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Sondheim, Fukunaga, Kore-eda & More Coming to The Criterion Collection August 2021

This August, the Criterion Collection will take you behind the scenes of a legendary Broadway recording with D. A. Pennebaker’s classic documentary Original Cast Album: “Company”—a holy grail for musical-theater aficionados featuring Stephen Sondheim, Harold Prince, and Elaine Stritch—never before available on Blu-ray. Also new to Blu-ray, After Lifethe international breakthrough from acclaimed director Hirokazu Kore-eda, asks: If you could choose only one memory to hold on to for eternity, what would it be? Cary Joji Fukunaga’s harrowing vision of the horrors of war and lost innocence, the visceral child-soldier saga Beasts of No Nationdebuts on home video. Plus, Andrzej Wajda’s gripping masterpiece of Polish cinema Ashes and Diamonds gets a Blu-ray upgrade.

AFTER LIFE

If you could choose only one memory to hold on to for eternity, what would it be? That’s the question at the heart of Hirokazu Kore-eda’s revelatory international breakthrough, a bittersweet fantasia in which the recently deceased find themselves in a limbo realm where they must select a single cherished moment from their life to be recreated on film for them to take into the next world. After Life’s high-concept premise is grounded in Kore‑eda’s documentary-like approach to the material, which he shaped through interviews with hundreds of Japanese citizens. What emerges is a panoramic vision of the human experience—its ephemeral joys and lingering regrets—and a quietly profound meditation on memory, our interconnectedness, and the amberlike power of cinema to freeze time.

DIRECTOR-APPROVED SPECIAL EDITION FEATURES

  • New 2K restoration, approved by writer-director Hirokazu Kore-eda, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
  • Audio commentary featuring film scholar Linda Ehrlich
  • New interviews with Kore-eda, stills photographer–cinematographer Masayoshi Sukita, and cinematographer Yutaka Yamazaki
  • Deleted scenes
  • Trailer
  • PLUS: An essay by novelist Viet Thanh Nguyen

1998 • 119 minutes • Color • Monaural • In Japanese with English subtitles • 1.66:1 aspect ratio

Available August 10, 2021

ASHES AND DIAMONDS 

A milestone of Polish cinema, this electrifying international sensation by Andrzej Wajda—the final film in his celebrated war trilogy—entwines the story of one man’s moral crisis with the fate of a nation. In a small Polish town on the final day of World War II, Maciek (the coolly charismatic Zbigniew Cybulski), a fighter in the underground anti-Communist resistance movement, has orders to assassinate an incoming commissar. But when he meets and falls for a young barmaid (Ewa Krzyzewska), he begins to question his commitment to a cause that requires him to risk his life. Ashes and Diamonds’ lustrous monochrome cinematography—wreathed in shadows, smoke, and fog—and spectacularly choreographed set pieces lend a breathtaking visual dynamism to this urgent, incendiary vision of a country at a crossroads in its struggle for self-determination.

BLU-RAY SPECIAL EDITION FEATURES

  • New 4K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack
  • Audio commentary from 2004 featuring film scholar Annette Insdorf
  • New video essay by Insdorf on the film’s legacy
  • Andrzej Wajda: On “Ashes and Diamonds,” a 2005 program featuring director Andrzej Wajda, second director Janusz Morgenstern, and film critic Jerzy Plazewski
  • Archival newsreel footage on the making of the film
  • New English subtitle translation
  • PLUS: An essay by film scholar Paul Coates

1958 • 103 minutes • Black & White • Monaural • In Polish with English subtitles • 1.66:1 aspect ratio

Available August 24, 2021

BEASTS OF NO NATION

The nightmare of war is seen through the eyes of one of its most tragic casualties—a child soldier—in this harrowing vision of innocence lost from Cary Joji Fukunaga. Based on the acclaimed novel by Uzodinma Iweala, Beasts of No Nation unfolds in an unnamed, civil-war-torn West African country, where the young Agu (Abraham Attah, in a haunting debut performance) witnesses carnage in his village before falling captive to a band of rebel soldiers led by a ruthless commander (an explosive Idris Elba), who molds the boy into a hardened killer. Fukunaga’s relentlessly roving camera work and stunning visuals—realism so intensely visceral it borders on the surreal—immerse the viewer in a world of unimaginable horror without ever losing sight of the powerful human story at its center.

