Archive for the ‘The Criterion Collection’ Category

hitchcockmaster

Spine #885

Blu-ray Cover

Distributor: Criterion Collection (USA)

Release Date: June 27, 2017

Region: Region A

Length:

The Lodger – 01:30:24

Downhill – 01:50:59

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio:

The Lodger – 2.0 Linear PCM Audio (48 kHz, 2304 kbps, 24-bit)

Downhill – 2.0 Dolby Digital Audio (48 kHz, 192 kbps)

Ratio:

The Lodger – 1.33:1

Downhill – 1.33:1

Bitrate:

The Lodger – 29.36 Mbps

Downhill – 15.09 Mbps

Notes: This is the North American Blu-ray debut of “The Lodger,” but the film was given a DVD release by MGM. Unfortunately, the MGM edition is now out of print. The release also marks the Blu-ray debut of “Downhill.”

Title

The Master Finds His Voice

PART ONE:THE LODGER

The Lodger is the first picture possibly influence by my period in Germany. The whole approach to this film was instinctive with me. It was the first time I exercised my style. In…

View original post 9,331 more words

Spine #856

Blu-ray Cover

Distributor: Criterion Collection (USA)

Release Date: February 28, 2017

Region: Region A

Length:

Before Sunrise – 01:41:05

Before Sunset – 01:20:31

Before Midnight – 01:48:57

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio:

Before Sunrise – 2.0 English DTS-HD Master Audio

Before Sunset – 5.1 English DTS-HD Master Audio

Before Midnight – 5.1 English DTS-HD Master Audio

Subtitles: English (SDH)

Ratio: 1.85:1

Bitrate:

Before Sunrise – 35.34 Mbps

Before Sunset – 35.20 Mbps

Before Midnight – 34.05 Mbps

Notes: These titles were previously released in various DVD editions, and Before Midnight was previously available on Blu-ray from Sony Pictures Classics.

One Sheets

“We’re lucky on these films because the construction of it is going for a certain kind of honesty. So many romantic films—they’re kind of built on an artifice that we have tried never to really abide by too much. We have some mythic audience in our mind that would appreciate the unvarnished honesty of the darker moments of a relationship. I’d say we can do things that another kind of film couldn’t support.” –Richard Linklater (Backstage, December 06, 2013)

That Linklater should use the word “honesty” so often in his interviews discussing this one-of-a-kind trilogy shouldn’t surprise cinephiles. If a single word could be used to describe The Before Trilogy, that word would probably be “honest.” The cornerstone of the career-long exploration of cinematic time by Richard Linklater, this celebrated three-part epic romance chronicles the love of Celine (Julie Delpy) and Jesse (Ethan Hawke), from their first meeting as idealistic twentysomethings to the disillusionment they face together in middle age. These three films also stand as a document of a boundary-pushing and extraordinarily intimate collaboration between Linklater, Delpy, and Hawke. It is more than evident that these films are very personal documents to all three participants.

“The lack of vanity with Ethan and Julie is important. In the films—we’re all three of us doing this—we’re taking where we are at that moment and whatever life has thrown at us in the past nine years [and] using that as the clay for what we’re sculpting.” –Richard Linklater (Way Too Indie, May 21, 2013)

Attuned to the sweeping grandeur of time’s passage as well as the evanescence of individual moments, the Before films chart the progress of romantic destiny as it navigates the vicissitudes of ordinary life. It might seem extraordinary to imagine that this near-perfect trilogy wasn’t planned as a trilogy at all. Each film is a singular entity that captures two characters at a very specific juncture of their lives. They stand alone as wonderful films in their own right but expand into something even greater when all three films are united as a singular unit.

“They all feel like they’re of one piece. It was wonderful being in Vienna nineteen years ago. It was wonderful being in Paris making a movie, and Greece was just incredible.” –Richard Linklater (Parade, October 23, 2013)

However, even those who prefer to experience all three films as “one piece” will probably agree that it is impossible to discuss Jesse and Celine’s journey as a couple without examining each film individually.

Before Sunrise Cover

BEFORE SUNRISE – Spine #857

“The movie’s about crossing paths with someone who needs the same thing you do. The question is, could this really be something more, something bigger, eternal? I think it’s something they’ll both know at some point in the future.” –Richard Linklater (Interview, February 1995)

On the surface, Before Sunrise seems to be an extension of Richard Linklater’s independent debut effort. Slacker had a unique structure that found a group of marginalized outsiders talking about a variety of subject. However, Slacker finds its characters talking at each other without ever really interacting. In Before Sunrise, both Jesse and Celine give long philosophical monologs that seem to have much in common with Slacker—but these characters are actually connecting. They listen to one another and relate to what the other is saying.

“I was going for a sincere communication. I felt I had bounced around between no communication and an interior monolog communication that arguably doesn’t stick or only communicates to a certain extent, maybe only makes sense later. I think I liked the idea, starting with Before Sunrise, of people who were trying to connect. It was about being understood…” –Richard Linklater (Film Comment, July/August 2006)

It is evident while watching the film that Jesse and Celine understand one another—even as they might disagree. Their conversation is the basis of their romance, and this might be why the film resonates with audiences. The film opens with a chance encounter between two solitary young strangers. After they hit it off on a train bound for Vienna, the Paris university student Celine and the scrappy American tourist Jesse impulsively decide to spend a day together before he returns to the U.S. the next morning. As the pair roam the streets of the stately city, Linklater’s tenderly observant gaze captures the uncertainty and intoxication of young love, from the first awkward stirrings of attraction to the hopeful promise that Celine and Jesse make upon their inevitable parting.

It is a scenario that was actually inspired by a formative experience that Richard Linklater shared with a woman named Amy Lehrhaupt in 1989 (after shooting Slacker). As a matter of fact, Before Midnight was even dedicated to this woman.

“The whole plot for Before Sunrise was inspired by a woman I met in Philadelphia. I was just hanging out with my sister—who used to live near Rittenhouse Square—and I met this woman at a toy store. I just got to talking to her and then we went out later and hung out the whole night. We walked around downtown from midnight until six in the morning. It was our own nooks-and-crannies tour of Philadelphia. But all the time I was thinking, `There’s a movie here.'” –Richard Linklater (The Morning Call, May 10, 1997)

Unlike Jesse and Céline, Richard and Amy actually exchanged phone numbers—but the different dynamic of their telephone conversations formed an invisible barrier between them.

“It sort of did the fizzle… So in the first movie that was a thing, the idea that they would intellectually kind of get beyond that and say ‘Well, we’re on different continents. What are the odds that it’s gonna work? Let’s just commit to this night.’” –Richard Linklater (Slate, May 30, 2013)

Linklater later learned that she had died tragically before the film even entered production.

“I just found out a couple years ago that she had died young, in a motorcycle accident. I didn’t know… She wasn’t even alive when we shot in Vienna. She died that Mother’s Day weekend. It’s just so sad.” –Richard Linklater (Moviefone, April 23, 2013)

A script had already been written by Richard Linklater and Kim Krizan before Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke was signed to the film, but it was reworked after they came onto the project.

“I’m very interested in the reality of these actors on the screen, so I know you can’t just say lines that are written by someone else. The script, the text, has to work its way through the person, and so by having Julie and Ethan kind of work with me in rewriting that script, and personalizing it and demanding they give a lot of themselves, I thought that was the only way that film could ultimately work the way I wanted it to. The script was really [the] first step, but for it to give the effect that I wanted, I was looking for the two most creative young actors to fill those shoes, because I knew what would be asked of them.” –Richard Linklater (NPR, May 30, 2013)

This collaborative process between Linklater, Hawke, and Delpy would extend to the film’s two sequels and this is probably what sets these three films apart from other films. There is a sincerity inherent in the trilogy’s very design that most films could never hope to emulate—and this is a direct result of the collaborative nature of these works. The director and actors have each poured part of themselves into these projects, and their passion and sincerity can be felt in every frame.

Before Sunset Cover

BEFORE SUNSET – Spine #858

“We made the first film and no one ever asked ‘is there going to be another film?’ That was not a logical question. When we were making the second film in Paris, every day we looked at one another and asked ‘how are we getting to do this? This is amazing!’ We’re getting to make this very personal film that no one really even cares about except for three people, and you’re in a good spot if you can ever be making a film like that.” –Richard Linklater (We Got This Covered, 2013)

Before Sunset wasn’t expected and raised a few eyebrows upon its release. Before Sunrise was certainly successful, but it wasn’t the sort of success that demanded a follow-up. Perhaps this is the reason why the film actually works. In the words of Richard Linklater, “Jesse and Céline kind of reared their heads and had something to say.” The film wasn’t made to exploit the first film’s success or to make a lot of money. As a matter of fact, Linklater went forward with the project with a healthy dose of anxiety and doubt about its potential.

