Criterion Corner: May 2019 Release Announcements

It’s another mid-month come and gone, and you know what that means: Criterion has graciously allowed us a peek at what they have in store for us in the coming months! This batch of announcements came with a few big surprises for me, personally, including one that I’ve been waiting a very long time for them to finally conjure up. If the coming months’ announcements end up being this good, then this might be one of their finest release years since the collection first started.

(NOTE: I’m not including the updated blu-ray release for House of Games, as it adds no new features or transfer, except for the uncompressed monaural soundtrack.)

May 7th: The Heiress

First up for May is The Heiress, a late 40’s effort from William Wyler, best known for the epic Ben-Hur or the romantic wartime classic The Best Years of Our Lives. An adaptation of an 1880 short novel by Henry James titled Washington Square, this lesser-known Wyler effort seems like a smaller and more concentrated piece compared to the larger-scale pictures he’s known for. Perhaps Criterion’s new stunning 4K restoration will allow The Heiress to enjoy a second life in the classic films fanbase, with of course a few added supplements to boost its value.

Special features included (as listed on
-      New conversation between screenwriter Jay Cocks and film critic Farran Smith Nehme
-      New program about the costumes of The Heiress featuring collector and historian Larry McQueen
-      The Costume Designer, a 1950 short film featuring the film’s costume designer Edith Head
-      An appearance by actor Olivia de Havilland on a 1979 episode of The Paul Ryan Show
-      Excerpts from a 1973 tribute to William Wyler on The Merv Griffin Show, featuring Wyler, de Havilland, and actors Bette Davis and Walter Pidgeon
-      Wyler’s acceptance speech from the American Film Institute’s 1976 Salute to William Wyler
-      Interview with actor Ralph Richardson filmed in 1981 for the documentary Directed by William Wyler
-      Original Trailer
-      Insert featuring an essay by critic Pamela Hutchinson

May 14th: Funny Games

Michael Haneke finally gets some more Criterion love with a fresh new 2K restoration of the original version of Funny Games, perhaps his best-known film. I’ve heard some people complain that Criterion didn’t include the 2007 remake in the release as an added bonus, but would you really watch it anyway? Being an exact remake from the same director just in English with a different cast wouldn’t be that much of an added bonus anyway, though the supplements featured are fairly slim as they are.

Supplements included:
-      New interviews with Michael Haneke and actor Arno Frisch
-      New interview with film historian Alexander Horwath
-      Press conference from the 1997 Cannes Film Festival featuring Haneke and actors Susanne Lothar and Ulrich Mühe
-      Original Trailer
-      New English subtitle translation
-      Insert featuring an essay by critic Bilge Ebiri

May 21st: Let the Sunshine In

Sometimes, Criterion manages to nab releases before they even hit the home video market, causing them to go directly into the collection without a previous release in the States. This is likely one of those cases- Claire Denis’ last released film before High Life comes to the States later this year through A24. It sadly seems to be another case of an almost barebones release, but a 4K master and an included short film at least make it seem interesting to check out.

Supplements included:
-      New interviews with director Claire Denis and actor Juliette Binoche
-      Voilà l’enchaînement, a 2014 short film directed by Denis and adapted from a text by author Christine Angot, featuring actors Norah Krief and Alex Descas
-      Original Trailer
-      New English subtitle translation
-      Insert featuring an essay by critic Stephanie Zacharek

May 28th: One Sings, the Other Doesn’t

At 100 years old, Agnes Varda is a powerhouse director that has become a household name for art house cinema. Her recent documentary collaboration with artist J.R., Faces Places, was a cute and fun romp through rural France that became a loving ode to art itself. She apparently has an autobiographical documentary coming out soon that will have her look into her own life and career as a writer and director. One Sings, the Other Doesn’t should prove to be a welcome addition to Criterion’s love story with Varda and another opportunity for people to familiarize themselves with her work.

Director-approved supplements include:
-      A new 2K digital restoration supervised by Varda and cinematographer Charlie Van Damme
-      Women Are Naturally Creative, a 1977 documentary directed by Katja Raganelli, featuring an interview with Varda shot during the making of One Sings and on-set interviews with actors Valérie Mairesse and Thérèse Liotard
-      Réponse de femmes, a 1975 short film by Varda, regarding the question “What is a woman?”
-      Plaisir d’amour en Iran, a 1976 short film by Varda, starring Mairesse and Ali Raffi
-      Original Trailer
-      New English subtitle translation
-      An insert featuring an essay by critic Amy Taubin and excerpts from the film’s original press book

May 28th: Blue Velvet

This is it. The one I (and, I assume, a whole slew of Criterion/Lynch fans) have been waiting for. A fresh new coat of paint for one of David Lynch’s finest works, featuring a new 4K digital restoration and a 5.1 surround soundtrack. For years, all we had was an overpriced barebones bluray put out by MGM that almost felt insulting to the greatness that was Blue Velvet, yet finally here we have one of the most anticipated releases from Criterion to date. (The only thing missing would probably be a velvet case for added effect!)

Director-approved supplements include:
-      Alternate original stereo soundtrack
-      “Blue Velvet” Revisited, a feature-length meditation on the making of the film by Peter Braatz, filmed on-set during the film’s production.
-      The Lost Footage, a whopping fifty-one minutes of deleted scenes and alternate takes assembled by Lynch himself.
-      Mysteries of Love, a seventy-minute documentary from 2002 on the making of the film
-      Original Trailer
-      More to be announced (presumably the yet-to-be-included essay insert hasn’t been completed yet).

Given Criterion’s lack of supplement-filled releases as of recently, I’m surprised there’s so much to look forward to in Blue Velvet’s release. Sure, there aren’t a great number of features included, but the amount of time one could spend getting invested in the documentaries and deleted footage will more than make up for what might have been missing from other releases.

If Criterion’s track record is only going to go uphill, from here, then I’m beyond stoked to see what they might have in store for us next month. With this month’s stacked announcements paired with sooner-to-come releases like Police Story and A Face in the Crowd, this year has been as good a time as ever to be an avid collector of Criterions. I can’t wait to see what they have in store for next month- it’ll be hard to top this at this point.
-Wes Ball