New York Times Reveals Upcoming Criterion Collection Titles For August 2011 [Updated]

I’m sure you’re all thinking to yourself “isn’t Ryan away on paternity leave?” Well yes, technically. However, my pregnant wife (our daughter hasn’t debuted quite yet) is currently snoozing soundly in bed (finally), so I have some time to catch up on some Criterion news posts that I’ve been working on in my spare time. While it’s been relatively slow as of late, in regards to hard Criterion news and rumors, the New York Times managed to drop a nice little gift in our laps today.

Last year, you’ll all remember when they were nice enough to tease at the August release of the Josef Von Sternberg box set, in an offhanded comment in their Summer preview post. It seems as though the folks at Criterion have been kind enough to let them into their legendary offices, and show off some titles that we’re expecting this August.

Here is what they had to say:

…In dreamier fare Criterion’s Blu-ray edition of the greatest of all fantasy films, Jean Cocteau’s ‘Beauty and the Beast,’ arrives July 19. Roman Polanski’s macabre comedy ‘Cul-de-Sac‘ makes its debut on DVD and Blu-ray on July 26, as does Jean-Pierre Melville’s ‘Leon Morin, Priest’ starring Jean-Paul Belmondo.

On Aug. 2 Cocteau makes his second home video appearance of the summer with the DVD and Blu-ray release of his ‘Orpheus.’ The same day the complete works of Jean Vigo arrive, including his only feature, ‘L’Atalante,’ one of the most lyrical and profoundly beautiful films ever made…

So obviously Cul-de-Sac wasn’t announced for July 26th (hopefully the NYTimes didn’t fire their fact checkers during the ongoing downsizing of the organization), but it’s safe to assume that this Roman Polanski film will have it’s official release date announced in a couple weeks when we get the entire line-up. Cul-de-sac was first teased at by me last September, when I went through Ten MGM Titles that I thought would find a home in the Criterion Collection. It was later confirmed (in a loose sense) when Criterion published their Wacky New Years drawing, which featured a rudimentary drawing of Donald Pleasence tied to the ship.

While looking up more info on Cul-de-sac, I came across this box set that Anchor Bay released in the UK, which features Cul-de-Sac, Knife in the Water, and Repulsion. It’d be pretty incredible if Criterion were to announce Knife in the Water on Blu-ray in August as well, and duplicate this incredible set of films from Roman Polanski.

I’ll touch on the Orpheus news in a little bit, since that is quite possibly the biggest news of the bunch for a very special reason.

In that Wacky New Years drawing, we saw a little boy engaged in a pillow fight. Travis was quick to discover that the drawing was hinting at a long rumored release that Criterion was supposedly working on: Jean Vigo‘s Zero de Conduite. Check out this clip from the film:

So as the NYTimes points out, we’re not only getting Zero de Conduite, but L’Atalante as well! Some thought that the boat itself, in the New Years Drawing, represented L’Atalante, and so I’m certainly willing to give them that, with this news. It’s also worth noting that Guy Maddin recently made his way to the Criterion offices, and made a special point of mentioning L’Atalante, as he raided their DVD and Blu-ray closet. Will he make an appearance in the supplements of that “Complete Jean Vigo” box set? I’m going to assume so.

[Update 4/30/11 8:58pm – thanks to the reader in the comments, it has come to my attention that Orpheus isn’t actually handled by Studio Canal, but the other titles in that box set were, which is why the whole set went out of print. So the following rant is completely negated!]

So Orpheus. Why is this the biggest news of the bunch? Now, before I get all mushy about the fact that OOP titles might come back to the Collection, I should probably hedge this a bit. The NYTimes piece doesn’t specially mention Criterion in the sentence with Orpheus, or in that paragraph at all. So who knows, maybe this is a news announcement for Lions Gate / Studio Canal, but again, I’m going to make an ass out of you and me. Last February, Criterion sent out a pretty terrifying announcement, informing their fans that a great number of titles would be going out of print, due to a distribution deal that ended between them and Studio Canal, who had been moving many titles over to their new partner, Lions Gate. Lions Gate had already taken away several other titles, including Kurosawa’s Ran, and Carol Reed’s The Third Man. Lions Gate has since released their own Blu-ray editions of those films, as well as Jean-Luc Godard’s Contempt. Over the past few months, however, Lions Gate has not announced new editions of any of the other Criterion titles that Studio Canal took away from the Collection.

If this NYTimes piece is true, then Criterion will be bringing Jean Cocteau’s Orpheus, once a part of the Orphic Trilogy box set, back to the Collection on DVD as well as Blu-ray. I think we can all now quietly hold out hope that perhaps Studio Canal isn’t very happy with the way that the Blu-rays have been received by the home video market, and maybe they’re thinking twice about preventing Criterion from releasing their own, definitive editions.

So this is pretty exciting, right? Over the next couple weeks, I’ll definitely throw out some other theories on what August might bring from the Collection. Perhaps we’ll finally get a Blu-ray upgrade of Kurosawa’s Rashomon? It was released in August of 1950 in Japan. While the 61st anniversary of it’s theatrical release doesn’t sound like a nice round number, it’s the best connection I can make.

What out of print titles from the Criterion Collection (that Studio Canal took away) would you like to see brought back, and upgraded to Blu-ray? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.