DIRECTOR-APPROVED SPECIAL EDITION FEATURES

  • 2K digital master, approved by director Cary Joji Fukunaga, with 5.1 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray
  • New audio commentary featuring Fukunaga and first assistant director Jon Mallard
  • Two new documentaries on the development and making of the film, featuring interviews with Fukunaga; author Uzodinma Iweala; actors Idris Elba and Abraham Attah; and producers Amy Kaufman, Daniela Taplin Lundberg, and Riva Marker
  • New conversation between Fukunaga and producer and cultural commentator Franklin Leonard
  • New interview with costume designer Jenny Eagan
  • Trailer
  • English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
  • English descriptive audio
  • PLUS: An essay by film critic Robert Daniels

2015 • 136 minutes • Color • 5.1 surround • 2.39:1 aspect ratio

Available August 31, 2021

ORIGINAL CAST ALBUM: “COMPANY”

This holy grail for both documentary and theater aficionados offers a tantalizingly rare glimpse behind the Broadway curtain. In 1970, right after the triumphant premiere of Stephen Sondheim’s groundbreaking concept musical Company, the renowned composer and lyricist, his director Harold Prince, the show’s stars, and a large pit orchestra all went into a Manhattan recording studio as part of a time-honored Broadway tradition: the recording of the original cast album. What ensued was a marathon session in which, with the pressures of posterity and the coolly exacting Sondheim’s perfectionism hanging over them, all involved pushed themselves to the limit—including theater legend Elaine Stritch, who fought anxiety and exhaustion to record her iconic rendition of “The Ladies Who Lunch.” With thrilling immediacy, legendary filmmaker D. A. Pennebaker offers an up-close view of the larger-than-life personalities, frayed-nerve energy, and explosive creative intensity that go into capturing the magic of live performance.

SPECIAL EDITION FEATURES

  • New, restored 4K digital transfer, supervised by Chris Hegedus and Nate Pennebaker, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
  • New audio commentary by composer-lyricist Stephen Sondheim
  • Audio commentary from 2001 featuring director D. A. Pennebaker, actor Elaine Stritch, and Broadway producer Harold Prince
  • New conversation among Sondheim, orchestrator Jonathan Tunick, and critic Frank Rich
  • New interview with Tunick on the art of orchestrating, conducted by author Ted Chapin
  • Never-before-heard audio excerpts from interviews with Stritch and Prince, conducted by D. A. Pennebaker and Hegedus in 2000
  • “Original Cast Album: ‘Co-Op,’” a 2019 episode of the TV series Documentary Now! that parodies the film
  • Reunion of the cast and crew of “Original Cast Album: ‘Co-Op’” recorded in 2020, featuring director Alexander Buono; writer-actor John Mulaney; actors Rénee Elise Goldsberry, Richard Kind, Alex Brightman, and Paula Pell; and composer Eli Bolin
  • English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
  • PLUS: An essay by author Mark Harris

1970 • 53 minutes • Color • Monaural • 1.33:1 aspect ratio

Available August 17, 2021

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Writer/Reviewer, Film Lover, Podcaster, Gamer, Comic Reader, Disc Golfer & a Lefty. There are too many films, TV, books, etc. for me to list as favorites, but I can assure that the amount film knowledge within my noggin is ridiculous, though I am always open to learning more. You can follow me on Twitter @AaronsPS4, see what else I am up to at TheCodeIsZeek.com & check out my podcast, Out Now with Aaron and Abe, on iTunes.

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