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The Criterion Collection presents
“Mrs. Blum, how do you explain how your daughter has come to this?”
DVD ReviewThe Lost Honor of Katharina Blum covers five days in the life of a young, mousy German housekeeper. In less than a week's time, she will go from being an unknown speck in her homeland to media whipping girl on the front page of every newspaper as a terrorist sympathizer, all because of an innocent, one night dalliance.
At a costume party, Katharina (Angela Winkler) meets Ludwig (Jürgen Prochnow), a handsome stranger with whom she develops an instant chemistry. Ditching the crowded confines for more intimate matters, the two head for her apartment building. Unbeknown to them, a number of surveillance men, tipped off by an undercover cop dressed in sheik garb at the party, are watching their every move.
Barely able to experience post-lovemaking afterglow, Katharina's apartment is invaded by an army of police officers led by Beismenne (Mario Adorf), a menacing bully of a law enforcer demanding to know her lover's whereabouts. After undergoing a humiliating experience of being forced to disrobe and change clothes in full view of the gathered, Katharina is unceremoniously paraded in front of a hungry media already salivating for photo ops and sound bites.
On the outside, Katharina's highly manipulated story becomes fodder for the tabloids. Everyone from friends to co-workers are hounded incessantly, with one particularly black-hearted journalist (Dieter Laser) having the gall to seek a quote from her mother as she lays dying in a local hospital. Upon her release following questioning, Katharina returns to a world filled with harassing phone calls, indifferent neighbors and constant attention in all forms—sympathetic friends, the curious public, police, etc—so smothering that even a casual observer can see a slow breakdown in the making.
In most cases, the timelessness of a film is a testament to its art and original vision. While that more than holds true for The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum, it's also very sad to see how little we've progressed as far as press persecution in the three decades since this movie opened. Standing out in an excellent cast are Angela Winkler as the ill-fated young woman, deceptively brash on the outside while disintegrating slowly on the inside; Mario Adorf's brilliantly intimidating police commissioner; and Dieter Laser's all too true-to-life tabloid tyrant. Jost Vacano's documentary-flavored cinematography is exemplary (leading to future collaborations with fellow countryman Paul Verhoeven) with co-helmer's Volker Schlöndorff and Margarethe von Trotta effectively expressing the urgency of Blum's plight with taut direction that doesn't resort to over-the-top theatrics.
Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A-
Image Transfer Review: Yet another sublime Criterion presentation. Gorgeous colors, practically no grain or enhancement difficulties and perfect sharpness. Aside from brief scratches in the early going, Blum fares better than many films from the mid-1970s that have made the jump to the format.
Image Transfer Grade: A
Audio Transfer Review: The natural, smooth and perfectly balanced mono soundtrack with very impressive clarity is a textbook example of how the company's 24-bit audio re-mastering techniques works wonders.
Audio Transfer Grade: A
Disc ExtrasFull Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 21 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
Co-directors Schlöndorff and von Trotta reunite for a sophisticated and thorough overview of Blum from conception to finished product with fascinating insights (including a frightening real life experience that eerily parallels the film's protagonist). Heinrich Böll is an engrossing half-hour compilation of excerpts from a 1977 documentary on the celebrated Nobel Prize-winning author of the book upon which this film was based.
Extras Grade: A
Final CommentsOne of Germany's finest (and still timely) celluloid exports gets the classy Criterion treatment.
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