“Fear is a real obvious emotion. Leave it alone. Yeah, I know. That was the temptation, I think that’s why it took so long. I’m not going to say the first film’s perfect or anything, but to us, it was really special. So you realize, ‘Oh, you could not only screw that up, you’d screw up the film you’re working on, but [also] screw up the first one.’ But, you know, it’s good. If you’re afraid of something and still compelled to do it, in the arts at least, you should probably still do it.” –Richard Linklater (IGN, July 01, 2004)

Before Sunset again benefits from Linklater’s collaboration with Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, but this project allowed the two actors to work with Linklater on the film’s original script instead of altering an already prepared script as they did on Before Sunrise.

“The three of us wrote it. We all [put the pen to paper]. First, we talked about it for years, and then we took a lot of thought and building there, and then we sat down, the three of us in a room, for like three or four days, and worked on a very, very specific outline. I mean, the beginning, the end, what happens in every scene, all the emotional beats. It was very worked out. And then we kind of went our separate ways for almost a year. Julie would send 20 pages, Ethan would send monologs. I was re-writing and writing stuff. It was all on my laptop ultimately. If you did a word count, they would probably exceed me. At some point, we didn’t, if one of us had an idea we were trying to squeeze in the movie and the other two didn’t want to do it, or didn’t understand it or didn’t get traction in it, then it disappeared.” –Richard Linklater (IGN, July 01, 2004)

This method obviously worked for them, because Before Sunset is actually superior to the original film. The story follows Celine as she tracks down Jesse at the tail end of a book tour in Paris, with only a few hours left before his flight back home to the States. Their chemistry is rekindled by increasingly candid exchanges about professional setbacks, marital disappointments, and the compromises of adulthood. Impelled by an urgent sense of the transience of human connection, Before Sunset remains Linklater’s most seductive experiment with time’s inexorable passage and the way love can seem to stop it in its tracks. The entire film has a nuanced sense of urgency and desperation as we find that both characters are less than content with the current state of their lives. Experience has made both characters more interesting, and there is much more for each character to lose (and gain) by being together.

Before Midnight Cover

BEFORE MIDNIGHT – Spine #859

“We didn’t know if we were making a mistake there or not, but we were just compelled to do it. We created these characters, Jessie and Celine, they seemed to be living this parallel life with us but the fact that we did a second film and the way it ended, that ending kind of begs the question. So the three of us, everywhere we’ve gone in the last nine years it’s always that last question on the interview. ‘Oh, one more, do you think Jessie and Celine will ever get together?’ It’s a question that we all lived with. No one wanted the second film or asked about it really. But this one they wanted.” –Richard Linklater (SBS, June 12, 2013)

This bittersweet third entry in Linklater’s Before Trilogy finds Celine and Jesse several years into a relationship and in the midst of a sun-dappled Greek retreat with their twin daughters and a group of friends. The couple soon finds their vacation upended, however, by the aggravations of committed monogamy, which have long since supplanted the initial jolt of their mutual seduction. Marked by the emotional depth, piercing wit, and conversational exuberance that Linklater and his actors had honed over two decades of abiding with these characters, Before Midnight, grapples with the complexities of long-term intimacy and asks what becomes of love when it no longer has recourse to past illusions. There are moments when the film feels like an Edward Albee play, but these darker elements never feel at odds with the earlier films in the series.

“It’s harder to express something interesting and cinematic about being 41. And that territory that we were getting into was just a deeper, touchier subject matter that didn’t lend itself to what the other two films had, which was this kind of connection. This wasn’t about that; it was something else.” –Richard Linklater (The Star, June 06, 2013)

Jesse and Celine spend the majority of the film trying to avoid the ultimate confrontation that serves as the film’s climax—or perhaps they are merely attempting to prolong the inevitable.

“The whole movie builds to that moment. That fight’s been coming the whole movie, and, probably, for nine years. If you really go back, the fault line in their relationship leads to that. But I always call it the ‘hotel-room scene,’ because it doesn’t start off a fight. It’s quite the opposite; it starts off as a love scene, a sex scene. And the pace of the fight was very important. You know, people don’t just start to fight. They try not to fight. They try to resolve it. But they both want to be heard. Jesse and Celine are two master manipulators, and I often make the analogy that they’re two prizefighters; they’re very evenly matched. Slightly different styles, but ultimately, they’re gonna go all 15 rounds. So many times that fight could have ended—if one person would just eat a little crow and end it. But they have to keep going. They have to say one more thing. That’s the difference between courting someone and spending the rest of your life with someone. You can dig in on a subject that’s bugging you, and it can escalate into a fight, or you have to negotiate that space that you’re occupying together. That’s the challenge, and that’s what the movie [is] really about.” –Richard Linklater (Slant Magazine, May 22, 2013)

Before Midnight is the strongest entry in the series—not despite the film’s darker tone but because of it. It is ultimately very rewarding to discover that each film in the trilogy is better and more nuanced than the last. What’s more, the films seem to enrich one another other in a very honest and organic manner. This might be the best character-based trilogy ever produced.

Art

The Presentation:

5 of 5 Stars

The Criterion Collection includes three different Digi-packs for each of the three films in the trilogy, and each film is given its own respective artwork that is simple but attractive. These Digi-packs are held in a sturdy box with its own artwork. An attractive booklet with an essay about the trilogy by Dennis Lim is also included and can be placed in the Digi-pack for Before Sunrise (the first film in the series). This essay is entitled “Time Regained” and it is an interesting read. The overall effect isn’t unlike the films themselves as the package appears to be quite simple and modestly designed, but the combined effect is surprisingly beautiful.

Menus

The menus for the three discs utilize footage from their respective film with music and sound clips from that particular film. Most will agree that all three of them are simple but attractive.

SS01

Picture Quality:

BEFORE SUNRISE & BEFORE SUNSET

4.5 of 5 Stars

According to the included booklet, the transfer of Before Sunrise and was “created from 35mm interpositives and scanned in 2K resolution on a Lasergraphics Director film scanner. Thousands of instances of dirt and debris were manually removed using MTI Film’s DRS, while Digital Vision’s Phoenix was used for small dirt, grain, and noise management.” Criterion makes the most out of their painstaking work by utilizing a maxed out bitrate and the results are impressive. This is especially true of the daytime exteriors which exhibit a respectable level of clarity and a reasonable level of sharpness. There are no unsightly DNA issues and there is a healthy level of grain that remains stable throughout the duration of both features.

There is a significant increase in visual information at the left and right edges of the frame when one compares the transfer to the previous DVD releases. The level of fine detail is also dramatically increased, and the look of the nighttime scenes in Before Sunrise are dramatically improved upon.  There is no noticeable dirt or film damage to distract the viewer either. Density is improved as well and colors are well rendered and stable (although there might be some slight fluctuation that never becomes distracting). These are solid representations of the original film elements and the shortcomings of this transfer merely reflect those inherent in the source materials.

BEFORE MIDNIGHT

5 of 5 Stars

Criterion’s booklet tells us that Before Midnight was “shot in 2K resolution on an Arri Alexa camera.” Criterion’s transfer looks to be sourced from the same elements that was used for Sony’s 2013 Blu-ray release (which was apparently supervised by Richard Linklater). Frankly, every aspect of that disc was incredibly satisfying and it is nice to see that Criterion represents it here with an even higher bitrate. Clarity is outstanding and the image looks great in motion. Fine detail is remarkable as well and the image displays strong depth. The picture is stable and has a crispness that should please fans of the trilogy (even those of us who miss the more organic look of the film). If the transfer has a weak point, it is the shifting shadow detail. However, few are likely to notice of be bothered by this as it isn’t at all distracting. This is simply a result of the production elements and should not be blamed on Criterion.

SS02

Sound Quality:

5 of 5 Stars

While Before Sunrise (2.0 English DTS-HD Master Audio) and Before Sunset (5.1 English DTS-HD Master Audio) are sourced from their original 35mm magnetic tracks and were cleaned of any anomalies such as hiss, hum, crackle, and etcetera, the audio for Before Midnight (5.1 English DTS-HD Master Audio) was recorded digitally and mastered from the original audio master files using Pro Tools HD. Despite the discrepancies in the nature of their sources, each track seems to accurately represent the respective film in the matter that Linklater intended without any technical issues to mar one’s listening enjoyment.

