Movie mavens and Criterion cultists unite! This May, The Criterion Collection will cast a big spotlight on one of their favorite filmmakers: Wim Wenders. In a new collector’s set, they gather three of his greatest films from the 1970s—”Alice in the Cities,” “Wrong Move” and “Kings of the Road”—all concerning people setting out on road trips to discover themselves. These are beautifully shot, emotionally stirring journeys, available for the first time on Blu-ray or DVD. And Wenders isn’t the only great auteur Criterion is celebrating with new releases: Criterion is also excited to bring into the collection Robert Altman’s stinging, Oscar-nominated Hollywood satire “The Player,” starring Tim Robbins; Nicholas Ray’s darkly romantic noir “In a Lonely Place,” starring Humphrey Bogart; and “The Naked Island,” the ravishing tale of an island farming family’s daily toil from Kaneto Shindo. Finally, another classic road trip: The Dennis Hopper phenomenon “Easy Rider,” available for the first time in stand-alone Blu-ray and DVD Criterion editions.
“Easy Rider” (Blu-ray and DVD editions)
This is the definitive counterculture blockbuster. The down-and-dirty directorial debut of former clean-cut teen star Dennis Hopper, “Easy Rider” heralded the arrival of a new voice in film, one pitched angrily against the mainstream. After the film’s cross-country journey—with its radical, New Wave–style editing, outsider-rock soundtrack, revelatory performance by a young Jack Nicholson, and explosive ending—the American road trip would never be the same.
SPECIAL EDITION FEATURES
• Restored high-definition digital transfer, supervised by director of photography László Kovács, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
• Alternate 2.0 and 5.1 surround soundtracks, presented in DTS-HD Master Audio on the Blu-ray
• Two audio commentaries, one from 2009, featuring actor-director-writer Dennis Hopper, and the other from 1995, featuring Hopper, actor-writer Peter Fonda, and production manager Paul Lewis
• “Born to Be Wild” (1995) and “’Easy Rider:’ Shaking the Cage” (1999), documentaries about the making and history of the film
• Television excerpts showing Hopper and Fonda at the Cannes Film Festival in 1969
• Interview from 2010 with BBS Productions co-founder Steve Blauner
• Theatrical trailers
• An essay by film critic Matt Zoller Seitz
“In a Lonely Place” (Blu–ray and DVD editions)
When a gifted but washed-up screenwriter with a hair-trigger temper—Humphrey Bogart, in a revelatory, vulnerable performance—becomes the prime suspect in a brutal Tinseltown murder, the only person who can supply an alibi for him is a seductive neighbor (Gloria Grahame) with her own troubled past. The emotionally charged In a Lonely Place, freely adapted from a Dorothy B. Hughes thriller, is a brilliant, turbulent mix of suspenseful noir and devastating melodrama, fueled by powerhouse performances. An uncompromising tale of two people desperate to love yet struggling with their demons and each other, this is one of the greatest films of the ’50s, and a benchmark in the career of the classic Hollywood auteur Nicholas Ray.
SPECIAL EDITION FEATURES
• New 2K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
• New audio commentary featuring film scholar Dana Polan
• “I’m a Stranger Here Myself,” a 1975 documentary about director Nicholas Ray, slightly condensed for this release
• New interview with biographer Vincent Curcio about actor Gloria Grahame
• Piece from 2002 featuring filmmaker Curtis Hanson
• Radio adaptation from 1948 of the original Dorothy B. Hughes novel, broadcast on the program “Suspense”
• An essay by critic Imogen Sara Smith
“The Naked Island” (Blu–ray and DVD editions)
Director Kaneto Shindo’s documentary-like, dialogue-free portrayal of daily struggle is a work of stunning visual beauty and invention. The international breakthrough for one of Japan’s most innovative filmmakers—who went on to make such other marvelous movies as “Onibaba” and “Kuroneko”—”The Naked Island” follows a family whose home is on a tiny, remote island off the coast of Japan. They must row a great distance to another shore, collect water from a well in buckets, and row back to their island—a nearly backbreaking task essential for the survival of these people and their land. Featuring a phenomenal modernist score by Hikaru Hayashi, this is a truly hypnotic experience, with a rhythm unlike that of any other film.
