From the Big Screen:
This Week’s Highlights:
Due this week from The Criterion Collection is one of the greatest films of all time, the Stanley Kubrick classic that helped launch the new American Cinema of the 1960s by seamlessly mixing satire, sex, violence, drama and irony in one delightful package: “Dr. Strangelove, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb” (1964). Kubrick’s painfully funny take on Cold War anxiety is without a doubt one of the fiercest satires of human folly ever to come out of Hollywood. The matchless shape-shifter Peter Sellers plays three wildly different roles: Air Force Captain Lionel Mandrake, timidly trying to stop a nuclear attack on the USSR ordered by an unbalanced general (Sterling Hayden); the ineffectual and perpetually dumbfounded President Merkin Muffley, who must deliver the very bad news to the Soviet premier; and the titular Strangelove himself, a wheelchair-bound presidential adviser with a Nazi past. Finding improbable hilarity in nearly every unimaginable scenario, “Dr. Strangelove, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb” is a genuinely subversive masterpiece that officially announced Kubrick as an unparalleled stylist and pitch-black ironist. Co-stars George C. Scott, Keenan Wynn, Slim Pickens, Peter Bull, James Earl Jones, Tracy Reed. On DVD, Blu-ray Disc, in a restored 4K digital transfer, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray. The release is packed with plenty of extras, including new interviews with Stanley Kubrick scholars Mick Broderick and Rodney Hill, archivist Richard Daniels, cinematographer and camera innovator Joe Dunton, camera operator Kelvin Pike,and David George, son of Peter George, on whose novel “Red Alert” the film is based; excerpts from a 1965 audio interview with Kubrick, conducted by Jeremy Bernstein; four short documentaries from 2000, about the making of the film, the sociopolitical climate of the period, the work of actor Peter Sellers, and the artistry of Kubrick; interviews from 1963 with Sellers and actor George C. Scott; excerpt from a 1980 interview with Sellers from NBC’s “Today” show; and a 1962 article by screenwriter Terry Southern on the making of the film.
Criterion will also release this week “Clouds of Sils Maria” (2014 — France, Germany, Switzerland), a multilayered, immensely entertaining drama from the great contemporary French director Olivier Assayas. The always extraordinary Juliette Binoche is stirring as Maria, a stage and screen icon who is being courted to star in a new production of the play that made her famous — only this time she must assume the role of the older woman. Kristen Stewart matches her punch for punch as her beleaguered assistant, called upon to provide support both professional and emotional for her mercurial boss. And Chloë Grace Moretz is Maria’s arrogant new castmate, a starlet waiting in the wings. An amorphous, soul-searching tale, filled with ethereal images of its Swiss Alps setting, “Clouds of Sils Maria” brilliantly dramatizes one woman’s reckoning with herself and the world. On DVD, Blu-ray Disc in a new 2K digital master, with 5.1 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray.
“Francofoniad” (2015 — France/Germany/Netherlands) is a spectacularly designed and implemented film that presents a portrait of the real-life events that saved Paris’s Louvre Museum during the Nazi Occupation in World War II, while also offering a powerfully relevant mediation on art, power, history and virtue — and humankind’s place among them. It’s both an historical documentary and a stylized drama — a work that takes the form of an extended cinematic essay as it blends fictionalized re-enactments of past events with excursions into scholarship and fantasy. Set against the backdrop of the Louvre Museum’s history and artworks, acclaimed Russian director Alexander Sokurov (“Russian Ark,” “Alexandra”) applies his uniquely personal vision to staged re-enactments and archival research for a fascinating portrait of real-life characters Jacques Jaujard (Louis-Do de Lencquesaing), director of the Louvre in the 1930s and 40s, and Count Franz Wolff-Metternich (Benjamin Utzerath), Hitler’s designated connoisseur and conservator of French art. Though many of the Louvre’s great paintings had been hidden in chateaus in the countryside, Jaujard and Wolff-Metternich — enemies and then collaborators — worked to keep the museum open during the occupation and to protect its collection. The negotiations between Jaujard and Wolff-Metternich are interspersed with both Sokurov’s reflections on art and history and a twilight tour of the museum’s galleries. The guides on the tour are Marianne (Johanna Korthals), the symbol of liberty, equality and fraternity in Republican France, and Napoleon Bonaparte (Vincent Nemeth), the embodiment of the nation’s imperial ambitions. Together, they represent the notion of French universalism while proposing that the Louvre is a living example of civilization. On DVD, Blu-ray Disc from Music Box Films.