SS03

Special Features:

5 of 5 Stars

Criterion has spread nearly four and a half hours of supplemental features across the three discs (and this doesn’t even take into account the commentary track provided for Before Midnight).

Before Sunrise Title

DISC 1: BEFORE SUNRISE

The Space In Between – (43:39)

The highlight of the first disc is without a doubt this discussion between Richard Linklater, Ethan Hawke, and Julie Delpy. The conversation is moderated by Kent Jones, who does an excellent job of focusing the conversation while remaining invisible. When Kent contributes to the conversation, it is always interesting and pertinent to the conversation. The conversation was recorded in New York in 2016, with Julie Delpy participating via satellite from Los Angeles. Linklater discusses the encounter with Amy Lehrhaupt that planted the seed for the original film, and they all discuss the collaborative nature of the three films in an extremely relaxed and informal manner. These 44 minutes simply fly by in what seems like an instant. Time is, after all, relative.

3×2 – (39:49)

Dave Johnson (author of Richard Linklater: Contemporary Film Directors) and Rob Stone (author of The Cinema of Richard Linklater: Walk, Don’t Run) have a contagious enthusiasm for their subject that carries the viewer through this scholarly discussion about the three Before films. Even those who disagree with some (or most) of their theoretical insights are bound to find a newfound appreciation for Linklater’s work.

Behind-the-Scenes Footage – (05:57)

While the brief glimpses of “behind the scenes” footage is nice to see, this is really just EPK material built from on location interview footage of Richard Linklater, Ethan Hawke, and Julie Delpy delivering the typical general navel-gazing statements about the film. It’s nice to have this included here, but it isn’t particularly insightful or entertaining.

Before Sunset Title

DISK 2: BEFORE SUNSET

Richard Linklater: Dream Is Destiny – (01:29:52)

What a gift this is for anyone who appreciates Richard Linklater’s cinema! It can be said without any reservations that this feature length documentary about Linklater’s career (up to this point) is the star attraction of this set’s supplemental package. The film was directed by Louis Black and Karen Bernstein as part of the PBS series American Masters. New exclusive interviews with Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke, Sandra Adair, Matthew McConaughey, Jack Black, Chuck Linklater (Linklater’s Father), Tricia Linklater (Linklater’s Sister), and a number of other participants mingle with archival interviews and footage to paint a more interesting portrait of the director than one expects from such programs. Especially interesting is a glimpse into some of Linklater’s journals, writings, and even financial logs. Less interesting is input from other filmmakers such as Kevin Smith—but this may be due to my innate dislike of this particular filmmaker.

Linklater // On Cinema & Time – (08:28)

This video essay by :: kogonada is certain to divide viewers as to its value. It is certainly enjoyable as a kind of tonal montage of visuals and sound with Linklater’s use of time as its main concern. A telephone interview with Linklater serves as the guiding vehicle, but at no point does it feel as if this essay is intended to inform the viewer or propose any theoretical rhetoric. This telephone audio plays over footage from various Linklater films and other cinema classics from around the globe. Examples include Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo, Carl Theodor Dreyer’s The Passion of Joan of Arc, Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane, François Truffaut’s The 400 Blows (as well as other films in the Antoine Doinel cycle), and several others (we remember spotting some Godard and Ozu thrown in for good measure). The fact that Linklater’s voice has been filtered through the telephone adds to the aesthetic in interesting ways. It works as a celebration of Linklater’s special brand of cinema, but it is bound to disappoint anyone hoping for a scholarly examination of this particular theme.

Behind-the-Scenes Footage – (09:44)

This “behind the scenes” featurette is essentially EPK material, but it does provide more sustenance for information hungry cinephiles than the one provided for the first film. Here, we see glimpses of the cast and crew working behind the scenes mingled with the standard publicity interviews, but these interviews actually manage to be genuinely interesting. This shouldn’t imply that they delve any deeper than is usual, but they do manage to hide the fact that their commentary never really reveals anything terribly worthwhile.

Before Midnight Title

DISK 3: BEFORE MIDNIGHT

Commentary with Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy, and Ethan Hawke

This 2013 commentary track was recorded for the Sony Pictures Classics Blu-ray release of Before Midnight—and it was the disc’s most significant supplement. Criterion has wisely carried it over to their release, and fans will agree that it was well worth their effort. The relaxed conversational nature of the conversation makes the information related therein more digestible (despite the fact that much of what we learn here is related elsewhere on the disc). The strength of the track lies in its ability to zero in on specific scenes and details in the film.

After Before – (30:41)

Athina Rachel Tsangari’s After Before is the set’s second best supplement (after Richard Linklater: Dream Is Destiny) as it provides viewers with a fly-on-the-wall glimpse of the actors as Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy, and Ethan Hawke develop their scenes. It really is an invaluable documentary despite its relatively brief duration. One can listen endlessly as these collaborators discuss their creative approach to the three films in this set, but to actually see this work in action is much more revelatory. The “behind the scenes” production footage also adds to the experience. As a side note, Linklater seems to have suffered some sort of foot injury, and one wonders what might have happened to him to cause such an injury.

Love Darkens and Deepens – (39:37)

This lengthy radio interview is actually an episode of a Philadelphia-based radio program known as Fresh Air with host Terry Gross. It is presented with a single still image and so is basically an audio-only presentation. However, it manages to be extremely entertaining and somewhat informative (even if certain information revealed here was discussed in other features in this same set). Richard Linklater, Ethan Hawke, and Julie Delpy are all on hand to discuss the trilogy, but the conversation really zeros in on Before Midnight more than either of the other two films.

SS04

Final Words:

This is an essential release for Linklater fans! The Before Trilogy is required viewing for serious cinephiles and Criterion has finally given them the Blu-ray release that they deserve.

Review by: Devon Powell

blu-ray-coverSpine #843

Distributor: Criterion Collection (USA)

Release Date: November 15, 2016

Region: Region A

Length: 01:35:19

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio: 5.1 English DTS-HD Master Audio

Subtitles: English (SDH)

Ratio: 2.39:1

Bitrate: 34.77 Mbps

Notes: A DVD edition of this title is also available from Criterion, and is also available in various DVD editions from Sony Pictures Classics. This new edition from Criterion is superior to these earlier releases. 

title

“I wasn’t writing the script and then thought of Adam [Sandler]. I actually wanted to write a movie for Adam—something I thought he would have fun doing.” –Paul Thomas Anderson (BBC, February 07, 2003)

Punch-Drunk Love isn’t an Adam Sandler film. It is a Paul Thomas Anderson film that subverts the Sandler persona while humanizing it. Let us take a very quick look at three prototypical Sandler vehicles:

In Happy Gilmore (1996), the titular character is a wannabe hockey player forced into professional golf in an effort to buy his grandmother’s house when it is repossessed. Happy is given to violent outbursts of rage when the game isn’t going his way.

The Wedding Singer (1998) finds Robbie Hart jilted at the altar, and this sends him spiraling into a breakdown. His repressed rage and self-loathing surfaces while performing at a wedding. While giving a self-pitying speech, he explodes into a tantrum, insults the guests, and even threatens to strangle someone with his microphone wire.

The Waterboy (1998) details the rise of a mentally challenged water boy named Bobby Boucher who discovers that his violent bouts of rage give him the edge on the football field when properly channeled.

angry-adam

Angry Adam: Happy Gilmore, The Wedding Singer, and The Waterboy.

These are only three examples, but Sandler’s career has been built on portraying similar characters. All are basically decent and kind hearted underdogs who are prone to emotional outbursts of violent rage, and Paul Thomas Anderson was obviously aware of this pattern. In Punch-Drunk Love, Barry Egan is a lonely man suffering from social anxiety and a lifetime of small emotional wounds that have accumulated over time. His suppressed emotions manifest themselves in—you guessed it—fits of destructive rage. However, this isn’t played in broad comic strokes for cheap laughs. It is all too clear that these problems are keeping Barry from happiness. There is a poignancy to Barry’s outbursts, and his loneliness is palpable.

However, Anderson isn’t finished yet. He understands that by giving his audience a laundry list of unexplained but interesting details about Barry, he is simultaneously raising twice as many questions. Characters can give a story a remarkably strong drive when a storyteller is skilled, and the creator of Punch-Drunk Love is one of cinema’s best contemporary filmmakers.

Why, for instance, is Barry so eager to take advantage of a promotion that offers a ridiculous number of frequent flyer miles? Barry’s obsessive drive to accumulate as much pudding as he possibly can so that he can earn frequent flyer miles is confounding to an audience because it is established that he doesn’t even travel. Interestingly, this particular element was inspired by a true story.

