Every month brings a flood of carefully packaged movies from Criterion. Old, new, color, black and white, Hollywood, Asian, European, documentary, cult, and sometimes just bizarre, Criterion offers a phenomenal release rate of quality films, so what can I do, except give you some of my impressions as the cinematic deluge engulfs me. Here’s a sampling of ten recent Blu-rays from their ever expanding catalog.
1. Ikiru (1952)
What: Takashi Shimura plays an insignificant bureaucrat who, when told he’s dying of cancer, realizes he’s wasted his life. He pours his energy into one final act to leave a mark: clearing permits for a city park.
Why: Possibly Akira Kurosawa’s greatest film, and that’s saying something. Ironically, it was hailed as a masterpiece by US critics even though for years it was seen without the last act, where the man’s co-workers get drunk and lugubrious at his funeral. Some have felt that this radical change in form and tone lessens the film, but the ending turns a sentimental masterpiece into a bracing one.
The two parts comment on each other: one haunting and open, one messy and closed, both about our will vs. what’s beyond our control. This restored 4K digital transfer on Blu-ray preserves a previous DVD commentary and making-of, and there’s a 90-minute documentary on Kurosawa.