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The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum: The Criterion Collection

One of the more commercial offerings of the 1970s "New German Cinema" movement, this 1975 adaptation of Heinrich Böll's politically charged novel is compelling and provocative, even when it veers into cartoon villainry and myopic ideological posturing. Directed by Volker Schlöndorff and his then-wife Margarethe von Trotta, Die Verlorene Ehre der Katharina Blum oder: Wie Gewalt entstehen und wohin sie führen kann (as this writer likes to call it) stars Angela Winkler as modest housekeeper Katharina Blum, whose love-at-first-one-night-stand with a fugitive anarchist (Jurgen Prochnow) launches her into the spotlight of a furious police-and-press manhunt. Winkler is arresting as the enigmatic Blum, and she carries the film as both an empathetic innocent and a defiantly obtuse terrorist sympathizer (of sorts), and Schlöndorff and von Trotta keep the pacing vital and make good use of the period's Fassbinder-like gritty and gloomy aesthetic. At times the film bogs a little too deeply in Böll's polemic (such as in the film's final moments, which feature a shockingly explicit and amusingly brazen denunciation of the German tabloid Bild). There also seems to be too little acknowledgment of Blum's complicity in her own circumstances in deference to her appeal as a lovestruck victim of circumstance, and yet this approach somehow makes the film more gripping than one suspects it would have been with greater perspective. Criterion presents The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum in a terrific new digital anamorphic transfer (1.78:1) with Dolby Digital 1.0 audio (in German, with optional English subtitles). Supplements to the feature include an interesting 20-minute interview with Schlöndorff and von Trotta, a shorter interview with cinematographer Jost Vacano, and 30 minutes of excerpts from the fascinating 1977 documentary Heinrich Böll, which adds context to the film by examining the controversial politics of the source material's author and the tense German civil clashes that inspired it. Keep-case.
—Gregory P. Dorr

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