“There is an engineer in California, who in fact bought $12,000 of pudding to get these frequent flyer miles.  But it went even further: There was a promotion of seven or eight South American airline companies that wanted to advertise their flights between North- and South America.  If you would fly on these airlines within a specific timeframe, they would promise you one million frequent flyer miles.  This guy really did it.  He was in twelve countries in four days.  He now had something like five million frequent flyer miles.  But I have no idea if he had violent outbursts, or what kinds of suits he wore.” –Paul Thomas Anderson (Spiegel, April 13th, 2003)

Anderson’s mention of suits at the end of this quote alludes to the bright blue suit worn by Barry throughout the film. It is yet another interesting but unexplained detail that sets the character apart from everyone else. More interesting than the suit, however, is his interest in an old harmonium that has been left on the side of the road. Barry might feel compelled to rescue the harmonium because it is unwanted and abandoned. It seems reasonable to conclude that Barry might see the harmonium as a sort of symbol for himself. He certainly feels driven to rescue it and he has a mystifying fascination with the instrument (as does the audience).

Roadside Harmonium.jpg

The lonely man meets the unwanted harmonium.

Even hints at Barry’s backstory seem to raise as many questions about our misfit hero as are answered. It is more than apparent that he is an outsider in his own family, and his sisters obviously look down on him. Their reminders of painful moments merge with insult in the guise of incidental small talk: “Remember when we used to call you gay boy and you’d get all mad?” Such small talk is common in families, but they betray an unpleasant past in which Barry has been made to feel separate from those closest to him. Furthermore, it is clear that this alienation has followed him into adulthood. He doesn’t engage with others.

 Of course, he wants and needs to feel a connection with someone, and this basic human need motivates him to call a phone sex hotline. As this initially awkward phone conversation progresses, anyone with misguided notions that they are watching a stereotypical romantic comedy will probably assume that a romantic relationship will form with this phone sex operator. Unfortunately for Barry Egan, this is nothing like a stereotypical romantic comedy. In fact, she calls him the next morning in an effort to blackmail him for money.

The film’s romance is instead launched soon after this when one of his sisters introduces him to the lovely Lena (Emily Watson). Lina seems to offer him hope for happiness—but only if he can overcome his own anxieties and put an end to the chaos in his life. It should be mentioned that the aforementioned harmonium comes into play again here, because—whatever it represents to Barry—it seems to symbolize equilibrium (or “harmony”) in the film context of the overall film. Barry needs to find balance and peace of mind in order for his relationship with Lena to be successful. This has been written about elsewhere, most notably in Cubie King’s essay, “Punch Drunk Love: The Budding of an Auteur.”

 “The root word of harmonium is harmony. The harmonium, like Lena, appears suddenly in Barry’s life; when things are going poorly for Barry, the harmonium is somehow mysteriously ripped, and like his new relationship Barry must learn to find its harmony… After returning from Utah, Barry grabs the harmonium and physically brings it to Lena’s apartment door, thus combining the two elements that bring him joy. It is as if Barry has suddenly recognized their connection, a surreal moment…

…In the final shot of the film the puzzle is solved. Barry plays the exact notes from Jon Brion’s score for Punch-Drunk Love, playing the harmonium almost concurrently with the music that plays over the scene. The diegetic and non-diegetic music playing together is a moment of cinematic harmony; Barry, Lena, and the harmonium are now in sync.” –Cubie King (Senses of Cinema, April 2005)

bleeding-love

Barry Egan and his harmonium.

There is plenty of visual support for this theory, as the harmonium is often seen placed in the background between Barry and Lina in Anderson’s miseen-scène. His use of composition and color is actually of paramount importance to one’s reading of Punch-Drunk Love, and his color scheme was discussed at length in King’s essay.

“Anderson also uses colors as key indicators of Barry’s psychological battle; blue, red and white being the most prominent. Blue is largely seen in Barry’s workplace and home; it is also the color of Barry’s suit that he curiously begins wearing the day the film begins. Barry is literally blue throughout most of the film…

Red serves as the color that leads to Barry’s happiness. Very precise red objects throughout the film visually direct Barry out of his damaged life (or psyche) and point him in the direction of escape and/or change. Take for instance the first scene in the supermarket. Barry walks down an aisle whispering to himself, ‘What am I looking for?’ As he utters this, in the far background, a woman in a red dress is visible. When Barry turns his head and notices her watching him she quickly walks off. This woman could be seen as Lena, but more importantly a manifestation of the ‘idea’ of Lena, what Barry is actually ‘looking for.’ Because the woman is never identified, the color red becomes the most important aspect of the sequence. Anderson answers Barry’s “What am I looking for?” visually (there is no motivation otherwise to explain this), thus showing us tangible elements of Barry’s subconscious in an environment which we assume is entirely real.

The usage of the color red goes well beyond Lena’s dress (which she wears in all but a few scenes)—a red arrow can be spotted pointing the way to escape from the four blonde brothers, [and] in the supermarket a red arrow points in the direction of where Barry will find the pudding (the pudding offers a way out for Barry)…

…White, on the other hand, takes on a much more sophisticated role. White is the color that coats many of the barren rooms throughout the film. If red works towards Barry’s mirth [sic], then white works in the opposite, as his oppressor. Throughout the film, Barry travels through all white environments that are sparse, isolated, nondescript, and cold. Instances such as Barry’s workplace resembling a large white box, or scenes of Barry running like a trapped mouse through white mazes while attempting to escape the blonde brothers, or finding Lena’s apartment door, demonstrate its recurring influence. White is also the color of the oppressive blown-out light which floods in and suffocates Barry from the outside world, thus emphasizing a greater suppression Barry feels in all his environments. This suppression correlates to the film’s many compositions that imprison Barry within the frame.” –Cubie King (Senses of Cinema, April 2005)

It is interesting that King fails to mention that the harmonium was dropped at the side of the road by someone in a red taxi because this detail would support the theories about color and those about the harmonium. However, it isn’t necessarily important to overanalyze what these colors represent. If the meaning cannot be articulated or explained intellectually, they can certainly be absorbed and felt by the viewer emotionally—which is actually better. After all, this is what the cinema does best.

It would certainly be difficult to explain the meaning behind the unusual transitions in the film, which utilize Jeremy Blake’s tailor-made artwork.

“I had written that there would be some kind of color—bursts of color. I didn’t know what it was exactly. I didn’t know. After we finished shooting the first chunk of the movie, we actually ended up shooting two chunks, and after the first chunk was shot I saw [Jeremy Blake’s] work at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and called him up and he came to Los Angeles and had him in our studio. We had this great studio where we set everything up. He saw the movie. All I had done was put red, white, blue and green flashes as placeholders for him. We talked for a while and he did ten or fifteen different pieces a day and it was just sort of a great thing. I ended up with a lot more than I thought I would get.” –Paul Thomas Anderson (BAM Q&A, June 23, 2013)

 That Anderson had intended such transitions from the beginning says something about the importance of these transitions, which has an enormous effect on the viewer’s experience. It creates a kind of euphoric dizziness that can again be felt but never articulated. Some of the best films of all time feel as if they are dreams that have been put onto celluloid, and Punch-Drunk Love can certainly be added to the list of these films.

 Those who expect the film to be a pessimistic study of human relationships will be pleasantly surprised. Barry’s character is certainly alienated and rather disturbed, but the universe seems to be doing everything in its power to help Barry. The harmonium seems to have been left for him to find it, he seems to be magically led to the pudding isle, and he is introduced to Lena despite his own objections. Barry might not think that he is worth loving, but the universe doesn’t agree. What could be more positive than that? This is one of Anderson’s only “feel good” efforts, and it is worth seeing for this reason alone.

SS01.jpg

The Presentation:

4 of 5 Stars

The Blu-ray disc is housed in the clear case that has become the standard for The Criterion Collection. While Criterion is known for their brilliant tailor-made cover designs, Dustin Stanton’s cover for Punch-Drunk Love is somewhat disappointing. It utilizes a still from the film that reminds one of the covers found on run-of-the-mill Blu-ray releases. Wouldn’t it be more sophisticated if they were to utilize some of Jeremy Blake’s wonderful artwork for the film—or even the film’s original one-sheet design? This is a minor complaint, and one doubts if most people will be terribly disappointed with the presentation as it stands. It is simply disappointing when one compares the artwork to some of Criterion’s other releases. As is their habit, Criterion also includes a fold-out pamphlet featuring an admiring essay by Miranda July.

