The Criterion Collection September 2019 New Releases
This month, Criterion is adding another six iconic films to its 1,000 plus title Collection. September 2019 will see the release of Polyester, Cluny Brown, The Cloud-Capped Star, Local Hero, The Circus, and Fists in the Pocket. As ever, Criterion keeps the pack of each month's releases as eclectic as possible, and impossible to predict. And although the issues are all very interesting in their own ways, there are two about which I am particularly excited. The duet includes films by two of the most talented craftsmen of comedy the screen has ever known: Ernest Lubitsch and Charlie Chaplin. The also happen to be two of my absolute favorite directors of all time. I'm sure I'm not alone in that fact. How could I be?
Cluny Brown (long unavailable on home video) is the final film completed by the light-hearted comedy genius, Lubitsch. Brown is considered one of the beloved, and much esteemed director's most effervescent creations, which is really saying something since this is the same man responsible for the hugely popular classics Ninotchka and The Shop Around the Corner, which are my favorite two films by the master. Cluny is a comedy of manners set in England on the cusp of World War II, a common device that benefits greatly from the unquantifiable quality known to Hollywood insiders as "the Lubitsch touch". This "touch" was so envied that many spent their careers in an attempt to emulate it. Even one time collaborator, Billy Wilder kept an inspirational plaque in his office that read, "What would Lubitsch do?"
I can't help but make the correlation that Wilder's apprenticeship with Lubitsch helped him to create some of the greatest comedies of all time, including Some Like It Hot. Golden Age actress, Jennifer Jones (best remembered for her Academy Award winning performance in The Song of Bernadette) is the cherry on the cake, shining in this rare comedic turn as the title character. And one of the screen's great lovers, Charles Boyer (known for more dramatic fare such as Gas Light) plays an eccentric continental exile who falls for the charming household servant played by Jones. The new 4K digital restoration is available on both DVD and Blu-ray. I'll be on the waiting list I soon as I post this article.
The other Criterion release this month that I'm particularly excited about is Charlie Chaplin's 1928 silent comedy, The Circus. Chaplin pulls off some of the most uproarious pratfalls and audacious stunts of his legendary career, paying tribute to the acrobats and pantomimists who inspired his virtuoso pratfalls. As in many of his most popular films, Chaplin's "Little Tramp" is caught in a case of mistaken identity. In this case, he flees into the ring of a traveling circus and (naturally) soon becomes the star of the show, falling for a lovely fellow performer. Considered to be among Chaplin's finest films, the production includes some of the most audacious set pieces of Chaplin's career, which range from a close brush with a lion to a climactic tightrope walk with a barrel full of monkeys (no, really- it's not just a turn of phrase). Rereleased in 1969 with a new score by Chaplin himself, The Circus showcases silent cinema's most popular entertainer at the peak of his comic powers. I confess, I am a bigger fan of 1921's The Kid. However, the added bonuses of this 4K digital restoration of the 1969 rerelease are enticing. The new features include an original score by Chaplin, a 1969 interview with Chaplin, an interview with Chaplin's son Eugene, an unused café sequence, and footage of the 1928 Hollywood premiere. That sounds like a lot of fun for any fan of the filmmaker, or Silent Films. It just may be the next edition to my collection I keep on hand for my students.
Once again Criterion has aimed for the best and has surpassed the mark. If classic comedy is your thing, then don't settle for anything but the best, and add these two great titles to your collection now. Then wait to see what Criterion has to offer you next month and the month after that. In fact, just keep your eye on them. Their's is a quality that surely can't be beat.