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The Criterion Collection | Eclipse

La ronde

Spine #443
Simone Signoret, Anton Walbrook, and Simone Simon lead a roundelay of French stars in Max Ophuls's delightful, acerbic adaptation of Arthur Schnitzler's controversial turn-of-the-century play La ronde. Soldiers, chambermaids, poets, and aristocrats, all are on equal footing in this multicharacter merry-go-round of love and infidelity, directed with a sweeping gaiety as knowingly frivolous as it is enchanting, and shot with Ophuls's trademark intricate cinematography.
The Spy Who Came in from the Cold

Spine #452
In the Realm of the Senses

Spine #466
Still censored in its own country, In the Realm of the Senses (Ai no corrida), by Japanese director Nagisa Oshima, remains one of the most controversial films of all time. A graphic portrayal of insatiable sexual desire, Oshima's film, set in 1936 and based on a true incident, depicts a man and a woman (Tatsuya Fuji and Eiko Matsuda) consumed by a transcendent, destructive love while living in an era of ever escalating imperialism and governmental control. Less a work of pornography than of politics, In the Realm of the Senses is a brave, taboo-breaking milestone.
Empire of Passion

Spine #467
With an arresting mix of eroticism and horror, Oshima plunges the viewer into a nightmarish tale of guilt and retribution in Empire of Passion (Ai no borei). Set in a Japanese village at the end of the nineteenth century, the film details the emotional and physical downfall of a married woman (Kazuko Yoshiyuki) and her younger lover (Tatsuya Fuji) following their decision to murder her husband and dump his body in a well. Empire of Passion was Oshima's only true kaidan (Japanese ghost story), and the film, a savage, unrelenting experience, earned him the best director award at the Cannes Film Festival.
The Friends of Eddie Coyle

Spine #475
In one of the best performances of his legendary career, Robert Mitchum plays small-time gunrunner Eddie "Fingers" Coyle in Peter Yates's adaptation of George V. Higgins's acclaimed novel The Friends of Eddie Coyle. World-weary and living hand to mouth, Coyle works on the sidelines of the seedy Boston underworld just to make ends meet. But when he finds himself facing a second stretch of hard time, he's forced to weigh loyalty to his criminal colleagues against snitching to stay free. Directed with a sharp eye for its gritty locales and an open heart for its less-than-heroic characters, this is one of the true treasures of 1970s Hollywood filmmaking-a suspenseful crime drama in stark, unforgiving daylight.
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Spine #476
"I was born under unusual circumstances . . ." Thus begins The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, the Academy Award-winning film starring Brad Pitt as a man who is born in his eighties and ages backward, and Cate Blanchett as the woman he is destined to love forever. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is a monumental journey-as unusual as it is epic-that follows Benjamin's remarkable adventure of romance and redemption from the end of World War I through the twenty-first century. Directed by David Fincher, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is a powerful testament to life and death, love and loss.
Bergman Island

Spine #477
The Human Condition

Spine #480
Masaki Kobayashi's mammoth humanist drama is one of the most staggering achievements of Japanese cinema. Originally filmed and released in three parts, the nine-and-a-half-hour The Human Condition (Ningen no joken), adapted from Junpei Gomikawa's six-volume novel, tells of the journey of the well-intentioned yet naive Kaji (handsome Japanese superstar Tatsuya Nakadai) from labor camp supervisor to Imperial Army soldier to Soviet POW. Constantly trying to rise above a corrupt system, Kaji time and again finds his morals an impediment rather than an advantage. A raw indictment of its nation's wartime mentality as well as a personal existential tragedy, Kobayashi's riveting, gorgeously filmed epic is novelistic cinema at its best.
Stagecoach

Spine #516
This is where it all started. John Ford's smash hit and enduring masterpiece Stagecoach revolutionized the western, elevating it from B movie to the A-list. The quintessential tale of a group of strangers thrown together into extraordinary circumstances-traveling a dangerous route from Arizona to New Mexico-Stagecoach features outstanding performances from Hollywood stalwarts Claire Trevor, John Carradine, Thomas Mitchell, and, of course, John Wayne, in his first starring role for Ford, as the daredevil outlaw the Ringo Kid. Superbly shot and tightly edited, Stagecoach (Ford's first trip to Monument Valley) is Hollywood storytelling at its finest.
Night Train to Munich

Spine #523
A twisting, turning, cloak-and-dagger delight, Night Train to Munich is a gripping, occasionally comic confection from writers Frank Launder and Sidney Gilliat (Hitchcock's The Lady Vanishes) and director Carol Reed (The Fallen Idol, The Third Man). Paced like an out-of-control locomotive, Night Train takes viewers on a World War II-era journey from Prague to England to the Swiss Alps, as Nazis pursue a Czech scientist and his daughter (Margaret Lockwood, of The Lady Vanishes), who are being aided by a debonair British undercover agent, played by Rex Harrison (Major Barbara, My Fair Lady). This captivating, long-overlooked adventure-which also features Casablanca's Paul Henreid-mixes comedy, romance, and thrills with enough skill and cleverness to give the master of suspense himself pause.
Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence

Spine #535
In this captivating, exhilaratingly skewed World War II drama from Nagisa Oshima, David Bowie regally embodies the character Celliers, a high-ranking British officer interned by the Japanese as a POW. Music star Ryuichi Sakamoto (who also composed this film's hypnotic score) plays the camp commander, who becomes obsessed with the mysterious blond major, while Tom Conti is British lieutenant colonel Mr. Lawrence, who tries to bridge the emotional and language divides between his captors and fellow prisoners. Also featuring actor-director Takeshi Kitano in his first dramatic role, Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence is a multilayered, brutal, at times erotic tale of culture clash that was one of Oshima's greatest successes.
Paths of Glory

