Criterion Corner: June 2019 Release Announcements

Criterion has been slowly trickling out bluray upgrades and outright new releases for Ingmar Bergman films ever since the massively ambitious Ingmar Bergman's Cinema box set was announced, and they didn't stray too far from this motif with the latest batch of announcements, which included a bluray upgrade for their "Film Trilogy" box set (which includes Through a Glass Darkly, Winter Light, and The Silence). So anyone not keen on dropping $300 on a massive box of Swedish cinema anytime soon will be happy to know that we're probably going to be getting a steady stream of Bergman upgrades in the coming months. There's nothing new added to the bluray set aside from the newer 2K restorations, but I would expect nothing less from a simple format upgrade. The other announcements, however, were a bit more surprising to say the least... Let's take a look at what Criterion has in store for us for June.

June 11th: Swing Time

I suppose it was only a matter of time before Criterion finally added at least one of the myriad of Astaire-Rogers musicals. Swing Time was actually originally in Criterion's laserdisc catalog years ago, so maybe this one's been a long time coming. Though I would love to eventually see them release one of their best known efforts Top Hat, perhaps this will serve as a proper introduction to someone who hasn't found himself well versed in the song-and-dance films of old like he should have been.

Supplements include:
  • Audio commentary from 1986 featuring John Mueller, author of Astaire Dancing: The Musical Films
  • Archival interviews with performers Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers and choreographer Hermes Pan
  • A new interview with George Stevens Jr.
  • In Full Swing, a new program on the film’s choreography and soundtrack featuring jazz and film critic Gary Giddins, dance critic Brian Seibert, and Dorothy Fields biographer Deborah Grace Winer
  • New interview with film scholar Mia Mask on the “Bojangles of Harlem” number
June 18th: L'humanité

If there's one thing I like better than a police procedural it's a psychological police procedural. This is an entirely new title for me (as is often the case with these Criterion announcements), so I'm stoked to finally be able to see something new in the crime genre that I may have been missing out on for years already. This one was apparently a massive blindspot for me: lead actor Emmanuel Schotté won the best actor award at Cannes that year (for a first-time performance, no less) which apparently was a massive upset for the contenders that year. This one seems worth checking out ASAP, for sure.

Supplements include:
  • A new interview with director Bruno Dumont, who also supervised and approved the new 4K restoration of the film
  • Conversation between Dumont and critic Philippe Rouyer from 2014
  • Segment from the French television program Tendences featuring actress Séverine Caneele
  • Segment from a 1999 French television news program featuring Dumont
  • Original trailer
It seems like as of recent years Criterion has been more focused on adding newer, more niche titles and expanding their catalog than creating broader releases with lots of supplements, which leads me to wonder exactly what their release strategy is nowadays, but given some of the recent announcements we've gotten, I'd say the complaints are few and far between.

June 18th: La vie de Jésus

A Dumont double feature release for June 18th includes his debut feature, which looks like a daring philosophical pondering complete with a nonprofessional lead actor that embodies everything that L'humanité represents from a real-world standpoint. I'm not familiar with the director, but these two sound like enticing pieces of art that I can't wait to get my hands on.

Supplements include:
  • New interview with Dumont (who once again supervised the 4K restoration)
  • Conversation between Dumont and critic Philippe Rouyer from 2014 (presumably a different segment than the one featured in the L'humanité release)
  • Excerpts from two 1997 episodes of the French television program Le cercle de minuit
  • Original trailer
June 25th: Hedwig and the Angry Inch

This was the one that surprised me the most this time around. There was a lot of talk after the Criterion New Year's picture that they could be putting this in their collection- it just seemed so far away from their normal boutique lineup that I'd come to expect for the most part. Then again, I suppose that any label that would put Armageddon and The Rock in their collection could be susceptible to release anything anyway. Maybe this will be another case of Ghost World, where I found myself pleasantly surprised by a seemingly unorthodox entry in the prestigious collection.

Supplements include:
  • Audio commentary from 2001 featuring John Cameron Mitchell and cinematographer Frank DeMarco, who also supervised and approved the new 4K digital restoration
  • New conversation between members of the cast and crew, including Mitchell, DeMarco, composer and lyricist Stephen Trask, hairstylist and makeup artist Michael Potter, animator Emily Hubley, actor Miriam Shor, and visual consultant Miguel Villalobos
  • Whether You Like It or Not: The Story of Hedwig (2003), an eighty-five-minute documentary tracing the development of the project from its beginnings in a New York club to its theatrical premiere at the Sundance Film Festival
  • New conversation between Trask and rock critic David Fricke about the film’s soundtrack
  • From the Archives, a new program exploring Hedwig’s production and legacy through its memorabilia
  • Deleted scenes with commentary by Mitchell and DeMarco
  • Trailer and more to be announced, apparently
Now, if only we could get a new Criterion of Almost Famous. Then I'd be really happy.

June 25th: War and Peace

This was the one I was anticipating right from the beginning of the year. I know nothing about War and Peace, but the prospect of watching a seven hour Russian epic adaptation of the novel seems all the more daunting of a challenge that I absolutely cannot wait to overcome as a fan of foreign films, epic lengths, and 1960's cinema alike. You can bet good money that I'll be reviewing this sucker as soon as the sale hits midsummer. 

Supplements include: 
  • Brand new 2K digital restoration of the original seven hour Russian cut with 5.1 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the bluray
  • New interviews with cinematographer Anatoly Petritsky and filmmaker Fedor Bondarchuk, son of Sergei Bondarchuk
  • Two 1966 documentaries about the making of the film
  • Television program from 1967 profiling actor Ludmila Savelyeva, and featuring Sergei Bondarchuk
  • New program with historian Denise J. Youngblood (Bondarchuk’s “War and Peace”: Literary Classic to Soviet Cinematic Epic) detailing the cultural and historical contexts for the film
  • Janus rerelease trailer
Each of these releases, of course, come with their respective essay inserts- including some nifty extra bits for Hedwig and the Angry Inch: excerpts from Plato's Symposium and The Gospel of Thomas, both of which evidently inspired the story. Personally, I'm just excited to finally get another long film in my collection that's just bound to sit on my shelf for months on end before I finally get to tackling it. At least each of these releases hold promises of their own, and hopefully find their way into fitting in with the hundreds of other releases on millions of fans' shelves all over the world. 

-Wes Ball