stars Nora Gregor, Paulette Dubost and Marcel Dalio; Jean Renoir directs.
The Setup: Jean Renoir's drama is a stinging critique of a corrupt society that hides behind a wall of proprieties and good manners. The film starts off like a bedroom farce, with couples frequently, but discreetly, swapping sex partners. The group of married/philandering couples descend on a country house one weekend for a hunting party, but it's romantic prey most of them are after. Locked into their roles by societal dictates, the guests and the household staff navigate a minefield of lies, misunderstandings, hypocrisies, jealousies and infidelities, with bits of love and reconciliation thrown in.
The Execution: The film is universally hailed as one of the best ever made, which may account for the fact that after its release in 1939, it was promptly banned in France. An edited, more acceptable version (the audience, after all, was made up of people represented by the characters) was finally okayed. The original negative was destroyed during WWII (an unrecognized war crime, to many), then reconstructed in 1959. It's that version that's seen here.
The Extras: There are loads of them. The Blu-ray edition includes a high-definition digital restoration, an introduction by director Jean Renoir, audio commentary read by Peter Bogdanovich, a comparison of the film's two endings, a video recounting the film's history up to its 1959 reconstruction, interviews with actress Mila Parely and Renoir's son, Alain, and much, much more.West Side Story
stars Natalie Wood, Richard Beymer and Rita Moreno; Jerome Robbins and Robert Wise direct.
The Setup: MGM's 50th Anniversary release of West Side Story is a welcomed break from the CGI mega-movies that dominate the cineplexes these days. A updated Romeo and Juliet, set in New York City with rival street gangs instead of feuding families, West Side Story won ten Academy Awards, and rightfully so. The score by Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim, choreography by Jerome Robbins, and Oscar-winning performances come together to make this what many consider the best movie musical ever. Natalie Wood and Rita Moreno star as Puerto Rican girls Maria and Anita, with George Chakiris as Bernardo, Maria's brother and Anita's volatile boyfriend. Richard Beymer is Tony, the white boy Maria falls for and Bernardo swears to kill.
The Execution: It's Bernstein, Sondheim and Robbins, for goodness' sake. Add Robert Wise, who co-directs with Robbins, and a hand-picked cast, and the film is perfection. From opening sequence to final credits, there isn't a single misstep on screen. At 50 years old, West Side Story holds up beautifully.
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to the mission of the Houston Press. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Houston’s stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
The Extras: The 50th Anniversary Box Set Blu-ray version includes four discs, with a remastered Hi-Def version of the film, commentary by Stephen Sondheim, a tribute CD with covers of the film's famous songs, theatrical posters, a hardcover book with rare photos and more on the creation of West Side Story.
And you might also be interested in Looney Tunes Platinum Collection: Volume One, a three-disc set of 50 cartoons and shorts starring Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, the Tasmanian Devil, Porky Pig and the Road Runner. There's also more than five hours of additional content paying homage to Chuck Jones, and some of his rare shorts.
Come on, like you can resist What's Opera, Doc?.