16 of My Favorite Criterion Purchases

by DavidDR

Created 07/21/12

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It's tough to rank a Top 10 list of Criterion discs. Is it the film that's being ranked, the Criterion packing (supplements, rarity, transfer), or perhaps it's just something that hits the viewer on a personal level? So, I won't even try to create a "Top 10 Best CC" kind of list. This is simply 16 Criterion purchases, off the top of my head, that I am happy to own. They are purchases that surprised me with their high quality (like the blind-buy Shepitko), stick in the memory forever like "Paris, Texas", or amazed me like "The Great Dictator". Thanks for taking the time to view my list. As you can see below, the films aren't in any sort of order or ranking. Without much forethought, they're just some of the first CC titles that popped into my head that enjoy owning for some reason or another ...

  • Sure, this Eclipse set is limited to two films from the short career of Soviet Union artist, Larisa Shepitko. It's difficult to decide which of the two films, "Wings" and "The Ascent" is better -- so it's easier to just say that both are extraordinary adventures in cinematography and drama. The images are beautiful and sometimes stark. This was an immensely surprising set.

  • Who knew that perhaps the greatest current living director would turn out to be Iranian? Kiarostami's films are always concerned with differing realities, falsities, and the unusual way usual people live. If "The Wind Will Carry Us", "Certified Copy" and "Taste of Cherry" are pictures of supreme genius, then "Close-Up" is his masterpiece.

  • This is one of Rainer Werner Fassbinder's most accessible films, told with delicacy and heart. There are hardly enough films that deal adequately with issues of race and ethnicity, let alone age. It's also a film about determining what makes you happy, the rest of the world be damned.

  • What a tremendous release. Aesthetically amazing. Criterion gives viewers the chance to see three films of the earliest surviving films of a true technical master in the 1920s before he hits a different kind of stride in the 1930s with "The Blue Angel", "Dishonored", "Morocco", "Blonde Venus", "The Scarlet Empress" and "The Devil Is A Woman".

  • It's difficult to make any list of Criterion releases without a film from Bresson. What can be more moving that "Au Hasard Balthazar", a tale of a heartlessly abused girl paralleled with an equally abused donkey. It's simple, but immensely powerful. It's the craft of cinema at its highest form.

  • Visually stunning. The barren landscape, the gritty city, and then the American Southwest. Once you see Nastassja Kinski in fuzzy pink angora, between the glass, talking with her husband played by Harry Dean Stanton, you will never get the image out of your mind. It's that striking. It's a film about human connection.

  • Film_30w_m_w160

    1. (tie)

    Fritz Lang

    No Criterion collection is complete without this black and white classic. Period.

  • A masterpiece. Chaplin picked the right time to have his Little Tramp talk. And boy did he have a lot to say. Sure, the ending is overdone, and Chaplin had his say through melodramatics -- but the comedy cannot be beaten. It's amazing to think that Chaplin began this film before the Western world began to act on the terror of Hitler. Incredibly prescient.

  • Hunger was another blind buy. The trailer looked amazing in terms of the cinematography and color. But what is even more wonderful, is the story itself.

  • It's bawdy, outrageous, disjointed, nutty, nonsensical, blasphemous, hilarious, and brilliant. Peter O'Toole is the master of this 50-ring circus.

  • This is one of the greatest sets ever produced by any distribution company. In the "War Triology" Criterion has its golden accomplishment. The films are impeccably cleaned considering their original states, and the films display the best of Rossellini. The supplements are so many it's like an avalanche of added information. Simply start with "Rome, Open City", and prepare to be taken in. The priest torture scenes are exquisite, and when Don Pietro refuses to be cracked -- the film ends on a note that will break your heart, just as "Paisan" will too.

  • "Written On the Wind" is Douglas Sirk's finest hour, and Dorothy Malone's too. The film is one of the prettiest you'll ever see. All of Sirk's CC discs are must-owns for a film aficionado, but it's here where Sirk's sense of melodrama best balances out with the weight of his story.

  • It was said of German film director Ernst Lubitsch that his best work was done in ellipses. Sexuality in his films is fun, enchanting and full of joie de vivre. The allure rests in insinuation like a scent in the air.

  • Film_307w_naked_w160

    1. (tie)

    Mike Leigh

    David Thewlis’ Johnny is a fucking tour de force. An ill-wind. Throughout most of Mike Leigh’s film, “Naked” (1993), Johnny is less a human being than a walking, freeloading embodiment of the Freudian id. He says what he wants. He screws who he wants. He sleeps where he wants. He chastises, degrades and lays waste to every person in his path like an existential tornado.

  • We're so used to thinking of great film noir as being American. I'd dare to say that if you're making a list of the 20 greatest noir films -- "Pale Flower" must be one of them.

  • "Fish Tank" is one of those modern films that caused Criterion diehards to scoff at its selection. But in truth, the story is a interesting one, and the film-making is glorious. More than anything else, think of the title and watch how director Andrea Arnold uses sky blues (especially when Katie Jarvis is dancing in the abandoned apartment complex). Truly beautiful stuff. And much like a fish in an aquarium, Jarvis character seems to move around in circles, trying to find an exit. But her life is limiting. Her space diminished, except for when she's dancing and dreaming of more.


  • By HUSKY
    November 17, 2012
    07:51 PM

    This is one of the best lists i've seen so far
  • By HUSKY
    November 17, 2012
    07:53 PM

    i will be buying Eclipse Series 11: Larisa Shepitko next now
  • By HUSKY
    November 17, 2012
    07:55 PM

    have you seen letter never sent? It's one of my favs and from what i can see this looks similar.

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