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Pickpocket, Ugetsu

The Criterion CollectionEven more than its frequent paired releases of cinematic classics, the Criterion Collection’s simultaneous DVD premieres of Robert Bresson’s Pickpocket (1959) and Kenji Mizoguchi’s Ugetsu Monogatari (1953) were destined to send critics and film lovers alike scrambling for their thesauri in search of ever more exotic airs on which to float these two masterworks by two of the world’s greatest directors. Thankfully, Criterion itself chose the opposite tack in the liner notes that accompany each release. In his essay on Ugetsu (released in an extras-packed two-disc special edition), Phillip Lopate surveys the long history of praise that has followed the film and Mizoguchi in general, before advising the need to “step back from these superlatives, or at least put them in context.” In his essay on Pickpocket, Gary Indiana chips away at the critical orthodoxy that has come to encase Bresson “in a gelatin of spiritually heroic clichés.” The interventions are welcome, as the bold claims made for both Bresson and Mizoguchi too often belie the intricate subtleties upon which they rest. Indeed, the best advice one might give to the uninitiated is to set all expectations aside — and prepare to be awed. Other recommended new releases: A Christmas Carol(1938); Christmas in Connecticut (1945); La Dolce Vita: 3-Disc Deluxe Collector’s Edition (DVD); George Pal: Flights of Fantasy: Box Set; Leni Riefenstahl: The White Hell of Pitz Palu, Storm Over Mont Blanc, S.O.S. Iceberg (DVD); The Lenny Bruce Performance Film (DVD). Also released this week: VHS-DVD: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005); Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo. DVD: Après Vous; Assassin; The Backyardigans: The Snow Fort; Beavis and Butt-head: The Mike Judge Collection, Vol. 1; The Bible Collection; Big Black Comedy, Vol. 4; Big Fish (Special Edition); Blackout; Blizzard; Boys Town; Burn!; The Christmas Wife; Christmas With the Kranks; Claire Dolan; Conduct Unbecoming; Crónicas; Doctor Who: Episode 57 — The Claws of Axos; Doctor Who: Episode 105 — City of Death; A Dry White Season; Edward Scissorhands: Anniversary Edition; 50 Cent: Refuse; The Fugitive Kind; Hall & Oates: Our Kind of Soul Live; Hollywood Burlesque/Peek-a-Boo; Jumanji (Deluxe Edition); The Kumars at Number 42; Lady Sings the Blues: Special Collector’s Edition; Las Vegas: The Unconventional History; Miracle’s Boys; The Missouri Breaks; Mom at Sixteen/Too Young To Be a Dad; My Baby Is Black/Checkerboard; The Perfect Man; Pioneers of Primetime; Popstar; Popular Mechanics for Kids: Box Set; Ray Charles: 50 Years in Music; Rock-a-Doodle; Space: Above and Beyond; El Super; Weapons of Mass Destruction: The Murderous Reign of Saddam Hussein; White Shadow: Season 1; Yes.


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