The Criterion Collection May 2021 New Releases

April showers bring May Flowers! This spring, get ready for a ravishing period masterpiece, a beloved teen-movie touchstone, a dark-as-they-come noir nightmare, a frank and feminist pre-Code triumph, and a concert documentary like no other.

Flowers Of Shanghai

An intoxicating, time-bending experience bathed in the golden glow of oil lamps and wreathed in an opium haze, this gorgeous period reverie by Hou Hsiao-hsien traces the romantic intrigue, jealousies, and tensions swirling around four late-nineteenth-century Shanghai “flower houses,” where the courtesans live confined to a gilded cage, ensconced in opulent splendor but forced to work to buy back their freedom. Among the regular clients is the taciturn Master Wang (Tony Leung Chiu-wai), whose relationship with his longtime mistress (Michiko Hada) is roiled by a perceived act of betrayal. Composed in a languorous procession of entrancing long takes, Flowers of Shanghai evokes a vanished world of decadence and cruelty, an insular universe where much of the dramatic action remains tantalizingly offscreen—even as its emotional fallout registers with quiet devastation.

Available May 18, 2021
Spine #1077

DIRECTOR-APPROVED SPECIAL EDITION FEATURES

  • New, restored 4K digital transfer, supervised by director Hou Hsiao-hsien and director of photography Mark Lee Ping-bing, with 5.1 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray
  • New introduction by critic Tony Rayns
  • Beautified Realism, a new documentary by Daniel Raim and Eugene Suen on the making of the film, featuring behind-the-scenes footage and interviews with Lee, producer and editor Liao Ching-sung, production designer Hwarng Wern Ying, and sound recordist Tu Duu-chih
  • Excerpts from a 2015 interview with Hou, recorded for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Oral History Project
  • Trailer
  • English subtitle translation by Rayns
  • PLUS: An essay by film scholar Jean Ma and a 2009 interview with Hou conducted by scholar Michael Berry 
Trances - The Criterion Collection Blu-ray Cover
Trances – The Criterion Collection Blu-ray Cover

Trances

The groundbreaking Moroccan band Nass El Ghiwane is the dynamic subject of this captivating, one-of-a-kind documentary by Ahmed El Maanouni, who filmed the four musicians during a series of electrifying live performances in Tunisia, Morocco, and France; on the streets of Casablanca; and in intimate conversations. Storytellers through song and traditional instruments, and with connections to political theater, the band became a local phenomenon and an international sensation, thanks to its rebellious lyrics and sublime, fully acoustic sound, which draws on Berber rhythms, Malhun sung poetry, and Gnawa dances. Both a concert movie and a free-form audiovisual experiment, bolstered by images of the band’s rapt audience, Trances is pure cinematic poetry.

Trances was restored in 2007 by the Cineteca di Bologna/L’Immagine Ritrovata laboratory, in association with The Film Foundation’s World Cinema Project, Ahmed El-Maanouni, and Izza Genini. Restoration funded by Armani, Cartier, Qatar Airways, and Qatar Museum Authority. 

Available May 4, 2021
Spine #689

DIRECTOR-APPROVED SPECIAL EDITION FEATURES

  • 2K digital restoration courtesy of The Film Foundation’s World Cinema Project in collaboration with the Cineteca di Bologna, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
  • Introduction from 2013 by The Film Foundation’s founder and chair, Martin Scorsese 
  • Interview program from 2013 featuring director Ahmed El Maanouni, producer Izza Génini, musician Omar Sayed, and Scorsese
  • PLUS: An essay by film scholar Sally Shafto 
Merrily We Go To Hell - The Criterion Collection Blu-ray Cover
Merrily We Go To Hell – The Criterion Collection Blu-ray Cover

Merrily We Go To Hell

Addiction, nonmonogamy, and female sexual liberation: decades before such ideas were widely discussed, Dorothy Arzner, the only woman to work as a director in 1930s Hollywood, brought them to the screen with striking frankness, sophistication, and wit—a mature treatment that stands out even in the pre-Code era. Fredric March (in one of four collaborations with Arzner) and Sylvia Sidney turn in extraordinary performances as the urbane couple whose relationship is pushed to the breaking point by his alcoholism and wandering eye—leading them into an emotionally explosive experiment with an open marriage. Exposing the hypocrisies and petty cruelties simmering beneath the surface of high-society elegance, Merrily We Go to Hell is a scathing early-feminist commentary on modern marriage.

