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  • Writer's pictureCarrie Specht

The Criterion Collection New Releases: October 2020

October is here and with it are six more additions to the Criterion Collection. I present to you a breakdown of three of the films near to my heart, starting with Bong Joon Ho’s international sensation Parasite. The winner of the Palme d’Or and four Academy Awards, Parasite will join the Criterion Collection in a director-approved edition packed with special features. There's also the Diahann Carol and James Earl Jones big hearted comedy/drama Claudine that explores Black working-class life. And then there's Henry King’s morally complex western The Gunfighter, starring Gregory Peck in a role that will challenge your preset expectations of the versatile actor.

Carroll stars as the title character in an Oscar-nominated performance in Claudine. The strong-willed single mother is raising six kids in Harlem, while juggling a budding relationship with the gregarious garbage collector, Jones. They develop a mutual attraction as they struggle with the difficulty of getting by in an oppressive system. The romantic comedy with a social conscience deftly balances warm humor with a serious look at the issues facing the disenfranchised, including poverty and the indignities of the welfare system. A film ahead o its time showcases made up characters facing substantive challenges of a real-life community. The bittersweet, bighearted celebration of family and community chronicles of the Black working-class during times of joy and sorrow set to a soul soundtrack performed by Gladys Knight & the Pips.

The Gunfighter is a significant representation of the new breed of dark, brooding westerns that would cast a shadow over America’s frontier folklore. This psychological saga sounds a death knell for the myth of the outlaw hero. In the most morally complex role of his career, Gregory Peck stars as Jimmy Ringo, an infamous gunslinger looking to hang up his holsters and start a new life. Sadly, his past reuses to let him go as his well-earned reputation makes it impossible or him to escape a cycle of violence and revenge. Directed with taut efficiency by the versatile studio-era craftsman Henry King, and shot in striking deep-focus style by master cinematographer Arthur C. Miller, The Gunfighter forgoes rough-and-tumble action in favor of an elegiac exploration of guilt and regret that speaks to the anxious soul of postwar America.

Parasite emerged upon the western shores as a sleeper hit and grew into a zeitgeist-defining sensation that distilled a global reckoning over class inequality. Already well-known to Asian cinema aficionados, Ho's tour de force film cemented his presence as an "A" list director deftly able to handle the most complex issues facing any cultural. The genre-scrambling black-comic thriller features two families in Seoul who couldn't be more different from each other. One is barely scraping by in squalor, while the other lives in luxurious home in a well-healed neighborhood. The contradictions examine the darker side of capitalism in away that challenges the fidelities of the audience. The meticulously constructed production design supports a brilliant ensemble cast, while framing an imaginary world that becomes more realistic minute by minute. Parasite would sweep almost every major prize around the globe from Cannes to the Academy Awards, where it made history as the first non-English-language film to win the Oscar for Best Picture.


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