This disc is the first ever to offer the complete Shostakovich score to the 1964 Grigori Kozintsev film Hamlet. Actually, it contains a bit more: track 6 for example, "The Ball," presents music not heard in the film, music the composer wrote apparently because he wanted to reach a logical ending, even if in the film the music just fades away. There are 23 numbers in all, with a total timing of over 62 minutes. Stylistically, the music is related to the Eleventh (1957) and Thirteenth (1962) symphonies, but is of course less developmental and more programmatic, coming across as a sort of tone poem made up of many short movements. While there is a fair amount of bright, even happy music in the score, the mood is generally dark and intense, appropriately so considering the subject matter: Shakespeare's Hamlet is, after all, hardly a comedy. The music doesn't skim surfaces, either – it haunts, it sasses, it laughs, and it plumbs the depths.
Jacques Demy's 1964 masterpiece is a pop-art opera, or, to borrow the director's own description, a film in song. This simple romantic tragedy begins in 1957. Guy Foucher (Nino Castelnuovo), a 20-year-old French auto mechanic, has fallen in love with 17-year-old Geneviève Emery (a luminous Catherine Deneuve), an employee in her widowed mother's chic but financially embattled umbrella shop. On the evening before Guy is to leave for a two-year tour of combat in Algeria, he and Geneviève make love. She becomes pregnant and must choose between waiting for Guy's return or accepting an offer of marriage from a wealthy diamond merchant (Marc Michel, reprising his role from Demy's masterful debut, Lola). A completely sung movie, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg is closest in form to a cinematic opera. Composer Michel Legrand composed the score, modeling it around the patterns of everyday conversation.
The latest remaster from MGM in celebration of its 90th anniversary is the Sergio Leone-directed The Man with No Name Trilogy that launched Clint Eastwood into international stardom. The release comes almost exactly four years to the day after MGM's previous release of the same set, and the first two films—A Fistful of Dollars and For a Few Dollars More—are identical to the earlier discs. The third film, however, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, first seen on Blu-ray in 2009, has received a long-hoped-for restoration under the auspices of the Cineteca di Bologna. Although the audio options remain unchanged from the 2009 release (a subject that has prompted protests from some corners), the upgrade in image quality is dramatic.