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I feel incredibly fortunate that Criterion chose to release these 13 wonderful films! They all have a special place in my heart!
This film has to be first on the list. Not only is it my favorite film of all time, it was a film I never thought would get a home video release. While not obscure, it didn't seem popular enough or trumpeted by enough critics. It seemed fated to languish unseen by the larger public in revival houses and late night television. Then Criterion excavated this largely uknown gem and made me a happy film fan! This film is an endless skillful seduction always witty and beautifully poised, it is endlessly entertaining and is the most fully realized execution of the Lubitsch touch. It never fails to delight and transport me. Whenever I watch this film from its incredibly skillful, sexy funny beginning, I keep wiating for its tone to falter, for it to hit a false note but it keeps the balance perfect and never falters as it goes through its twists and reveals all delivered in surprising ways. It is note perfect from beginning to end and manages to make this impossible feat look easy.
As a kid, this film intrigued and bothered me and really made me ask more from movies. Visually magnificent and with a grittier feeling than most big films of the time. I thought I knew every frame of it so Criterion's release of the British version with a different opening narration and a few extra scenes was reveletory to me. It's not the only time that this company helped me see an old favorite with new eyes.
I could have probably filled this list up with Hitchcock films, no director better understands how to expertly thrill, tease and delight an audience. I had to settle on one of his films and this charming, suspenseful train trip mystery remains the most delightful.
Light almost becomes a character itself in Malick's enigmatic Days of Heaven. I remember the first time I saw this film. It was being run on late night television and as compromised as those images were, they captivated me. The quality of the light, the beauty of the images, the poetic elusive nature of the narrative all expanded my awareness of what film could be. This film still astounds me with its achievement and Criterion's subtle, beautiful transfer and bountiful extras certainly help me appreciate this film anew!
Have Barbara Stanwyck and Henry Fonda ever been funnier or sexier? Sturges masterful comedy is so beautifully written and put together, I know cinematic heaven when I see it and this film is it. As Henry Fonda discovers there is no con going on here, this is a real diamond.
Dark, surreal, beautiful. The Night of the Hunter is a magnetic amazing dream of a movie. Nothing looks real and that throws some people off but it feels as if one is living in someone's fevered imagination. The realism of cinema is left behind for this world of stark shadows, towering interiors, odd angles and lyrical, frightening beauty. There are many shots that amaze me but the childrens' trip down the river is like so many fairy tales brought to life. It's like it came from deep inside.
Narrative and logic take a backseat to feeling. In the Mood for Love obliquely follows a relationship that never quite manifests but is still incredibly, deeply felt. Although, not much happens as far as the plot is concerned, much passes between Tony Leung and Maggie Cheung. They convey so much emotion they anchor the film and keep the audience riveted.
The Double Life of Veronique gorgeously rhymes two life paths. Irene Jacob's dazzling and lovely performance is one of the most mesmerizing I've ever seen. The camera is fixated on the quicksilver of her changing expresions and the viewer becomes enamored. Beautiful!
While Jane Campion might see this as one of her lesser efforts and stylistically it is less striking than some of her efforts. However the force of her style, while subdued, is still vividly present and the author's voice too sounds forth in this lovely biography of the life of Janet Frame. The film (which was intended originally as a long television special) takes a leisurely look at Frame's life but it never feels like it overstays its welcome. From beginning to end, I was entranced.
Wes Anderson perfecting his style in a most enjoyable way. This film is alternately sweet and bitter almost in equal doses. It feels more raw and less affected than some Anderson's later efforts. Jason Schwartzman's Max is such a great character, alternately repellant and likable, we end up feeling for him much as his muse, Rosemary Cross does: amused, touched, impressed, concerned and a little frightened.
Whit Stillman ventures into the unexpected humane look at a bunch of uppercrust young people spending time with each other after a series of debutante parties. The warmth and humor Stillman uses to portray them makes them accessible and human. The time between Christmas and New Year's feels exactly right.
Bogdanovich's brilliant adaptation of Mcmurty's novel of love and loss in a small Texas town could have been cliched and forgettable. The decision to film in black and white and the presence of an extraordinary cast makes this one of the most memorable portrayals of small town USA ever.
Lean's fine literate adaptation of Dickens misses the rambunctiousness of Dickens' language but captures the moody wonder of his story as Pip is introduced to Miss Havisham and her machinations on his life. Martita Hunt is perfection as are Jean Simmons and Tony Wager as young Estella and young Pip respectively. They are so wonderful that there is a sense of loss when they mature into the merely terrific Valerie Hobson and John Mills. A wonderful entertaining film that captivates from beginning to end.