIAL EDITION COLLECTOR'S SET FEATURES
• Restored high-definition digital transfer of Metropolitan, supervised by director Whit Stillman and cinematographer John Thomas, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray; restored high-definition digital transfer of The Last Days of Disco, supervised by Stillman, with 5.1 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray; new, restored 2K digital transfer of Barcelona, supervised by Stillman and Thomas, with 2.0 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray
• Audio commentary on Metropolitan featuring Stillman, actors Chris Eigeman and Taylor Nichols, and editor Christopher Tellefsen; audio commentary on The Last Days of Disco featuring Stillman, Eigeman, and actor Chloë Sevigny; audio commentary on Barcelona featuring Stillman, Eigeman, and Nichols
• Rare outtakes and alternate casting scenes from Metropolitan, with commentary by Stillman; deleted scenes from The Last Days of Disco, with commentary by Stillman, Eigeman, and Sevigny; deleted scenes and alternate ending from Barcelona, with commentary by Stillman, Eigeman, and Nichols
• New video essay about the trilogy by film critic Farran Smith Nehme
• Featurettes about the making of The Last Days of Disco and Barcelona
• Today show interview with Stillman from 1994
• Episode of The Dick Cavett Show from 1991 with Stillman
• Audio recording of Stillman reading a chapter from his book The Last Days of Disco, with Cocktails at Petrossian Afterwards
• Stills gallery for The Last Days of Disco, with captions by Stillman
• Trailers for all three films
• PLUS: Essays by author Luc Sante, novelist David Schickler, and film scholar Haden Guest

3-BLU-RAY EDITION
SRP $79.95
STREET 4/19/16


BRIEF ENCOUNTER - Blu-Ray & DVD Editions
After a chance meeting on a train platform, a married doctor (The Third Man's Trevor Howard) and a suburban housewife (This Happy Breed's Celia Johnson) begin a muted but passionate, and ultimately doomed, love affair. With its evocatively fog-enshrouded setting, swooning Rachmaninoff score, and pair of remarkable performances (Johnson was nominated for an Oscar for her role), this film, directed by David Lean (Lawrence of Arabia) and based on Noël Coward's play Still Life, deftly explores the thrill, pain, and tenderness of an illicit romance, and has influenced many a cinematic brief encounter since
its release.

SPECIAL EDITION FEATURES
• High-definition digital transfer of the BFI National Archive's 2008 restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
• Audio commentary from 2000 by film historian Bruce Eder
• Interview from 2012 with Noël Coward scholar Barry Day
• A Profile of "Brief Encounter," a short documentary from 2000 on the making of the film
• David Lean: A Self Portrait, a 1971 television documentary on Lean's career
• Trailer
• PLUS: An essay by historian Kevin Brownlow

1945 • 86 minutes • Black & White • Monaural • 1.37:1 aspect ratio

BLU-RAY EDITION
SRP $39.95
STREET 4/26/16

PHOENIX - Blu-Ray & DVD Editions
This evocative and haunting drama, set in a rubble-strewn Berlin in 1945, is like no other film about post-World War II Jewish identity. After surviving Auschwitz, a former cabaret singer (A Most Wanted Man's Nina Hoss, in a dazzling, multilayered performance), her face disfigured and reconstructed, returns to her war-ravaged hometown to seek out the gentile husband who may or may not have betrayed her to the Nazis. Without recognizing her, he enlists her to play his wife in a bizarre hall-of-shattered-mirrors story that's as richly metaphorical as it is preposterously engrossing. Revenge film or tale of romantic reconciliation? One doesn't know until the superb closing scene of this marvel from Christian Petzold (the Oscar-nominated Barbara), perhaps the most important figure in contemporary German cinema.