SPECIAL EDITION FEATURES
• New, high-definition digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
• Video introduction by director Kaneto Shindo, recorded for a 2011 retrospective of his work
• Audio commentary recorded in 2000, featuring Shindo and composer Hikaru Hayashi
• New appreciation of the film by actor Benicio Del Toro
• New interview with film scholar Akira Mizuta Lippit
• New English subtitle translation
• An essay by film scholar Haden Guest
“The Player” (Blu–ray and DVD editions)
A Hollywood studio executive with a shaky moral compass (Tim Robbins) finds himself caught up in a criminal situation that would fit right into one of his movie projects, in this biting industry satire from Robert Altman. Mixing elements of film noir with sly insider comedy, “The Player,” based on a novel by Michael Tolkin, functions as both a nifty stylish murder story and a commentary on its own making, and it is stocked with a heroic supporting cast (Peter Gallagher, Whoopi Goldberg, Greta Scacchi, Dean Stockwell, Fred Ward) and a lineup of star cameos that make for an astonishing Hollywood who’s who. This complexly woven grand entertainment (which kicks off with one of American cinema’s most audacious and acclaimed opening shots) was the film that marked Altman’s triumphant commercial comeback in the early 1990s.
SPECIAL EDITION FEATURES
• New 4K digital restoration, with DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 surround soundtrack on the Blu-ray
• Audio commentary from 1992 featuring director Robert Altman, writer Michael Tolkin, and cinematographer Jean Lépine
• Interview with Altman from 1992
• New interviews with Tolkin and production designer Stephen Altman
• Cannes Film Festival press conference from 1992 with cast and crew
• “The Player” at LACMA, a short documentary about the shooting of the film’s fund-raiser scene
• Map to the Stars, a gallery dedicated to the cameo appearances in the film
• Deleted scenes and outtakes
• The film’s opening shot, with alternate commentaries by Altman, Lépine, and Tolkin
• An essay by author Sam Wasson
“Wim Wenders: The Road Trilogy” (Blu–ray and DVD editions)
In the 1970s, Wim Wenders was among the first true international breakthrough artists of the revolutionary New German Cinema, a filmmaker whose fascination with the physical landscapes and emotional contours of the open road proved to be universal. In the middle of that decade, Wenders embarked on a three-film journey that took him from the wide roads of Germany to the endless highways of the United States and back again. Starring Rüdiger Vogler as the director’s alter ego, these three dramas of emotional transformation that follow their characters’ searches for themselves, all rendered with uncommon soulfulness and visual poetry.
“Alice in the Cities”
The first of the road films that would come to define the career of Wenders, the magnificent “Alice in the Cities” is an emotionally generous and luminously shot journey. A German journalist (Rüdiger Vogler) is driving across the United States to research an article; it’s a disappointing trip, in which he is unable to truly connect with what he sees. Things change, however, when he is forced to take a young girl named Alice (Yella Rottländer) with him on his return trip to Germany, after her mother (Lisa Kreuzer)—whom he has just met—leaves the child in his care. Though they initially find themselves at odds, the pair begin to form an unlikely friendship. In German with English subtitles.
Wenders updates a late-eighteenth-century novel by Goethe with depth and style, transposing it to ’70s West Germany and giving us the story of an aimless writer (Rüdiger Vogler) who leaves his hometown to find himself and befriends a group of other travelers. Seeking inspiration to help him escape his creative funk, he instead discovers the limits of attempts to refashion one’s identity. One of the director’s least seen but earthiest and most devastating soul searches, Wrong Move features standout supporting performances from New German Cinema regulars Hanna Schygulla and Peter Kern and, in her first film appearance, Nastassja Kinski. In German with English subtitles.
“Kings of the Road”
A roving film projector repairman (Rüdiger Vogler) saves the life of a depressed psychologist (Hanns Zisschler) who has driven his Volkswagen into a river, and they end up on the road together, traveling from one rural German movie theater to another. Along the way, the two men, each running from his past, bond over their shared loneliness. Kings of the Road, captured in gorgeous com-positions by cinematographer Robby Müller and dedicated to Fritz Lang, is a love letter to the cinema, a moving and funny tale of male friendship, and a portrait of a country still haunted by war. In German with English subtitles.
DIRECTOR-APPROVED SPECIAL EDITION FEATURES
• New, restored 4K digital transfers of all three films, commissioned by the Wim Wenders Foundation and supervised by director Wenders
• Audio commentaries for all three films, featuring Wenders and actors Rüdiger Vogler, and Yella Rottländer on Alice in the Cities, and featuring Wenders on Wrong Move and Kings of the Road
• New interview with Wenders, directed and conducted by filmmaker Michael Almereyda
• New interviews with Vogler, Kreuzer, Rottländer, and actors Hanna Schygulla and Hanns Zischler
• Outtakes and Super 8 home movies
• Restoring Time, a 2015 short about the restoration work done by the Wim Wenders Foundation
• “Same Player Shoots Again” (1967) and “Silver City Revisited” (1968), two newly restored early short films by Wenders
• New English subtitle translations
• A book featuring essays on the films by filmmaker Allison Anders, author James Robison and critic Nick Roddick