With Its Pride Slate, the Criterion Collection Wants Us To Be Gay and (Maybe) Do Crime

McKenzie Wark’s essay included in the new Criterion Collection 4K release of the Wachowskis’ Bound is titled “Be Gay, Do Crime.” That could also describe all of Criterion’s 2024 Pride releases.

To even say, Criterion’s Pride releases is a sign of our changed times. Since its conception, The Criterion Channel has delivered on this front, but as recently as 2020, I bemoaned the lack of queer women stories and queer women filmmakers in the official collection.

But since committing to more inclusive representation, the most widely celebrated home video label has followed through with their promise. Now every month when Criterion announces their next slate, a variety of films from a variety of countries from a variety of perspectives are gifted the attention to quality and detail they bring to all of their releases.

It’s rare to see a company improve so explicitly and so quickly. And lucky for us, because it means in the span of a few weeks we get gorgeous releases of Anatomy of a Fall, Querelle, and Bound.

I want to start with Querelle, because Criterion’s approach to German auteur Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s career is indicative of their growth. They first released Ali: Fear Eats the Soul as spine #198. Next was his BRD Trilogy, Berlin Alexanderplatz, and World on a Wire. These are incredible films (and limited series) — they’re also some of the very queer Fassbinders’ least narratively queer works. It took until spine #740 for them to release his gorgeous and nasty lesbian masterpiece The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant. Another hundred or so releases later, they gave another nasty gay Fassbinder film — and my personal favorite of his — Fox and His Friends the treatment. Now they’ve finally arrived at his last film, Querelle, Fassbinder’s surreal and gayer than gay Jean Genet adaptation.

It’s redundant to say the transfer is stunning, because Criterion is reliable in that regard. But the transfer is stunning. And the video essay tracking Fassbinder’s evolution throughout his career is fascinating. They’ve also included a short documentary made soon after his death that includes footage of Fassbinder on-set.

There are even more treasures to be found on their release of Justine Triet’s Palme d’Or winner Anatomy of a Fall. In addition to a lengthy interview with Triet, the release includes over a half hour of deleted and alternate scenes with commentary from Triet. The cut scenes are interesting, but it’s the alternates that are a true delight. Anyone obsessed with Sandra Hüller’s performance — everyone who has seen it — will enjoy seeing Hüller’s different approaches to the same moment. It’s also a joy to listen to the commentary for context and because it’s mostly Triet just gushing about her actors.

It also includes some auditions and footage of rehearsals. It’s fun to see rehearsal footage in making-of documentaries — it’s even cooler to see this curated but less polished collection of behind-the-scenes peeks. Oh and, of course, there’s also a featurette about training the dog.

From a woman accused of a crime to two women righteously committing their own. While it’s exciting to see Criterion release gayer Fassbinder films and have the opportunity to release a woman-directed Palme d’Or winner (although they also hadn’t released The Piano until 2022), it’s Bound that feels totally unique to this new Criterion.

I’ve already written extensively about Bound as a masterpiece of trans cinema and discussed its exceptional sex scenes. So I’ll just say that for any fans of the film, this release is essential. The 4K restoration is exceptional and the special features are divine.

There are extensive interviews with cast and crew, as well as film scholars Jennifer Moorman and B. Ruby Rich, an interesting video essay by Christina Newland, and even a commentary with the Wachowskis and other cast and crew. This commentary is from the 90s and it’s jarring to hear the Wachowskis’ deadnames and fascinating to have this time capsule preserved. My only disappointment with the release is there isn’t a second contemporary commentary — although that’s probably due to the Wachowskis’ lack of desire rather than a lack of trying by Criterion.

This Pride let’s celebrate these three releases and all the other incredible queer Criterion releases of recent years: Pariah, All About My Mother, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Pink Flamingos, Paris Is Burning, the Chantal Akerman Masterpieces set, the Pasolini 101 set, and, one of their greatest releases of all time, The Signifyin’ Works of Marlon Riggs.

I love queer movies. I love when queer movies are given the preservation and celebration and context they deserve. Here’s to many more Junes (and Julys and Augusts and Septembers…) of just that. Thanks, Criterion.

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Drew Burnett Gregory

Drew is a Brooklyn-based writer, filmmaker, and theatremaker. She is a Senior Editor at Autostraddle with a focus in film and television, sex and dating, and politics. Her writing can also be found at Bright Wall/Dark Room, Cosmopolitan UK, Refinery29, Into, them, and Knock LA. She was a 2022 Outfest Screenwriting Lab Notable Writer and a 2023 Lambda Literary Screenwriting Fellow. She is currently working on a million film and TV projects mostly about queer trans women. Find her on Twitter and Instagram.

Drew Burnett has written 566 articles for us.

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