SPECIAL EDITION FEATURES
• New 4K digital master, with 5.1 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray
• New conversation between director Christian Petzold and actor Nina Hoss
• New interview with cinematographer Hans Fromm
• New documentary featuring on-set interviews from 2013 with Petzold, Hoss, actors Nina Kunzendorf and Ronald Zehrfeld, and production designer Kade Gruber
• Trailer
• New English subtitle translation
• PLUS: An essay by critic Michael Koresky

2014 • 98 minutes • Color • 5.1 Surround • In German with English subtitles • 2.35:1 aspect ratio

BLU-RAY EDITION
SRP $39.95
STREET 4/26/16

THE KENNEDY FILMS OF ROBERT DREW & ASSOCIATES - Blu-Ray & DVD Editions
Seeking to invigorate the American documentary format, which he felt was rote and uninspired, Robert Drew brought the style and vibrancy he had fostered as a Life magazine correspondent to filmmaking in the late fifties. He did this by assembling an amazing team -- including such eventual nonfiction luminaries as Richard Leacock (Louisiana Story), D. A. Pennebaker (Don't Look Back), and Albert Maysles (Grey Gardens) -- that would transform documentary cinema. In 1960, the group was granted direct access to John F. Kennedy, filming him on the campaign trail and eventually in the Oval Office. This resulted in three films of remarkable, behind-closed-doors intimacy -- Primary, Adventures on the New Frontier, and Crisis -- nd, following the president's assassination, the poetic short Faces of November. Collected here are all four of these titles, early exemplars of the movement known as Direct Cinema and featuring the greatest close-up footage we have of this American icon.

SPECIAL EDITION FEATURES
• New 2K digital restorations of all four films, with uncompressed monaural soundtracks on the Blu-ray
• Alternate, twenty-six-minute cut of Primary, edited by filmmaker Richard Leacock
• Audio commentary on the Leacock edit of Primary, featuring Leacock and filmmakers Robert Drew and D. A. Pennebaker, recorded in conversation with film critic Gideon Bachmann in 1961
• Robert Drew in His Own Words, a new documentary featuring archival interview footage
• New conversation between Pennebaker and Jill Drew, Robert Drew's daughter-in-law and the general manager of Drew Associates
• Outtakes from Crisis, along with a discussion by historian Andrew Cohen, author of Two Days in June
• New conversation about Crisis featuring former U.S. attorney general Eric Holder and Sharon Malone, Holder's wife and the sister of Vivian Malone, one of the students featured in Crisis
• New interview with Richard Reeves, author of President Kennedy: Profile of Power
• Footage from a 1998 event at the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles, featuring Drew, Pennebaker, Leacock, and filmmaker Albert Maysles
• PLUS: An essay by documentary film curator and writer Thomas Powers

Primary: 1960 • 53 minutes • Black & White • Monaural • 1.33:1 aspect ratio

Adventures on the New Frontier: 1961 • 52 minutes • Black & White • Monaural • 1.33:1 aspect ratio

Crisis: 1963 • 53 minutes • Black & White • Monaural • 1.33:1 aspect ratio

Faces of November: 1964 • 12 minutes • Black & White • Monaural • 1.33:1 aspect ratio

BLU-RAY EDITION
SRP $39.95
STREET 4/26/16

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Mr. CavinJanuary 18, 2016 11:00 PM

"the travails of 'Americans in Europe' proves to be a wise rumination on the often confusing natures of love and privilege."

...and shaving! I, for one, am over the moon. BARCELONA was my introduction to Stillman, to Mira Sorvino, and, frankly, to Catalunya--and I fell for it hard and immediately. Plus, I have managed to, until know, for whatever reason, fail in collecting any of the other movies coming in this Stillman set. So, for once, I will actually win a waiting game with Criterion! (Which makes me feel much better about regifting that pricey Czech import DVD of VALERIE AND HER WEEK OF WONDERS I picked up last year.)

But, like you Peter, it's ONLY ANGELS HAVE WINGS that has me wiggling in my seat. I'm always surprised when something I love turns out to be well loved by many. I shouldn't be shocked at the Collection's attention--I assume it was a Janus Films remaster I watched at AFI a couple of years ago--but nonetheless, I didn't see it coming. Excellent news all around.

Daniel ParedesJanuary 19, 2016 12:58 AM

Now that is a beautiful cover for Phoenix!