Well this was a pretty good day for fans of the Criterion Collection and Terry Gilliam. Criterion’s Brazil and Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas DVDs had a lot to do with me falling in love with Gilliam AND the Collection, so this is one I’ve been looking forward to for a long time. I remember emailing them once in those early days (pre Blu-ray) to ask if they were eventually going to release a Terry Gilliam box set, they kindly got back to me saying they had no plans to do so.
When Robin Williams passed away last year, his underrated work in The Fisher King became a long overdue topic of conversation. Today Criterion announced the rumoured and very highly desired update of their laserdisc version of this great film. This release will include the original features, like director commentary and deleted scenes as well as new interviews with Gilliam, Lynda Obst (producer), Richard La Gravenese (screenwriter), and actors Jeff Bridges, Amanda Plummer, and Mercedes Ruehl. There is also an interview from 2006 with Williams, a new video essay featuring Bridges’s on-set photographs and new cover art (pictured below). Click here to see more details about this disc, which will be released June 23rd.
Today also marked a first for me since I’ve been devoutly following Criterion’s monthly announcements. It was a first time a new film that I’ve openly and adamantly disliked has gone straight to Criterion. I reviewed A Master Builder on this site when it came out in theatres last summer and admitted that I did not get what this stage adaptation was going for AT ALL. I also admit that I haven’t seen that film’s two major predecessors: My Dinner with Andre and Vanya on 42nd Street, both of which have already been released on Criterion. Those films represent previous collaborations between actors/ writers Wallace Shawn and André Gregory. They were directed by the late Louise Malle, Jonathan Demme stepped in to direct A Master Builder. If it wasn’t for he two Malle films, I doubt A Master Builder would be getting the Criterion treatment, but I’ll still watch the extras which will hopefully help me understand what I missed in this film.
Criterion is doing something rare with The Master Builder, which was exaclty what I was afraid they’d do with Terry Gilliam’s films when I contacted them all those years ago, which is package it into a box set with previously released titles. Anal retentive collectors like myself will be forced to either split up the box set or live with having the the disparate spine numbers, #479, #599, and #672, splitting up the order of your shelf (they recently did this with the films of Jacques Tati as well). This is the first time My Dinner With Andre is available on Criterion Blu-ray, but this set could still annoy somebody who had previously purchased the Vanya on 42nd Street Blu-ray, since they’ll be forced to double dip if they want the set. That being said, all three films will also be sold individually, so they got our back.
Speaking of re-jigging films in and out of box sets, another unique announcement today was a stand-alone version of Five Easy Pieces, previously only available in the America Lost and Found Collection. To my knowledge, this is the first time they’ve made a single film from a box set available on its own after the fact. It makes sense, as not everyone loves all seven films in that collection (*cough* A Safe Place *cough*), so I expect to also see stand-alone releases of the other gems contained within that set, such as Easy Rider and The Last Picture Show.
Rediscovering films you love on Criterion is only half the pleasure of the Collection. The other half comes from helping us discover films we wouldn’t have otherwise been aware of. That’s the case with the other two titles that were announced today, neither of which I’m familiar with but will try to see based on Criterion considering them worthy of inclusion, even though we don’t always see to eye to eye (*cough* A Master Builder *cough*). Valerie and Her Week of Wonders is a 1970 Czechoslovakian film described as an “eerie and mystical movie daydream” about a girl with an overactive imagination on the verge of womanhood. Lastly, The Bridge, made in 1959, was the first major antiwar film to come out of Germany after World War II. Everything about this film in the brief synopsis given on Criterion’s website sounds fascinating, and I had no idea it even existed before today.
So if the summer blockbusters aren’t quite doing it for you come June, try to get your hands on a couple of these premium discs.