The disc’s menu showcases the harmonium that features largely in the film coupled with Jon Brion’s unusual score. The result is elegant in its simplicity.

SS02.jpg

Picture Quality:

4.5 of 5 Stars 

Criterion’s 1080p transfer of Punch-Drunk Love almost makes up for the fact that PTA fans had to wait such a ridiculously long time to own the film on Blu-ray. As always, the film’s transfer is discussed in the leaflet provided in the disc’s case:

Punch-Drunk Love is presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.39:1. Black bars at the top and bottom of the screen are normal for this format. Supervised by Paul Thomas Anderson, this high-definition digital transfer was created from a 35mm interpositive.” –Liner Notes

The result is an image vastly superior to the film’s original Super-bit DVD transfer. It probably goes without saying that Detail, depth, and clarity are all substantially improved upon as the image reveals textures that were never before evident while viewing the film on home video. Colors also show substantial improvement, which is good news considering the film’s creative use of vibrant color. Perhaps the biggest improvement over the Super-bit DVD release is that there are none of the ugly and distracting compression anomalies that marred the earlier release.

It is probably possible to complain about a few moments of minor noise and muddy shadowy areas of the frame, but one wonders if these problems might be related to the actual production photography. Franky, blacks are—for the most part—extremely well handled here. There might also be a few quick moments of mild ringing, but this too seems to be a production related issue and not the fault of this excellent transfer. As is usually the case, Criterion has cleaned quite a bit if dirt and other anomalies from their scan of the film leaving fans with an immaculate image. It is easy to understand why Anderson improved this wonderful transfer.

SS03.jpg

Sound Quality:

5 of 5 Stars

Criterion’s 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio—which was re-mastered from the 35mm magnetic track—is as close to perfect as any reasonable listener could possibly expect. Jon Brion’s score, sound effects, and dialogue are all masterfully mixed into what stands as a surprisingly effective sonic experience—especially for a film of its kind. It goes without saying that Anderson makes good use of sound design in his films, and Punch-Drunk Love isn’t an exception.

This is truly a surprisingly dynamic mix that finds Brion’s score dramatically crossing across all five speakers. The directional mix also gives weight to some of Barry’s more chaotic scenes—where his head seems to be going in all directions. It really elevates the entire experience in interesting ways. It has the effect of placing the viewer in Barry’s mind. It’s brilliant work! An entire book could be written about the film’s sound design.

ss04

Special Features:

4.5 of 5 Stars

Criterion carries over Sony’s previous DVD supplements over for the film’s Blu-ray debut while adding quite a few new features for fans to enjoy. The materials carried over from Sony’s previous DVD edition are simply presented in up-scaled standard definition, but most of Criterion’s new video features are in true high definition. One wishes that the deleted scenes could have received a new high definition transfer for this release, but one shouldn’t complain about such trifles.

Deleted Scenes:

The Sisters Call – (07:18)

It is interesting to compare this sequence with the abbreviated version that is included in the film. While this series of telephone calls is amusing and interesting, Anderson made the correct decision when he simplified things. The phone conversations in the finished film have more pathos. Less is sometimes more.

“Are You from California” – (02:23)

This interaction between Barry and the goons sent to intimidate him wouldn’t have added anything interesting to the film, but it is instructive to see what was cut from the finished picture.

Blossoms & Blood – (11:58)

Blossoms & Blood is simply a 12-minute assemblage of various deleted and alternate scenes that have been woven together with Jeremy Blake’s art and Jon Brion’s music. Since deleted scenes are amongst the most useful and interesting of all supplemental features, it is wonderful to see this carried over from Sony’s original 2-Disc DVD release.

Mattress Man Commercial – (00:52)

This humorous short spoof on those ridiculously low budget regional commercials that are a staple of late night cable. Actually, it is an almost verbatim reenactment of an actual commercial outtake from the 1980s! (The real commercial is available on Youtube.) It isn’t clear whether this spoof was shot specifically for Punch Drunk Love and deleted from the final cut of the film or if it was merely intended as a fun promotional artifact. Either way, it is a rather amusing addition to the disc. Fans should be pleased to see this carried over from Sony’s original 2-Disc DVD edition of the film.

Cannes Film Festival, 2002: Press Conference – (37:43)

This lengthy panel discussion featuring Paul Thomas Anderson, Adam Sandler, Emily Watson, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and JoAnne Sellar is only limited by the sometimes ridiculous questions asked during its duration. At its best, this is an informative discussion about the film and its production. At its worst, it is an amusing glimpse of the aforementioned panelists as they try to answer questions that are either unclear or unbelievably pretentious. Since it entertains when it doesn’t enlighten, fans should agree that its inclusion adds quite a bit of value to the disc.

Cannes Film Festival, 2002: Studio Interviews – (07:02)

This “live” television interview with Paul Thomas Anderson, Adam Sandler, Emily Watson, and Philip Seymour Hoffman is both interesting and entertaining without ever offering much in the way of revelatory information. It is one of those surface level group interviews where all participants praise the work and collaborative efforts of all other participants as they generally discuss the film without ever revealing anything about it. However, it is certainly an amusing way to spend seven minutes and it is nice to have it included in the supplemental package.

Jon Brion on Punch Drunk Love – (27:19)

Many fans will undoubtedly consider this incredibly informative interview with Jon Brion to be the standout amongst the new Criterion offerings available on the disc. Brion is simultaneously engaging and comprehensive in this discussion about his collaboration with Paul Thomas Anderson. He discusses their work together in a manner that even viewers who are completely ignorant about music and sound production should be able to understand. Better yet, the information revealed enhances the viewer’s understanding and appreciation of the film itself.

Jon Brion’s Recording Session – (09:56)

Those interested in film scores will find this “home video” footage taken from behind the scenes of Brion’s recording sessions of the Punch Drunk Love score especially interesting. It is a fly-on-the-wall glimpse of Brion and his orchestra at work without any additional commentary to give the footage context. This lack of context may frustrate certain viewers, but most will welcome it as a rare glimpse behind the curtain.

Gangitano and Connor: Jeremy Blake’s Artwork – (20:25)

Michael Connor and Lia Gangitano discuss Jeremy Blake’s background, artwork, and work on the film in an impressive amount of detail. The viewer is also shown a liberal amount of Blake’s art throughout the conversation, which certainly adds value to the program. Unfortunately, their dry shop-talk tends to be slightly less than completely digestible for the average viewer and there isn’t nearly enough information or analysis about Blake’s work on Punch Drunk Love—which should really be priority one. It is certainly a valuable addition to the disc, but most will probably see it as a missed opportunity.

Katie Couric Interview with David Phillips – (05:04)

This interview with Katie Couric and David Phillips was probably aired as part of NBC’s Today show in 2000. David Phillips (aka “the pudding guy”) is interviewed about his efforts to collect frequent flyer miles by purchasing an enormous quantity of “Healthy Choice” products—most notably pudding. Paul Thomas Anderson used Phillips’ unusual mission as the starting point for Sandler’s character in Punch Drunk Love.

Additional Artwork by Jeremy Blake – (02:42)

This is essentially a gallery of additional artwork that was completed by Jeremy Blake for the film presented in slideshow form and set a Hawaiian-flavored song by Annie Kerr entitled “I’ve Gone Native Now.”

Twelve Scopitones – (06:20)

To call these short segments “Scopitones” seems misleading. They are merely very short clips edited from Jeremy Blake’s artwork and footage shot for the film.

Trailers:

Standard Theatrical Trailer(02:27)

The standard theatrical trailer isn’t much different than most other trailers, but the quirky nature of Anderson’s under-appreciated gem shines through here.

Jeremy’s Blake’s Love – (01:24)

Jeremy Blake’s artwork is utilized prominently here until it finally bleeds into live action footage of Barry and Lena. It is a nice little teaser that must have raised a lot of questions about the film upon its initial release.

Eat Tomorrow – (00:33)

This teaser seems to have been made for French audiences. It is a nice little advertisement that captures the tonal flavor of the film, but it is the least effective of the three trailers included here. One wonders if this wasn’t actually a foreign television spot for the film.

SS05.jpg

Final Words:

Punch-Drunk Love lives up to Paul Thomas Anderson’s reputation for creating brilliant cinema, and Criterion gives the film a solid Blu-ray debut.