Available May 11, 2021
Spine #1076

SPECIAL FEATURES

  • New, restored 4K digital transfer, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
  • Dorothy Arzner: Longing for Women, a 1983 documentary by Katja Raganelli and Konrad Wickler 
  • New video essay by film historian Cari Beauchamp
  • English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
  • PLUS: An essay by film scholar Judith Mayne 
Nightmare Alley - The Criterion Collection Blu-ray Cover
Nightmare Alley – The Criterion Collection Blu-ray Cover

Nightmare Alley

Darkness lurks behind the bright lights of a traveling carnival in one of the most haunting and perverse film noirs of the 1940s. Adapted from the scandalous best seller by William Lindsay Gresham, Nightmare Alleygave Tyrone Power a chance to subvert his matinee-idol image with a ruthless performance as Stan Carlisle, a small-time carny whose unctuous charm propels him to fame as a charlatan spiritualist, but whose unchecked ambition leads him down a path of moral degradation and self-destruction. Although its strange, sordid atmosphere shocked contemporary audiences, this long difficult-to-see reflection of postwar angst has now taken its place as one of the defining noirs of its era—a fate-fueled downward slide into existential oblivion.

Available May 25, 2021
Spine #1078

SPECIAL FEATURES

  • New 4K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
  • Audio commentary from 2005 featuring film historians James Ursini and Alain Silver
  • New interview with critic Imogen Sara Smith
  • New interview with performer and historian Todd Robbins
  • Interview from 2007 with actor Coleen Gray
  • Audio excerpt of a 1971 interview with Henry King in which the filmmaker discusses actor Tyrone Power 
  • Trailer
  • English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
  • PLUS: An essay by film critic and screenwriter Kim Morgan 
Fast Times At Ridgemont High - The Criterion Collection Blu-ray Cover
Fast Times At Ridgemont High – The Criterion Collection Blu-ray Cover

Fast Times At Ridgemont High

The wild world of adolescence has rarely been captured with as sharp an observational eye as in this refreshingly smart, frank spin on the teen comedy by director Amy Heckerling and screenwriter Cameron Crowe—for each of whom it kicked off a hugely successful film career. Based on Crowe’s experiences going undercover as a student at a Southern California high school, Fast Times at Ridgemont High blends hormone-fueled hilarity with an almost sociological examination of the 1980s teenage experience: the shopping-mall hangouts, fast-food jobs, buzzkill teachers, awkward dates, and first experiences of love and sex. This pop-culture touchstone launched to stardom practically an entire cast of unknowns—including Jennifer Jason Leigh, Phoebe Cates, Judge Reinhold, Forest Whitaker, Anthony Edwards, Eric Stoltz, and Sean Penn as stoner icon Jeff Spicoli—and broke new ground in its raw yet sensitive depiction of the realities of coming of age.

Available May 11, 2021
Spine #1075

DIRECTOR-APPROVED SPECIAL EDITION FEATURES

  • New, restored 4K digital transfer, supervised by director Amy Heckerling, with 5.1 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray
  • Audio commentary from 1999 featuring Heckerling and screenwriter Cameron Crowe
  • Television version of the film from the eighties, featuring deleted and alternate scenes
  • New conversation with Heckerling and Crowe, moderated by filmmaker Olivia Wilde
  • Reliving Our “Fast Times at Ridgemont High,” a 1999 documentary featuring interviews with cast and crew
  • Audio discussion from 1982 with Heckerling at the American Film Institute
  • English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
  • PLUS: An essay by film critic Dana Stevens and, for the Blu-ray edition, a new introduction by Crowe