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  • Writer's pictureCarrie Specht

The Criterion Collection's New Releases of August 2019

This August, the Criterion brings to its prestigious collection a group of foreign masterpieces, as well as an American melodrama. Known for its discerning eye, it's no doubt that the latest selections are worthy of the honor.

The Criterion collection brings three of Iranian film master, Abbas Kiarostami's most sought-after works to Blu-ray for the first time in The Koker Trilogy. Known as an eye-opening triptych of playful films, these three examples of the auteur theory in action effortlessly blend fiction and reality. Then there's two of Yasujiro Ozu's beautifully crafted films. First, The Flavor of Green Tea over Rice (an observed study of a marriage on the rocks), and the 1937 film, What Did the Lady Forget?, which will appear in a single edition. Then there's Manhattan born Lucille Carra's poetic and insightful meditation on tradition and self-discovery, The Inland Sea, which will come out in a new, restored 4K digital transfer. And that's not all. Included with the August '19 Blu-ray releases are Jane Campion's An Angel at My Table, and Douglas Sirk's delirious melodrama Magnificent Obsession.

I must admit, that I have no concept of the work by the late Iranian filmmaker, Abbas Kiarostami (I have yet to see one of his films). I can say the same about Lucille Carra's work. However, I am ever so slightly familiar with the film career of Yasujiro Ozu. Next to Akira Kurusawa, Ozu is known as Japan's other world renown filmmaker. A contemporary of neorealist filmmakers, Roberto Rossellini and Vittorio De Sica, Ozu's most famous post WWII film, Tokyo Story, is generally considered by critics and film buffs alike to be his "masterpiece" and is regarded by many as one of the best films ever made. His lesser known film, The Flavor of Green Tea over Rice came out just one year earlier. And as much as I am familiar with Academy Award-winner Jane Campion's more recent work, I have never seen An Angel at My Table. Campion broke new ground for female filmmakers and earned the Special Jury Prize at the Venice Film Festival. Between these four filmmakers it sounds like I've got some film watching to do.

And then there's Magnificent Obsession, director Douglas Sirk's most memorable film. I've seen it many times over the years and when I first saw it I thought it was one of the most dreadful, overacted pieces of big screen soap opera imaginable, created with the finesse of a Harlequin romance novel. However, upon repeated viewings over the years, I have formed a much more mature opinion. I've come to evaluate the flamboyant, Technicolor saturated production as a richly devised melodrama. This may sound like a slam, but it really isn't. With an adapted script based on the original 1935 film written by Oscar winners Sarah Y. Mason and Victor Heerman (Little Women), the story includes tragedy, romance, spiritualism, self discovery and redemption. It truly is the finest example of the abandoned genre. It may not be everyone's cup of tea, but when done right, melodrama can be very entertaining, even cathartic.

Of course, the fine cast adds significantly to the enjoyment of the story of two unlikely lovers. Academy Award winner Jane Wyman heads the stellar list of Hollywood talent which also includes a young Rock Hudson (in his breakthrough role), four time Oscar nominee Agnes Morehead (Citizen Kane, Johnny Belinda), and Otto Kruger (High Noon, Murder My Sweet). The impressive Ross Hunter (Airport, All That Heaven Allows) production is a must watch for any fan of the genre, director, or actors. Even the uninitiated to Sirk films will enjoy the sheer spectacle of the genre's unique qualities of luscious production value, sweeping high drama, and the depiction of emotional conflict, within oneself as well as between characters. It's a genre that is unlikely to ever enjoy its former glory.

Blu-rayThese new Criterion additions include 4K digital transfers, high definition restorations, audio commentaries, special bonus material, and debuts. These are the best versions of these films one can ever hope to purchase - that's the Criterion guarantee.

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