SS06

Review by: Devon Powell

blu-ray-cover

Spine #839

Distributor: Criterion Collection (USA)

Release Date: October 11, 2016

Region: Region A

Length: 02:45:27

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio: 5.1 English DTS-HD Master Audio (48kHz, 24-bit)

Subtitles: English (SDH)

Ratio: 1.85:1

Bitrate: 32.99 Mbps

Notes: This title was previously released by Paramount as a Blu-ray/DVD combo and in a standalone DVD edition. This Criterion collection represents a significant upgrade but doesn’t carry over Paramount’s two supplements. A 2 Disc DVD edition of the Criterion Collection is also available.

title

“I had been a dad for about seven or eight years, and I wanted to express something about childhood. You know this now: when you have a kid, it puts you so much in the present tense with their lives, but you can’t help but churn through your own life at that age. It’s such an interesting refraction. So I was thinking a lot about development and childhood. I wanted to do something from a kid’s point of view, but all the ideas that I wanted to express from my own life were so spread out. I couldn’t pick one year, one moment. I was going to maybe write a novel—some little weird, experimental novel. And it hit me, this film idea: What if I filmed a little bit every year and just saw everybody, this family, age? The kids would grow up, the parents would age. In a way, it’s a simple idea, but so damn impractical.” –Richard Linklater (Interview Magazine)

Boyhood isn’t simply a remarkable film; it is a miracle on celluloid. Having recently won the Golden Globe for Best Drama Film, it isn’t terribly surprising that the film received as many as six Academy Award nominations (Best Picture, Best Director – Richard Linklater, Best Original Screenplay – Richard Linklater, Best Supporting Actor – Ethan Hawke, Best Supporting Actress – Patricia Arquette, and Best Film Editing – Sandra Adair). What Richard Linklater has accomplished with this film is nothing short of extraordinary. A few reviewers have noted a similarity with Michael Apted’s series of Up documentaries, but Boyhood is something very different.

The cast of Boyhood had to commit to a film that would take twelve years to complete.

“I called up Patricia [Arquette], who I had only met once, and she jumped aboard. I sat down with Ethan and told him what I was thinking, and he wanted to do it. Then I started casting, looking for kids. Lorelei, my daughter, demanded to have the part. I had the luxury of, every year, just tapping in. I would hang out with her and Ellar, the boy, and just try to pick up where they were at their age, what I felt they could do that year, and then work stories around all that. But pretty soon Lorelei was the sullen teenager who did not want to do it anymore… She’s like the person on the TV series who wants off. ‘Can you kill my character?’ [laughs] I’m like, ‘No. That’s a little too dramatic for this movie.’” –Richard Linklater (Interview Magazine)

Instead of writing a screenplay for his project, Linklater made a detailed outline of the major events that he wanted to occur. A short script was written every year for each individual shoot. This allowed Linklater to incorporate the personality of the actors into the film in an organic manner.

“All the marriages, divorces, moves, big stuff—I knew he’d go to college and I knew the last shot of the movie from the beginning. The photographer thing? I knew by high school he’d be expressing himself. I thought he’d be a writer. Knowing Ellar [Coltrane] himself at that point—he’s living in a music town, his dad is a musician; I thought he might be in a band. I thought I’d be filming band practice. The film would go where he wanted to some degree. That’s not what happened. He ended up with an interest in photography. I thought, ‘Great.’ I like that more. That’s closer to who I was [at that age]. I was taking pictures. I was observational. It was more fitting. That’s a good example of us going in his direction.” –Richard Linklater (Interview with Brian Tallerico)

Of course, there were many logistical headaches involved with a twelve year production model.

“I didn’t know that heading in, but you can’t contract for more than seven years—which is a good thing, especially when working with children. This was all a wing and a prayer. It was a life project that everyone committed to. Certainly, a few people shifted around. But we all make our life commitments—whether it’s to a family or a partner or a career.” –Richard Linklater (A.V. Club)

The cast and crew would shoot for about three days every year during the twelve year period. This might sound easy, but each shoot required a lot of preparation.

“Logistically, things were just off the charts. Crazy… Each time you have to get a crew, you’ve got to rent just for a three-day shoot, you still have to do all of that stuff: Get production insurance, tech-scout, [and] location-scout, cast the additional parts, get the crew together, [and] make deals. So weeks and weeks each year… We had a cast and crew of over 450 people who came through in various capacities for various times. We had a core crew that was there the whole time, with quite a few people who put in nine years or more. And there are probably 10 or 12 [people] who did either 11 or 12 years.” –Richard Linklater (The Dissolve)

This allowed Linklater to edit the film in the same piecemeal fashion that the film was shot. The editing process could then inform what he would shoot the following year.

“We would edit every year, attach it to whatever had gone before and then edit the whole thing again if we had the extra time. Then I could kind of hang out with that for a year, watch it, think about it, how to incorporate my incrementally aging cast, work that into my ideas and—it was just a fine life project. But that gestation time was incredible. Most movies, if you think about it, you put all your thoughts up front, and then you’re shooting, you’re on your toes, you’re making adjustments and dealing with reality, but you’re rendering what you conceived and then you’re editing that. This was in a much different order. I could edit, [and] then think, then I’m writing and shooting and editing again. So it was unlike any film ever.” –Richard Linklater (Indiewire)

It seems incredible that Linklater was able to find financing for such a project, and many studios passed without giving the project any real consideration. Fortunately, the director had worked on previous productions with IFC, and they agreed to finance the project. Their faith in the director has certainly paid off.

Boyhood defies articulate description. It isn’t quite like anything that has preceded it, and yet it seems vaguely familiar. It is difficult to account for the familiarity. Are we somehow reliving something in our own lives through the characters on the screen? The answer to this question is impossible to answer.

Those expecting the typical ‘coming of age’ melodrama might become irritated to some extent. Linklater shows the audience the small moments that make up a life. We are shown the little moments that people cherish in their mind, but that carry little to no importance to anyone besides the person who holds that particular memory. This is the film’s greatest achievement in many ways, because the viewer adopts these moments as he invests in the film. All of these things somehow become personal. We understand these little moments, even if they are different from our own memories. Somehow, we find ourselves adopting these moments (at least for the duration of the film). Perhaps this is due to the dreamlike nature of the film.

One might think that Boyhood would be rather episodic (perhaps with chapter headings that indicate each year). Instead, the film flows without interruption like memories played out in a dream. It is a dream that I plan to have again and again.

SS01.jpg

The Presentation:

5 of 5 Stars

The Blu-ray disc is housed in the clear case that has become the standard for The Criterion Collection. F. Ron Miller’s original artwork is brilliantly conceived and is vastly superior to even the film’s original one sheet artwork—not to mention Paramount’s earlier Blu-ray art which utilized the same photograph as the aforementioned poster. An added bonus is the wonderful illustrated booklet included inside the case with the two Blu-ray discs which features an essay by Jonathan Lethem.

menu

menu-disc-2

The disc’s menus utilize footage from the actual film coupled with a song that featured in the film. I admit to not knowing the title of the song but it should be said that the result is quite pleasant. The passing of time seems to be the menu’s core theme and it is really a very nice little montage of moments that follow Mason’s growth and development.

SS02.jpg

Picture Quality:

4.5 of 5 Stars 

As is their usual practice, the technical details of Boyhood’s transfer is detailed in the booklet provided in the disc’s case:

Boyhood is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1. This new digital transfer was created in 2K resolution on a DFT Scanity film scanner from the original 35mm original camera negative.” –Liner Notes

 The result is quite lovely. The filmmakers were able to maintain the continuity of the image’s texture throughout the twelve year production, and this 1080p AVC MPEG-4 encoded transfer accurately showcases this achievement. The texture of the film’s 35mm photography remains intact without ever becoming inconsistent. Actually—with the exception of the occasional fleeting scratch—there aren’t any problematic blemishes to report. Clarity is always excellent and color is vivid while remaining natural. There are no discernable digital artifacts to distract the viewer either. This seems to be a marginal improvement over Paramount’s transfer, and this is likely due to Criterion’s maxed-out bitrate. In any case, there is certainly no reason to complain with the fine quality of this disc’s image.

SS03.jpg

 Sound Quality:

 4.5 of 5 Stars

Criterion’s lossless 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track doesn’t sound much different than the one that Paramount offered on their 2015 release of the film. This isn’t particularly surprising because that track was quite solid. While the 5.1 mix isn’t likely to give high end speaker systems much of a workout, it does represent the filmmaker’s intentions. Boyhood is an epic drama with a very simple sound design that is appropriate for the film. The mix is made up of the same quaint sounds that viewers hear daily and these sounds are given some subtle separation that never calls attention to itself. Dialogue is heavily favored and is always clear and well-focused.

