Criterion Corner: July 2019 Release Announcements

It's the middle of the month again, by this point everyone should know the drill: Criterion has once more managed to outdo themselves with another batch of supremely surprising announcements that are sure to be among the best of the year, and certainly ones that I wouldn't have expected from the prestigious collection. But, if there's one thing that Criterion has taught us, it's to expect the unexpected, and here we are yet again. Let's dive into what Criterion has coming up this time around.

July 9th: Europa Europa

Not to be confused with Lars Von Trier's Europa (which was released the following year and, incidentally, is also part of the Collection), Europa Europa is another example of a little-known release that hopefully Criterion will be able to amass a wider audience for with their boutique release. Based on a true story, the film follows a young Jewish German as he travels to various locales and blends in with the environment and beliefs in order to hide his ethnicity: going from a Soviet orphanage, to a Russian interpreter for Germany's army, to right in the middle of the Hitler Youth movement. Criterion's site describes it as "a breathless survival story told with the verve of a comic adventure, an ironic refutation of the Nazi idea of racial purity, and a complex portrait of a young man caught up in shifting historical calamities and struggling to stay alive." So, definitely a day one pickup for me, considering this is likely going to release during the semiannual Barnes and Noble sale.

Supplements include:
  • New 2K digital restoration, supervised by director Agnieszka Holland, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
  • Audio commentary from 2008 featuring Holland
  • New interviews with Holland and actor Marco Hofschneider
  • New video essay by film scholar Annette Insdorf
  • An essay by critic Amy Taubin

July 9th: The BRD Trilogy

A long-awaited and more than welcome return to the Collection, Rainer Werner Fassbinder's BRD Trilogy was out of print for years, subject to merciless scalp pricing and only available on their streaming service for a time. Not only are two of the three films (The Marriage of Maria Braun and Lola) now being released in shining new 4K restorations, but also the set is finally making the transition to the blu-ray format (although the DVD set is not returning). It seems like Criterion is starting to focus on releasing at least its box sets (for now) strictly as blu-ray releases- no doubt to suppress the overall cost of manufacturing both versions of the release at the same time. Perhaps this will signal an eventual return for Pandora's Box to the collection as well, with a fresh coat of paint to boot? (I wouldn't hold my breath on Chungking Express for now, though, that seems to be more of a rights issue at the moment).

Supplements include:
  • Audio commentaries from 2003 featuring filmmaker Wim Wenders and cinematographer Michael Ballhaus (The Marriage of Maria Braun), film critic and author Tony Rayns (Veronika Voss), and film scholar Christian Braad Thomsen (Lola)
  • Interviews with actors Hanna Schygulla, Rosel Zech, and Barbara Sukowa
  • Interviews with cinematographer Xaver Schwarzenberger, screenwriter Peter Märthesheimer, and film scholar Eric Rentschler
  • Life Stories: A Conversation with R. W. Fassbinder, an interview filmed for German television in 1978
  • I Don’t Just Want You to Love Me, a feature-length 1992 documentary on director Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s life and career
  • Dance with Death, a program from 2000 about Ufa studios star Sybille Schmitz, Fassbinder’s inspiration for the character Veronika Voss
  • Conversation between author and curator Laurence Kardish and film editor Juliane Lorenz
  • Trailers
  • An essay by film critic Kent Jones and production histories by author Michael Töteberg (Rainer Werner Fassbinder)

July 16th: Klute

Honestly, I'm surprised that it took Criterion so long to get an Alan J. Pakula film into their collection. With other low-key American classics like The Friends of Eddie Coyle and The Manchurian Candidate, I would have thought for sure that they would have gotten something like All the President's Men in there by now. Alas, Klute is a film I am unfamiliar with, but am nonetheless excited to get my hands on at some point- especially with that tantalizing box art. With a new 4K transfer, this should be a pristine introduction for me in the future.

Supplements include:
  • New conversation between actors Jane Fonda and Illeana Douglas
  • New documentary about Klute and director Alan J. Pakula by filmmaker Matthew Miele, featuring scholars, filmmakers, and Pakula’s family and friends
  • The Look of “Klute,” a new interview with writer Amy Fine Collins
  • Archival interviews with Pakula and Fonda
  • “Klute” in New York, a short documentary made during the shooting of the film
  • An essay by critic Mark Harris and excerpts from a 1972 interview with Pakula

July 16th: The Baker's Wife

A French comedy directed by Marcel Pagnol from the late 30's, starring the popular French superstar Raimu (whom Orson Welles dubbed as "the greatest actor who ever lived"), The Baker's Wife runs at more than two hours, leaving me to wonder just how much this story is going to have to tell. This was another film that I surprisingly had never heard of (as well as its star), but the synopsis and runtime alone are enough to keep me interested in seeing what this one has to offer. This is likely another shining example of a hidden gem (for me, at least) that Criterion is getting out there for more people to enjoy and adore- with another new 4K restoration, that would appear more than likely to be the impending result.

Supplements include:
  • Selected-scene audio commentary featuring Marcel Pagnol scholar Brett Bowles
  • Introduction by Pagnol from 1967
  • Excerpt from a 1966 interview with Pagnol for the French television series Cinéastes de notre temps
  • Short French news program from 1967 revisiting the village of Le Castellet, where the film was shot
  • An essay by film scholar Ginette Vincendeau

July 23rd: 1984

George Orwell's 1984 is one of my absolute favorite novels, and its adaptation from the year in which the title is set is one that I have been wanting to watch for years now. Twilight Time had a limited blu-ray release awhile back, but now, thanks to a brand new 4K restoration (approved by none other than its cinematographer Roger Deakins), we'll hopefully be able to witness Orwell's masterpiece on screen better than ever before, the way it was meant to be seen. (Also, note the cleverly placed spine number for this release: #984. We're onto you, Criterion. What do you have in store for #1000?) 

Supplements include:
  • New interviews with director Michael Radford and cinematographer Roger Deakins
  • New interview with David Ryan, author of George Orwell on Screen
  • Behind-the-scenes footage
  • Trailer
  • An essay by writer and performer A. L. Kennedy
Also not to be missed is a new blu-ray upgrade for Spike Lee's Do the Right Thing, featuring a new 4K digital restoration and a new 5.1 audio mix on the blu-ray; a program from 2009 featuring Lee and members of the film's cast and crew; and a new essay by critic Vinson Cunningham. This is a packed month in an already astounding year for Criterion (let's face it though, when have they ever not really had a fantastic release year?), so I once more find myself ever more eager for July to come and assault my wallet with Criterion's delectable new treatments. Until next month, I'll be counting down the days until I can finally see 1984 in all its glory.

-Wes Ball