Albert Maysles, David Maysles, and Charlotte Zwerin
The brothers Maysles offer up two of their most stunning documentaries, and, frankly, I can’t choose between them. Beautiful essays on what it is to be American and, more importantly, human; visually hypnotic and oddly life affirming. Did I mention that they’re also, by turns, hilarious and heartbreaking?
Scenes from a Marriage
Quite simply the best there is: Ingmar Bergman at the height of his powers and two of the fiercest performances captured on camera. This offers one the chance to compare the theatrical and television versions—two chances to be completely blown away. It’s unmissable.
Ozu in stunning color and black and white. One of the many great Criterion packages that offer two films together for the viewer to admire. The theatrical aspects of this set appealed to me, but I was ultimately won over by the heartbreaking simplicity of Ozu’s aesthetic.
A film that continues to grow in my estimation every time I see it, and one that laid the bedrock for the Fellini explosion that was about to take place. So alive and spilling over with character and incident, it feels like a peek into the filmmaker’s own diary. It also features an amazing Nino Rota score and performances to die for.
Eyes Without a Face
Georges Franju created a one-of-a-kind horror film that moves you more than it scares you. It has some of cinema’s most potent images and a score that haunts you for days. The Criterion extra of his short documentary Blood of the Beasts is spectacular beyond words—beautiful and disturbing in equal measure.
Pier Paolo Pasolini
A great picture by Pasolini that really swept me away. I remain a passionate admirer of his Accattone!, but I was unprepared for the ferocity of Anna Magnani’s performance here: it’s like watching the birth of something that is actually new and completely wild, right before your eyes. A stunner.
I can’t get enough of this film, and it is so cleanly presented here that the famously malcontented Godard himself must be proud of the results. The great film about film, this disc is perfect, from the amazing cover art to the short documentaries that show the difficulties of shooting a film with an icon like Bardot in tow. And if you aren’t swept away by the Georges Delerue score, you really need to check your pulse.
Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger
The most purely beautiful film I can think of and done up in a pristine transfer here; the fact that the film was shot at Shepperton Studios, in England, actually blows the mind. The acting is impeccable, and the fevered colors and close-ups are as close to a cinematic wet dream as I ever need to have. Powell and Pressburger in the throes of a most singular cinematic vision.
Kind Hearts and Coronets
A perfect black comedy with one of the most underappreciated central performances in film history, by Dennis Price (and a handful of genius ones by Alec Guinness). Truly funny and as dark as sin, this is a film that still feels ahead of its time. The attached “American” ending helps remind us just how annoyingly safe and predictable American tastes can be—did we really need to be reminded?