SS04.jpg

 Special Features:

5 of 5 Stars

Criterion has given Boyhood a rather special 2-Disc release that is packed with interesting supplemental materials. There is well over 5 hours and 38 minutes of enlightening supplemental entertainment included in total (and over 2 hours and 53 minutes if one excludes the commentary track). Some might complain about the absence of the two Paramount supplements, but rest assured that the territory covered by those features is covered here as well and in more detail.

Disc 1:

Feature Length Audio Commentary featuring Richard Linklater (Writer/Director), Cathleen Sutherland (Producer), Sandra Adair (Editor), Rodney Becker (Production Designer), Beth Sepko-Lindsey (Casting Director), Kari Perkins (Costume Designer), Vince Plamo Jr. (First Assistant Director), Marco Perella (Actor – Professor Bill Welbrock), Libby Villari (Actor – Grandma) and Andrew Villarreal (Actor – Randy)

This engaging track was recorded in Austin, Texas in 2015. It would be reasonable to expect any commentary track running nearly three hours to be filled with lengthy silent stretches but the participants fill the time with plenty of information and anecdotes about the film’s unusual production. Some listeners might ament the absence of the principal cast, but these actors have plenty of opportunity to contribute during many of the other supplements provided on the disc. Actually, if the track has a weakness it is that the sheer number of participants might make deciphering who is actually speaking somewhat challenging (although this particular listener didn’t have this issue).

Disc 2:

Twelve Years(1080p) – (49:28)

Essentially a chronicle of the film’s massive 12 year production, this documentary primarily utilizes interviews and fly-on-the-wall production footage taken throughout the 12 year period. The interviews illuminate some of the unique qualities of working on such a project (such as vast changes in the personal lives of those involved). The actors are literally involving with their characters, and this seems to be reflected in the final film. In some ways, it might be said that the production is only discussed here in a rather general manner but the “behind the scenes” footage makes up for whatever one might find lacking otherwise. This certainly isn’t the standard EPK drivel that one might expect. This is well worth the viewer’s time.

Memories of the Present – (1080p) – (57:35)

This discussion featuring Richard Linklater, Patricia Arquette, Ellar Coltrane, and moderated by John Pierson was recorded in Austin, Texas in 2015. It is a fairly standard panel discussion that somewhat resembles the 2014 Cinefamily discussion that graced the earlier Paramount disc. Similar territory is covered here as the participants candidly discuss the twelve year production. At almost an hour in length, the viewer is given all sorts of interesting information. It is wonderful to have this included on the disc and it is an adequate substitute for the aforementioned Paramount supplement (even when one takes into account the absence of Lorelei Linklater and Ethan Hawke).

Always Now – (1080p) – (30:10)

This is a surprisingly engaging conversation between Coltrane and actor Ethan Hawke. The two actors seem to be having a genuine conversation with one another about their time working on such an unusual production. It is a very nice addition to the disc.

Time of Your Life – (1080p) – (12:29)

Time of Your Life is a video essay by critic Michael Koresky about time in Linklater’s films featuring narration by Ellar Coltrane. Cinephiles who enjoy scholarly examination will find this short piece both instructive and engaging. Several of the director’s films are discussed throughout the length of the essay (Slacker, the Before trilogy, Boyhood). In some ways, this might be the most important supplement because it addresses how Boyhood works as a film. Linklater devotees will no doubt be pleased to have it included here.

Through the Years – (23:59)

This much more engaging than one might expect. A collection of production portraits by photographer Matt Lankes is narrated with commentary by Richard Linklater, Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke, Ellar Coltrane, and Cathleen Sutherland. The various commentaries (and some of the photos) were originally published in Boyhood: 12 Years on Film but they somehow elevate the photography.

ss05

Final Words:

Fans of Boyhood have been hoping for this release since shortly after the film hit theaters. As a matter of fact, Richard Linklater promised such a release in an interview with Hypable on early as July 13, 2014. When asked what fans could expect, he spoke enthusiastically:

“We’ve got a ton of behind the scenes stuff. We made this in the era where everyone has a digital camera so we unearthed an interview from year one with Ellar, Lorelai, Patricia and myself. Patricia interviewed me in 2002. I hadn’t seen this since we shot it, Ellar had forgotten quite a bit of it but he got to see himself as a wide-eyed six year old. For people who like the movie, I think there will be a lot of cool little treasures.” –Richard Linklater (Hypable, July 13, 2014)

Of course, a lot of people were disappointed when Paramount released their 2015 Blu-ray. Cinephiles were uncertain if the promised Criterion release would ever see the light of day. Luckily, it has finally surfaced with excellent results. Criterion’s release of Linklater’s critically lauded film is a definite upgrade.

12 Years.jpg

Review by: Devon Powell

hitchcockmaster

blu-ray-cover

Spine #523

Distributor: Criterion Collection (USA)

Release Date: September 06, 2016

Region: Region A

Length: 1:35:19

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio: English Linear PCM Mono Audio (48 kHz, 1152 kbps, 24-bit)

Subtitles: English

Ratio: 1.34:1

Bitrate: 34.98 Mbps

Notes: A DVD edition of this title is also available.

title

“At a neighborhood theater where it was showing the other night, I saw six of our prominent directors and Bing Crosby, Spencer Tracy, Walter Pidgeon and Claudette Colbert in the audience.  You know this is the picture of which Winston Churchill asked to have a special showing.  If you miss it, don’t say.  Marlene Dietrich, Joe Pasternak and Alfred Hitchcock also went to see it.  And Walter Winchell, one of America’s most widely syndicated columnists, described the film as ‘a dazzler.’  The ice it puts on your spine is brand new.” –Hedda Hopper(Los Angeles Times)

Brand new? Perhaps…

View original post 2,097 more words

hitchcockmaster

Blu-ray Cover

Spine #828

Distributor: Criterion Collection (USA)

 Release Date: August 16, 2016

 Region: Region A

Length: 1:54:16

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio: 5.1 Multi-Language (Swedish, English, Italian, and French) DTS-HD Master Audio

Subtitles: English, English SDH

Ratio: 1.78:1

Bitrate: 32.33 Mbps

Notes: This title is also available in a DVD edition

Title

“Some years ago I had a chance meeting with Isabella Rossellini, the daughter of Ingrid Bergman, and she presented me with a most direct proposition: ‘Shall we make a film about Mama?’ I saw this as a most challenging project, and when I later got access to her rich posthumous work – diaries, letters, photographs, amateur movies – my appreciation of Ingrid Bergman as a strong and most determined artist grew even bigger. With Ingrid Bergman: In Her Own Words (Jag är Ingrid) I’ve tried to make a rich and multi-colored portrait of this extraordinary…

View original post 2,293 more words

Spine #63

Carnival of Souls - Blu-ray Cover

Distributor: Criterion Collection (USA

Release Date: July 12, 2016

Region: Region A

Length: 1:18:14

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4 AVC)

Main Audio: English Mono LPCM (48kHz, 1152 kbps, 24-bit)

Subtitles: English SDH

Ratio: 1.37:1

Bitrate: 32.37 Mbps

Notes: This title is also available in a DVD edition from Criterion, and can also available in an unimpressive DVD release from ‘Off Color Films’ (which also includes a dreadful colorized version). It should be mentioned that both of these editions include the famous “Director’s Cut” of the film, which is eight minutes longer than the film’s theatrical release.

TITLE

“It was sunset, and I was driving back to Kansas from California when I first saw Saltair, an abandoned amusement park located at the end of a long causeway into the Great Salt Lake. The lake had receded, and the pavilion, with its strange Moorish towers, stood silhouetted against the red sky. I felt I had been transported into a different time and dimension. I stopped the car and walked out to the pavilion. The hairs stood up on the back of my neck. The stark white of the salt beach, and the dark quiet of the deserted buildings created the weirdest location I had ever seen. When I got back to Kansas I discussed Saltair with my friend, coworker, and writer, John Clifford. We agreed [that] with the Saltair location and others we had scouted locally, we could develop a script for a very eerie feature film.

Well, John wrote the script for Carnival of Souls in three weeks, and our crew spent a week in Salt Lake City filming Saltair, and two weeks in Lawrence Kansas filming the rest of the movie. We were naïve enough to hope for the look of a Bergman film and the feel of a Cocteau. When a preview was shown in Lawrence in the fall of 1961, the audience’s reaction was mixed. The Bergan look and the Cocteau feel were a little too far out for the time and place. That year, Carnival of Souls was shown in shortened form primarily in the south in drive-ins as part of a double bill, and then it went underground.

