I love this movie so damn much.
I love this movie so damn much. Courtesy of the Criterion Collection
My heart is full of those shiny-eyed emojis right now because yesterday home video distributor Criterion Collection announced that John Berry's fantastic Claudine will join their esteemed roster in October. Diahann Carroll is the beating heart of the film—I was used to seeing her swathed in a kind of Dynasty-and-furs-twinged glamor, but as the eponymous Claudine she convincingly plays a mother stuck in a cycle of poverty who finds herself in a somewhat impossible relationship with a garbageman. She still manages to be glamorous—and sharp as hell.

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Claudine is a deep cut that we've highlighted on Slog before for Unstreamable, the column I write every week with Stranger Digital Editor Chase Burns about films that aren't currently available to stream. Like Beau travail last month, DVDs of Claudine aren't completely unavailable, but quality copies are certainly difficult to find. It's a film that rightly deserves time, attention, and care put into its consumption and now it'll be more widely available.

Here's what I wrote about Claudine last year:

In this comedy-drama, Claudine (Diahann Carroll in an Oscar-nominated performance) is raising six children on her own in Harlem. Though she receives welfare, it’s not enough to make ends meet, so she secretly works as a maid for a white family in the suburbs on the side. It’s there that Claudine meets a spry and funny garbageman, Roop (omg, James Earl Jones), who wants to wine, dine, and sixty-nine her every night of the week. At first unsure, Claudine eventually falls for that sexy garbageman.

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There are many memorable moments in this film: the way Roop gazes at Claudine in bed and tells her “When I look at you, my teeth hurt”; how Claudine and her six children rush to hide all their new appliances when the white social worker comes to visit; the way Claudine slips into her pantyhose after a late-night session with Roop; both characters reckoning with their respective stereotypes (Black Buck and Welfare Queen) and railing against the racist system that keeps them in poverty; the soundtrack, written by Curtis Mayfield and performed by Gladys Knight & the Pips.

Carroll and Jones have crackling chemistry that's both hilarious and real in the way they navigate the highs and lows of love, family, and the financial difficulties facing their relationship. There’s no pretense of a “happily ever after” ending for the couple, but rather, “how can we make this work if you end up losing welfare.” Also, the last 15 minutes features one of the greatest bicycling sequences I've seen on film. Claudine melted my heart.

Some of the things you'll get with this new Criterion edition: a 4k digital restoration (duh); audio commentary from 2003 featuring actors Diahann Carroll, James Earl Jones, and Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs, filmmaker George Tillman Jr., and son of screenwriters Lester and Tina Pine, Dan Pine; an essay by critic Danielle A. Jackson; plus English subtitles. Preorder the DVD here and check out the rest of Criterion's October releases (which include Parasite) here.

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