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Some call Wes Anderson the contemporary poster child of Criterion. His films offer satisfying glimpses into upper-middle class sensibilities filtered through a particular, undeniably Andersonian lens. The Royal Tenenbaums, though arguably not his best film, is a crowd pleaser and my personal favorite. I have watched it more than any other film I own. It was my first Criterion title and remains my favorite edition in the Collection.
I feel that The 400 Blows, more than most other titles in the Collection, truly embodies the spirit of Criterion. Truffaut's debut stands as one of the greatest films of all time and has a timeless quality rivaled by next to none.
This is probably my favorite film of all time--the first of two brilliant collaborations between Jonze and Kaufman--featuring excellent performances from Keener, Cusack, Diaz, and Malkovich Malkovich Malkovich. Kooky surrealism has never felt so good.
Paris, Texas is unlike any other movie I've seen. Wandering through the desert alone, Stanton's Travis seems a man whose journey cannot be shared, whose suffering cannot be understood by anyone. Then Nastassja Kinski arrives and upsets all of our preconceived notions, offering Travis's missing half in one of the most lovely and unforgettable exchanges in cinematic history. I am immensely moved every time I watch it.
Robert Altman was one of America's greatest filmmakers (if not our greatest), and Short Cuts is one of a handful of films that could be called his magnum opus. Breathing new life into Raymond Carver's stories and transporting them south, Altman, with sweeping, ambitious scope, offers a version of Los Angeles unlike any before him. Short Cuts is the crowning achievement of Altman's glorious renaissance.
Conversely, here Altman proves himself adept at taking our breath away with the peculiarities of small, seemingly insignificant lives. The director makes grander statements in this microcosmic case study of American life than he does even with the broader strokes of his epic masterworks, Short Cuts and Nashville. As always, he rightfully trusts the instincts of his actors, and he could not have made better choices here than the infinitely complex Sissy Spacek and the always delightful Shelley Duvall.
Kieślowski's Three Colors trilogy is a modern masterpiece, and Blue is hands down my favorite of the trio. Juliette Binoche is note-perfect.
Murmur of the Heart will always have a special place in my heart. I picked it up on a whim immediately after its DVD release, and I was enraptured. It was my introduction to Louis Malle and only my second Criterion title (after Tenenbaums). In short, it is the film that made me fall in love with the Collection. I always liked offbeat, non-mainstream films, and Malle's hilarious Murmur of the Heart showed me exactly where I could satisfy my needs. From that point on, I was hooked on Criterion.
Every time I watch Slacker I notice something new. Richard Linklater's examination of the (extra-)ordinariness of everyman existence in Austin, Texas, is quirky and hilarious, a piece of living, breathing art--in short, something of a minor masterpiece.
David Gordon Green stunned everyone with George Washington. Though none of his subsequent films have lived up to this spectacular debut, Green stands as a brilliant auteur and, by extension, an important filmmaker. George Washington is one of the most special American films of the last several decades, the work of a master craftsman with a uniquely-tuned vision of the contemporary Gothic South. Adolescence has never been rendered so naturally or with such heartbreaking beauty.
It seems that I cannot escape the inevitability of returning once more to my favorite living actor, the spectacular Juliette Binoche. Here Binoche again proves herself able to do just about anything in this lovely gem about three siblings sorting out their mother's inheritance. Assayas renders globalization tangible in a way unlike anyone before him. He sidesteps our expectations by creating an organic film that is as real and particular as the matriarch Hélène's gorgeous country estate. Like Hélène's artwork and knickknacks, Summer Hours is a personal and special artifact, something to treasure.