Making the film had been exciting. Distributing the film had been agonizing… But Carnival of Souls had affected more people during its short run than we thought. Through magazines, books, and television, it has become a cult classic…” –Herk Harvey (Video Introduction)  

Saltair Resort Postcard

This is a vintage postcard that features the Saltair Resort.

Herk Harvey’s description of the film’s strange journey from a low budget passion project to a celebrated cult classic should be encouraging to any future filmmakers who are currently saving their pennies in an effort to make their dreams come true. Carnival of Souls is required viewing for these individuals. However, it also works as an eerie mood piece. Sure, it is a low budget film with many obvious flaws, but there are many people who might argue that these flaws actually add to the surreal nature of the film. Whatever category readers of this review might fall into, it is recommended that everyone see the film once so that they can make an educated decision for themselves (because it could easily go either way).

SS1

The Presentation:

5 of 5 Stars

The Blu-ray disc is housed in the clear case that has become the standard for The Criterion Collection. Edward Kinsella’s original artwork is brilliantly conceived and probably surpasses the film’s original one sheet artwork. An added bonus is the wonderful fold out pamphlet featuring an essay by Kier-La Janisse.

The disc’s menus utilize eerie footage from the actual film coupled with Gene Moore’s organ score.

Menu 1Menu 2Menu 3Menu 4

It is an elegant menu that is quite easy to navigate. All of this makes for an extremely attractive presentation.

SS2.jpg

Picture Quality:

5 of 5 Stars

Criterion has given viewers an outstanding high definition transfer of the film’s original theatrical cut of the film that looks incredibly clean. Their transfer of the 4K restoration of the film is a marvel to behold. As always, the film’s restoration was explained in technical detail in the leaflet provided in the disc’s case:

“This new digital transfer was created in 4K resolution on a Scanity film scanner from the 35mm original camera negative. Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices, and warps were manually removed using MTI Film’s DRS, while Digital Vision’s Phoenix was used for small dirt, jitter, and flicker.” –Liner Notes

The resulting image is incredibly detailed with remarkable clarity and depth. Contrast is also beautifully rendered while blacks are deep without crushing. Meanwhile, the rich and always consistent grain textures add a beautifully organic quality to the proceedings. One could easily argue that seeing this new restoration of the film gives fans of the film an altogether new experience. It is impossible to find anything to criticize! This is a gorgeous transfer.

SS3.jpg

Sound Quality:

5 of 5 Stars

Criterion’s uncompressed sound transfer is perhaps the most surprisingly immaculate element on this disc. The film’s famous organ music is finally given enough room to breathe while allowing the dialogue to be as crisp and clearly defined as the film’s ambience. As is usual with Criterion discs, steps were taken to ensure that the sound isn’t marred by any distracting anomalies.

“The original monaural soundtrack was remastered from the 35mm soundtrack negative. Clicks, thumps, hiss, hum, and crackle were manually removed using Pro Tools HD and iZotope RX 4.” –Liner Notes

SS4.jpg

Special Features:

5 of 5 Stars

Criterion has included a near-perfect supplemental package for Carnival of Souls. It is as close to perfect as anyone has a right to expect. There are those who may fault Criterion for not including the infamous “Directors Cut” of the film, but this was probably excluded because this version has always been sourced from a one-inch video copy. It would be pointless to release such a copy on Blu-ray (although, a DVD copy of this version could have made a very nifty second disc). Only the most ungrateful cinemaphiles should allow this omission to affect their opinion of this sensational package.

We are given over five hours of material, and all of it is well worth watching.

Audio Commentary with Herk Harvey (Director) and John Clifford (Screenwriter)

This selected scene commentary with the film’s director and writer is taken from a 1989 retrospective interview with the two gentleman. It was edited to create this sparse commentary track (which is always informative and engaging). It is really to bad that it doesn’t fill the entire length of the film.

Deleted Scenes:

Those who haven’t already seen the film’s director’s cut should find these three deleted scenes fascinating. They were cut from Carnival of Souls before the 1962 release of the film. Unfortunately, the best available source for the deleted footage was a one-inch analog videotape.

Organ Factory – (01:17)

This is a scene that suffers from awkward dialogue (or perhaps wooden delivery of “on the nose” dialogue), but it is a scene that has certain virtues. However, one wonders if the film didn’t benefit from its omission.

Running – (01:00)

While this scene doesn’t seem to add much to the film, the inclusion of this footage did make for a more effective edit.  Out of the three deleted scenes, this is the one that comes the closest to being missed (even if it seems to be the most insignificant).

Doctor’s Office – (01:45)

This scene has a creepy quality that adds to both the film’s tone and story, but it seems to work better in its shorter form.

Outtakes – (27:09)

This lengthy collection of outtakes are accompanied by Gene Moore’s organ score, and there is so much here that it might actually overwhelm the average viewer. While this footage might not be as engaging without any context provided to help guide the viewer, it is certainly a generous offering that fans should find interesting. More supplemental packages should include such a feature.

The Movie That Wouldn’t Die! – (32:13)

This 1989 reunion documentary was made in an effort to celebrate and promote the film’s 1989 theatrical release. Herk Harvey and John Clifford are on hand to explain the conception of the film’s story, the process of funding their project, the location shooting, and the initial reception of the film during its original release. Candace Hilligoss (actress), Glenn Kappelman (one of the investors), Tim DePaepe (filmmaker), and Mark Syverson (fan) also lend their voice to the proceedings. The program was created by Bill Shaffer for a television station in Topeka, Kansas (KTWU – Channel 11), and it is without a doubt one of the better features included on the disc.

Hidden Featurette: The Carnival Tour

Those who wait for the credits to roll on “The Movie That Wouldn’t Die” will discover this tour of some of the film’s locations. (The tour took place in 2000, and the locations have probably changed a bit in the past 16 years.) It is interesting to see what these locations looked like so many years after the release of the film.

Regards from Nowhere – (23:36)

David Cairns (Film Critic) offers a slightly more scholarly appreciation of the film as he discusses various aspects of the film including the unusual netherworld featured in the film. One might call this a video essay or an appreciation instead of a proper documentary, but it is a creatively rendered essay that includes excerpts from interviews with various other participants that appreciate the film, snippets from some of Harvey and Clifford’s industrial shorts, background information, and an impressive presentation. This is exactly the sort of scholarly material that Criterion fans have come to appreciate.

Final Destination – (22:41)

One wonders if Dana Gould (Comedian) can really be seen as a serious authority on Carnival of Souls, but it must be said that his enthusiasm for the film is contagious. He discusses his love for the horror genre and favorably compares Carnival of Souls with The Night of the Living Dead. His discussion of the production is both informative and entertaining.

[Note: He does give the viewer one small nugget of false information. It was not released the same year as Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, which was released in 1960.]

Saltair Resort in Salt Lake City – (26:00)

This 1966 documentary about the Saltair Resort in Salt Lake City (where the most iconic scenes in the film were shot) was created by Ed Yates for a Salt Lake City television broadcast (KCPX-TV). It presents the rather sad story behind the spooky pavilion seen in Carnival of Souls. It is one of the highlights of this supplemental package (even if the image and sound quality is lacking).

 The Centron Corporation:

Herk Harvey and John Clifford were both working at this industrial film company (which was based in Lawrence, Kansas) when Carnival of Souls went into production. This collection provides a glimpse at some of these industrial films, which provide a kind of context for the production of Carnival of Souls.

The following clips are included:

 The Centron Corporation: Historical Essay – (09:57)

This audial history of the Centron Corporation originally appeared in Ken Smith’s Mental Hygiene: Classroom Films 1945-1979. Dana Gould lends his voice to the text, which turns this informative excerpt into an effective video essay.

Centron Commercial (1967) – (02:13)

Rebound (1954) – (21:15)

Star 34 (1954) – (12:37)

To Touch a Child (1966) – (12:01)

Case History of a Sales Meeting (1963) – (05:32)

Signals: Read’em or Weep (1982) – (05:24)

Theatrical Trailer – (02:17)

The campy theatrical trailer used to market Carnival of Souls doesn’t do the film justice, but it does provide an interesting look at how the film was positioned upon its original release.

SS5.jpg

Final Words:

Carnival of Souls is one of those cult films that divides audiences. Those that love these quirky little B-movies will agree that Criterion has provided them with a spectacular Blu-ray release that does the film justice. Others will argue that the film has received a better release than it really deserves. Either way, it is difficult to argue against the quality of this incredible disc.

Review by: Devon Powell