Spine #538
A pivotal work by Stanley Kubrick, Paths of Glory is among the most powerful antiwar films ever made. A fiery Kirk Douglas stars as a French colonel serving in World War I who goes head-to-head with the army's ruthless top brass when his men are accused of cowardice after being unable to carry out an impossible mission. This haunting, exquisitely photographed dissection of the military machine in all its absurdity and capacity for dehumanization (a theme Kubrick would continue to explore throughout his career) is assembled with its legendary director's customary precision, from its tense trench warfare sequences to its gripping courtroom climax to its ravaging final scene.
House

Spine #539
How to describe Nobuhiko Obayashi's indescribable 1977 movie House (Hausu)? As a psychedelic ghost tale? A stream-of-consciousness bedtime story? An episode of Scooby-Doo as directed by Mario Bava? Any of the above will do for this hallucinatory head trip about a schoolgirl who travels with six classmates to her ailing aunt's creaky country home and comes face-to-face with evil spirits, a demonic house cat, a bloodthirsty piano, and other ghoulish visions, all realized by Obayashi via a series of mattes, animation, and collage effects. Equal parts absurd and nightmarish, House might have been beamed to Earth from some other planet. Never before available on home video in the United States, it's one of the most exciting cult discoveries in years.
The Night of the Hunter

Spine #541
The Night of the Hunter-incredibly, the only film the great actor Charles Laughton ever directed-is truly a standalone masterwork. A horror movie with qualities of a Grimm fairy tale, it stars a sublimely sinister Robert Mitchum as a traveling preacher named Harry Powell (he of the tattooed knuckles), whose nefarious motives for marrying a fragile widow, played by Shelley Winters are uncovered by her terrified young children. Graced by images of eerie beauty and a sneaky sense of humor, this ethereal, expressionistic American classic-also featuring the contributions of actress Lillian Gish and writer James Agee-is cinema's quirkiest rendering of the battle between good and evil.
Fish Tank

Spine #553
British director Andrea Arnold won the Cannes Jury Prize for the searing and invigorating Fish Tank, about a fifteen-year-old girl, Mia (electrifying newcomer Katie Jarvis), who lives with her mother and sister in the depressed housing projects of Essex. Mia's adolescent conflicts and emerging sexuality reach boiling points when her mother's new boyfriend (a lethally attractive Michael Fassbender) enters the picture. In her young career, Arnold has already proven herself to be a master of social realism (evoking the work of Mike Leigh and Ken Loach), investing her sympathetic portraits of dead-end lives with a poetic, earthy sensibility all her own. Fish Tank heralds the official arrival of a major new filmmaker.
Kes

Spine #561
Named one of the ten best British films of the century by the British Film Institute, Ken Loach's Kes, is cinema's quintessential portrait of working-class Northern England. Billy (an astonishingly naturalistic David Bradley) is a fifteen-year-old miner's son whose close bond with a wild kestrel provides him with a spiritual escape from his dead-end life. Kes brought to the big screen the sociopolitical engagement Loach had established in his work for the BBC, and pushed the British "angry young man" film of the sixties into a new realm of authenticity, using real locations and nonprofessional actors. Loach's poignant coming-of-age drama remains the now legendary director's most beloved and influential film.
Blow Out

Spine #562
In the enthralling Blow Out, brilliantly crafted by Brian De Palma, John Travolta gives one of his greatest performances as Jack, a movie sound-effects man who believes he has accidentally recorded a political assassination. He enlists the help of Sally (Nancy Allen), a possible eyewitness to the crime who may be in danger herself, to uncover the truth. With its jolting stylistic flourishes, intricate plot, profoundly felt characterizations, and gritty evocation of early-1980s Philadelphia, Blow Out is an American paranoia thriller unlike any other, as well as a devilish reflection on the act of moviemaking.
The Makioka Sisters

Spine #567
This lyrical adaptation of the beloved novel by Junichiro Tanizaki was a late-career triumph for director Kon Ichikawa. Structured around the changing of the seasons, The Makioka Sisters (Sasame-yuki) follows the lives of four siblings who have taken on their family's kimono manufacturing business, in the years leading up to the Pacific War. The two oldest have been married for some time, but according to tradition, the rebellious youngest sister cannot wed until the third, conservative and terribly shy, finds a husband. This graceful study of a family at a turning point in history is a poignant evocation of changing times and fading customs, shot in rich, vivid colors.
Kiss Me Deadly

Spine #568
In this atomic adaptation of Mickey Spillane's novel, directed by Robert Aldrich, the good manners of the 1950s are blown to smithereens. Ralph Meeker stars as snarling private dick Mike Hammer, whose decision one dark, lonely night to pick up a hitchhiking woman sends him down some terrifying byways. Brazen and bleak, Kiss Me Deadly is a film noir masterwork as well as an essential piece of cold war paranoia, and it features as nervy an ending as has ever been seen in American cinema.
People on Sunday

Spine #569
Years before they became major players in Hollywood, a group of young German filmmakers-including eventual noir masters Robert Siodmak and Edgar G. Ulmer and future Oscar winners Billy Wilder and Fred Zinnemann-worked together on the once-in-a-lifetime collaboration People on Sunday (Menschen am Sonntag). This effervescent, sunlit silent, about a handful of city dwellers (a charming cast of nonprofessionals) enjoying a weekend outing, offers a rare glimpse of Weimar-era Berlin. A unique hybrid of documentary and fictional storytelling, People on Sunday was both an experiment and a mainstream hit that would influence generations of film artists around the world.
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