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Criterion Launches New 'Eclipse' Line

23 Jan, 2007 By: Jessica Wolf


Early Bergman is the first DVD release for Criterion's Eclipse line.


The Criterion Collection moniker has become synonymous with features-laden, carefully restored and impeccably documented special-edition DVDs.

But the company is stepping back from that time-consuming and expensive focus for Eclipse, a new line of releases unveiling films that otherwise may not see the light of day.

It takes months, even years to shepherd a film through the Criterion pipeline. Many titles that film fans are clamoring for, titles they often hear about in other Criterion-produced documentaries and featurettes, are “eclipsed” by the time and effort needed for the special edition releases, said Peter Becker, president of the Criterion Collection.

“We realized there are an awful lot of films that we know about, and we are able to see because we have them here. But they haven't been out in the world,” he said. “It was a natural fit to sort of complement Criterion and give Criterion viewers an opportunity to dig deeper.”

The Eclipse series of releases will feature multidisc sets of classic, lesser-known films, deep catalog or never-before-on-DVD titles in barebones editions.

It starts with the March 27 release of Early Bergman ($69.95), a five-disc boxed set featuring the filmmaker's work between 1944 and 1949, including Torment, Ingmar Bergman's first produced screenplay, along with Crisis, Port of Call, Thirst and To Joy.

Following that comes the April 24 release of The Documentaries of Louis Malle, a six-disc set ($79.95) that includes seven documentaries Malle filmed around the world in the 1960s, '70s and '80s — Vive le Tour; Humain, Trop Humain; Place de la R?publique; Phantom India (spans two discs); Calcutta; God's Country as well as And the Pursuit of Happiness.

Future Eclipse sets will present rarely seen works from other well-known and not-so-well-known directors.

Criterion will configure the boxed sets with a curatorial theme, not just slap films together because they come from the same director, Becker said.

The Malle set is a great example, he said. Criterion hasn't even finished diving into the Malle feature films it has on tap, let alone gotten to the director's documentary cache.

“Malle, throughout his career, he made documentaries in addition to all his features, and no one really knows about them,” Becker said. “We all know all the fiction films, and he didn't need to be making documentaries, but this was really the true expression of film art for him. He was constantly returning to filming reality.”

If a title arrives on the Eclipse brand, that doesn't mean it will never get the full Criterion treatment, Becker said. Now, fans of a director won't necessarily have to wait for years and years for Criterion to get to it, he said.

Eclipse brand will be a per-DVD consumer value (about $15 or less per disc); but the multidisc configuration will also give retailers a good margin, Becker said.

There's little concern that the no-frills discs will jeopardize the high expectations fans have of Criterion titles, he said, because Eclipse is another way of addressing those expectations.

“If Criterion is really about exploring an ornamenting and exalting an individual film one at a time, which is largely what we've been up to, the idea of Eclipse was to be a little more like a cinemateque, to present a series,” Becker said. “And, by pointing out that they've been overlooked, that is part of what will make them attractive to our audience.”

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