La Camargue  and Nous ne vieillirons pas ensemble [We Won't Grow Old Together, 1972], both by Maurice Pialat, and included in this one release in their original aspect ratios of 1.37:1, and 1.66:1 anamorphic + progressive. La Camargue finds Pialat exercising his essay-documentary mode, condensing to six minutes' time that region in the south of France where cowboys and toreadors walked, then and forever a vision of Pialat's, not Hemingway's. For Nous ne vieillirons pas ensemble, Pialat shifts into an autobiographical story (which is, in turn, the story of all sincere expression) that sometimes takes place within this same Camargue region — hence the pairing — a story that details the disintegration of a couple already paired together, but for no good reason, as it often is in life, that is, with circumstance itself barely providing justification to man or morality. Possibly Pialat's most emotionally violent work, and unquestionably a grand masterpiece on every level (formal, scenaristic, performative), the film contains for me the single most upsetting shot in the oeuvre of this master — no — god — of the cinema. His miracle is that of the artist who can shake you with threat, who is not a provocateur, no von Trier, or Noé, or any mercantile asshole who trampled the Croix, the Alice Tully, and the .tiffs of 2009. Also included on-disc: a 19-minute 2003 video interview conducted by Serge Toubiana with Nous ne vieillirons pas ensemble lead actress Marlène Jobert; 5-minutes'-worth of interviews with Pialat, Nous ne vieillirons pas ensemble lead actor Jean Yanne and actress Macha Méril from the 1972 Cannes festival, with two scenes deleted from the film interspersed; a 1972 interview with François Truffaut about this then-latest Pialat film, shot in two parts totaling 8 minutes in length — one, before his having seen the film, and the other, directly after his (first) screening while he remains still shaken and teary-eyed; 12 minutes of footage from a 1972 conversation between Pialat and associates about Nous ne vieillirons pas ensemble at a dinner; and the original trailer for the feature, along with the trailers for the six others in The Masters of Cinema Series. A 32-page booklet accompanies the release, and includes an exemplary new essay by former editor-in-chief of the Cahiers du cinéma Emmanuel Burdeau titled "Pialat n'est pas là", and excerpts from three interviews with Pialat about the film newly translated into English.
Passe ton bac d'abord... [Pass Your Bac First...] by Maurice Pialat, from 1979, presented progressively in its original aspect ratio of 1.66:1 anamorphic. What to say here about this film, Pialat's Strangeways, Here We Come? Maybe let them fight their own wars. Or that it's his Sixteen Candles — an inferno of genius. Included on-disc: an 11-minute 2003 interview conducted by Serge Toubiana with Pialat collaborators Arlette Langmann and Patrick Grandperret; a 35-minute 2003 piece by Serge Toubiana and Sonia Buchman that catches up with the cast and location of the film in the contemporary era; and the original trailer for the film, along with the trailers for the six other Pialat features in The Masters of Cinema Series. The release includes a 52-page booklet that contains a new essay about the film by me titled "The War of Art"; newly translated excerpts from three 1979 interviews with Pialat; and Pialat's explosive responses (newly translated) to a 20-question survey conducted in 1981 by the Cahiers. Also: Hieronymous Bosch.
La Tête contre les murs [Head Against the Wall / Head Against the Walls] by Georges Franju, from 1959, presented progressively in its original aspect ratio of 1.37:1. The debut feature by Franju provides a glimpse into a c. '59 lunatic asylum presided over by Pierre Brasseur and Paul Meurisse. It approaches and at the same time eludes the classification of that other film of the mad that approaches then eludes — that is, approximates: the one signed both Melville and Cocteau — a mystery icing a mystery. (A mystery, then, requesting that another mystery grant it escape to a completed project. God bless the best of intentions.) No figure in Georges Franju's — that is, Jean-Pierre Mocky's — film is allowed to take events to their conclusions except for Charles Aznavour, who of course ends his own life with a hanging. The rest is a vacuum, with both protest and progress testing the limits of static walls before echoing back onto themselves in singularity's instant. Alas — a picture as intriguingly inert as life. "There are no more films about the insane." — Jean-Pierre Mocky (whose giant oeuvre has yet to really be discovered in English-speaking territories) speaking in 2008. On-disc supplements include this very video interview in which Mocky delivers the straight-scoop, for 10 minutes; and a 5-minute 2008 interview with Charles Aznavour in which Mocky pitches questions and comments from off-frame. A 48-page booklet includes a chapter about the film from Raymond Durgnat's 1968 volume Franju; a translation of Jean-Luc Godard's 1958 essay about the film; and newly translated interview excerpts with Franju.
Supplement this release with Criterion's double-feature package of Franju's Le Sang des bêtes [The Blood of the Beasts, 1948] and Les Yeux sans visage [Eyes Without a Face, 1959], and MoC's double-feature package of Franju's Judex  and Nuits rouges [Red Nights, 1974].
Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans by F. W. Murnau, from 1927, presented progressively in its original aspect ratio of 1.20:1, with its original English-language intertitles and Movietone soundtrack — available variously (with identical supplements) in a double-disc standard-definition DVD package, and a single-disc high-definition Blu-ray package. Murnau's great masterpiece is a predominantly moral vision of the world distilled like the remedy for an era (1927, 2009) overcome by the images of profligacy, selfishness, and degeneracy espoused by a Tucker Max or a Kirk Cameron. On-disc: an audio commentary by cinematographer John Bailey; outtake footage from the film, with John Bailey audio commentary; Janet Bergstrom's documentary 4 Devils: Traces of a Lost Film, newly updated; the original theatrical trailer; and a truncated only-extant European version of the film at a cropped 1.37:1 aspect ratio with Czech intertitles (and optional English-language subtitles). The booklet: a 16-page piece for the SD DVD, and 20-page affair for the Blu-ray, both containing the same detailed notes on the restoration and the differences between the two versions of the film.
A PDF version of the new Masters of Cinema Series catalogue can be downloaded by clicking here.