The Criterion Collection New Releases April 2021
This April the Criterion Collection offers a truly eclectic group of classic films from which the enthusiastic collector can choose. I know I've said that before, but this time I really mean it, because I have never seen, not heard of, any of this months inductees. Embarrassing, I know, however, it is true. And I am ashamed because I really should have. I present to you a breakdown of the 2021 April Criterion Collection releases: Memories of Murder, Masculin féminin, Irma Vep, History is Made at Night, and The Furies.
Frank Borzage’s 1937 classic, History Is Made at Night, stars the suave and sexy, Charles Boyer. The intercontinental is paired with the tomboyish Jean Arthur in what the Criterion considers, "one of the most intoxicatingly romantic love stories ever dreamt up by Hollywood." The on screen chemistry between the two leads is indeed, absolutely palpable. This vision of lovers shifts from melodrama to romantic comedy to noir to thriller, all the time smoothly guided by Borzage’s unwavering allegiance to the power of love.
Sixteen years before director Bong Joon Ho made the 2019 Best Picture Oscar winner, Parasite, he was reimagining the police procedural with his breakthrough second feature, Memories of Murder. Based on the true story of a string of killings in a rural community in the 1980s, Ho twists the conventions of traditional police films into a genre-defying hybrid. Memories of Murder stars Korean cinema icon, Song Kang Ho as the officer who joins forces with a detective to investigate the crimes. The film combines a gripping procedural with a vivid social portrait of the everyday absurdity of life under military rule.
French maestro Jean-Luc Godard’s restless study of 1960s youth Masculin féminin, makes its Blu-ray debut in April. French New Wave icon Jean-Pierre Léaud stars as an idealistic would-be intellectual struggling to forge a relationship with a pop star. Through this journey Godard introduces the world to “the children of Marx and Coca-Cola,” through a gang of restless youths engaged in hopeless love affairs with music, and revolution. The French master fashions a candid and wildly funny free-form examination of youth culture mixing satire and tragedy as only Godard can.
Maggie Cheung stars as the title character in Irma Vep, Olivier Assayas’s international breakthrough film. It's described as, "a postmodern blend of silent cinema and martial-arts flicks" (that description alone makes me want to seek it out immediately). Cheung plays a version of herself as a Hong Kong action-movie star. She goes to Paris to play the lead in a remake of the classic silent Les vampires, a 1915 silent film that is credited as the first vampire film. The movie is considered a critique of the eternal tension between art and commercial entertainment. I'm not sure this is my cup of tea, but their are more dedicated foreign film aficionados out there who are drooling over this upcoming Criterion release.
Barbara Stanwyck and Walter Huston are at their finest in Anthony Mann western-melodrama The Furies. Huston (in his final role) is a megalomaniacal widowed rancher who butts heads with his firebrand of a daughter (Stanwyck). The problem is with her dowry, her choice of husband, and ownership of the land itself. Ablaze with searing domestic drama, The Furies is an often-overlooked cinematic treasure, boasting Oscar–nominated cinematography and vivid supporting turns from Judith Anderson, Wendell Corey, and Gilbert Roland. And as it turns out, the audio commentary from 2008 features my college film professor, and esteemed film historian, Jim Kitses.