Criterion Announces August 2020 Releases

Spend your hot August nights with these titles.
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As the dog days of summer continue, Criterion has these offerings to help you beat the heat. They are the previously reported The Complete Films of Agnès Varda, Chris Hegedus and D. A. Pennebaker's Town Bloody Hall, Paul Schrader's The Comfort of Strangers, and Jean Renoir's Toni. Also given a Blu-ray upgrade is Volker Schlöndorff and Margarethe von Trotta's The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum. Read on to learn more about them.

The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum (#177) out Aug 4

When a young woman spends the night with an alleged terrorist, her quiet, ordered life falls into ruins. The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum portrays an anxious era in West Germany amid a crumbling postwar political consensus. Katharina, though apparently innocent, suddenly becomes a suspect, falling prey to a vicious smear campaign by the police and a ruthless tabloid journalist that tests the limits of her dignity and her sanity. Crafting one of the most accessible and direct works of 1970s political filmmaking, Volker Schlöndorff and Margarethe von Trotta deliver a powerful adaptation of Heinrich Böll’s novel, a stinging commentary on state power, individual freedom, and media manipulation that is as relevant today as when it was released. The special features are:

  • Blu-ray: New 4K digital restoration, approved by director Volker Schlöndorff and producer Eberhard Junkersdorf, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack
  • DVD: Digital transfer, enhanced for 16x9 televisions
  • Interview from 2002 with directors Schlöndorff and Margarethe von Trotta
  • Interview from 2002 with director of photography Jost Vacano
  • Excerpts from a 1977 documentary on author Heinrich Böll
  • Trailer
  • PLUS: An essay by film critic Amy Taubin (Blu-ray only)

The Complete Films of Agnès Varda out Aug 11

rsz_the_complete_agnes_varda.jpgA founder of the French New Wave who became an international art-house icon, Agnès Varda was a fiercely independent, restlessly curious visionary whose work was at once personal and passionately committed to the world around her. In an abundant career in which she never stopped expanding the notion of what a movie can be, Varda forged a unique cinematic vocabulary that frequently blurs the boundaries between narrative and documentary, and entwines loving portraits of her friends, her family, and her own inner world with a social consciousness that was closely attuned to the 1960s counterculture, the women’s liberation movement, the plight of the poor and socially marginalized, and the ecology of our planet. This comprehensive collection places Varda’s filmography in the context of her parallel work as a photographer and multimedia artist—all of it a testament to the radical vision, boundless imagination, and radiant spirit of a true original for whom every act of creation was a vital expression of her very being.

Town Bloody Hall (#1039) out Aug 18

cc Town Bloody Hall.jpgOn April 30, 1971, a standing-room-only crowd of New York’s intellectual elite packed the city’s Town Hall theater to see Norman Mailer—fresh from the controversy over his essay “The Prisoner of Sex” and the backlash it received from leaders of the women’s movement—tangle with a panel of four prominent female thinkers and activists: Jacqueline Ceballos, Germaine Greer, Jill Johnston, and Diana Trilling. Part intellectual death match, part three-ring circus, the proceedings were captured with crackling, fly-on-the-wall immediacy by the documentary great D. A. Pennebaker and a small crew, with Chris Hegedus later condensing the three-and-a-half-hour affair into this briskly entertaining snapshot of a singular cultural moment. Heady, heated, and hilarious, Town Bloody Hall is a dazzling display of feminist firepower courtesy of some of the most influential figures of the era, with Mailer plainly relishing his role as the pugnacious rabble-rouser and literary lion at the center of it all. The director-approved special features are:

  • New 2K digital restoration, supervised by director Chris Hegedus, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
  • New interview with Hegedus
  • Audio commentary from 2004 featuring Hegedus and author Germaine Greer
  • Footage from a 2004 celebration of the film, which brought together participants Greer, Jacqueline Ceballos, and Jill Johnston and directors Hegedus and D. A. Pennebaker
  • Appearance from 1971 on The Dick Cavett Show by author Norman Mailer, promoting his book The Prisoner of Sex
  • Archival interviews with Greer and Mailer
  • English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
  • PLUS: An essay by film critic Melissa Anderson

The Comfort of Strangers (#1041) out Aug 18

cc The Comfort of Strangers.jpgAdapting the acclaimed novel by Ian McEwan, playwright and screenwriter Harold Pinter lends his trademark unnerving dialogue and air of creeping menace to this spellbinding study of power, control, and the frighteningly thin line between pleasure and pain. Rupert Everett and Natasha Richardson are the prey, a beautiful British couple working on their relationship while on holiday in Venice; Christopher Walken and Helen Mirren are the hunters who draw them into the sinister web of their opulent, old-world palazzo. What plays out is an unsettling, sadomasochistic seduction imbued with an atmosphere of sumptuous dread by the elegantly gliding tracking shots of cinematographer Dante Spinotti, lush score by Angelo Badalamenti, and carefully controlled direction of Paul Schrader, who choreographs a mesmerizing pas de quatre of sustained erotic and emotional tension. The special features are:

  • New, restored 4K digital transfer, supervised by cinematographer Dante Spinotti, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
  • New interviews with Spinotti, director Paul Schrader, actor Christopher Walken, and editor Bill Pankow
  • Interviews from 1981 and 2001 with novelist Ian McEwan and actor Natasha Richardson
  • Trailers
  • English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
  • PLUS: An essay by critic Maitland McDonagh

Toni (#1040) out Aug 25

cc Toni.jpgIn 1934, Jean Renoir stepped off the soundstage and headed to the South of France, where he captured vivid human drama amid the bucolic splendor and everyday social rituals of the countryside. Based on a true story and set in a community of immigrants living, working, and loving on the margins of French society, Toni follows the eponymous Italian migrant (Charles Blavette), whose tempestuous affairs with two women—the faithful Marie (Jenny Hélia) and the flirtatious Josefa (Celia Montalván)—unleash a wave of tragedy. Making use of nonprofessional actors, on-location shooting, and the resources of the great Marcel Pagnol’s Provence studio, Renoir crafts a marvel of poetic feeling that became a precursor to Italian neorealism and a favorite of the directors of the French New Wave. The special features are:

  • New 4K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
  • Audio commentary from 2006 featuring critics Kent Jones and Phillip Lopate
  • Introduction by director Jean Renoir from 1961
  • Episode of Cinéastes de notre temps from 1967 on Renoir, directed by Jacques Rivette and featuring a conversation with actor Charles Blavette about the film
  • New video essay about the making of Toni by film scholar Christopher Faulkner
  • New English subtitle translation
  • PLUS: An essay by film scholar Ginette Vincendeau

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