The Criterion Collection always has an interesting monthly line-up for its physical releases. But at least once a year there's a batch that will make you pick your jaw off the floor and hide your wallet. This September is definitely one of those months.
First up is Neil Jordan's Mona Lisa. After two films (including the surreal fantasy The Company of Wolves), this was the breakthrough film for him and star Bob Hoskins. This tale of the London underworld has been out-of-print for years, and apparently the most recent version wasn't anything special. This release features a new restoration, an archival commentary with Jordan and the late Hoskins, and a new essay and interview with critic Ryan Gilbey.
Next up is one of my favorite discoveries of last year: Gina Prince-Blythewood's Love & Basketball. This 2000 drama effortlessly wove together two coming-of-age stories, athletic triumph and heartbreak, and a moving tale of Black love. The 4K restoration is a big draw, but the disc also includes three new documentaries, plus three of the director's early short films.
Hong Kong filmmaker Johnnie To is one of Asia's most prolific directors, with more than 70 credits to his name. He's mostly known for his crime films, but he's also made romantic comedies and historical films. Throw Down marks his debut into the Collection. A tribute to legendary Japanese director Akira Kurosawa and the martial art of judo, it's one of his most personal films. The disc serves a new 4K restoration and subtitle translation, plus vintage supplements.
After the 2010 release of The Leopard and the 2019 release of Death in Venice, Italian director Luchino Visconti gets a third film in. The Damned follows a rich German family as they attempt to screw each other over for power and fortune while Hitler gains power every day. The disc is loaded with documentaries and historical information.
Finally, the pièce de résistance is the massive box set Melvin Van Peebles: Four Films, which collects the first four features from the iconoclastic director. The Story of a Three-Day Pass explored racism in the military. His lone Hollywood film, Watermelon Man, was a dark comedy about a white bigot who awakes one day to find out he's Black. He adapted his own stage musical with Don't Play Us Cheap, his last film for many years. But his biggest critical and commercial success remains Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song. That controversial film, which co-starred his son Mario, was recently selected to the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress. The making was also chronicled in the 2003 film Baadassss!, which Mario directed. That film is also included as a bonus feature. That's just the tip of the iceberg, though. There are also three of Van Peebles' early shorts, television episodes, and the 2005 documentary How Eat Your Watermelon in White Company (And Enjoy It). Plus, there's a 64-page book!