Thanks to The Criterion Collection© we have access to many of the greatest films ever made from around the world. Due to their concerted efforts to (my list not theirs)…
- identify films in need of rerelease,
- procure the proper legal rights,
- restore both picture and sound,
- find existing or create new supplemental materials,
- artistically package, advertise and distribute worldwide
- (I am sure there is a good deal more to what they do!)
…we can now watch movies in near pristine quality, many of which had gone out of print or existed only on badly transferred VHS or DVD often to be found at random in the bargain bins of supermarkets. Some of these were forgotten by all but a few cinephiles or film scholars. For example, “The Apu Trilogy,” recently re released by Criterion, was GONE – original negatives destroyed – pretty much considered terminal until Dr. Criterion took up their case. I can’t imagine how much money (and TLC) was required to restore “The Apu Trilogy” to its original glory.
It appears that Criterion is also getting into the new release business as demonstrated by the quick release of “Inside Llewyn Davis” and “The Great Beauty.” This is good news for all of us because it means that they are being taken seriously by the business as viable distributors with loyal customers, a healthy global profile, and the means to distribute. They are no longer that precious foreign movie boutique probably run out of someone’s garage (albeit a well-appointed garage).
And then there is the educational aspect. Criterion is not overtly educational. However they educate simply by making so many excellent films from so many countries available with enough supplemental materials to fill a college course. My son and I have learned so very much from the supplemental materials included with Criterion DVDs. For example, “Ride the Pink Horse” is an obscure little film. By watching the accompanying interview with Imogen Sara Smith, author of In Lonely Places: Film Noir Beyond the City, we learned a great deal about film noir. After watching “The Tin Drum” many of our WTF questions were answered in a recent interview with the Director. The website is educational as well (see below).
The Criterion Collection website (https://www.criterion.com/) is great for a number of reasons.
- Three Reasons: a clever, short visual device giving three reasons to watch the movie. Each reason is followed by a scene from the movie that visually supports the reason (often humorously).
- Top Ten Lists: directors and actors provide their top ten movies and short reasons why.
- Closet Picks: nice, casual vignettes of directors and actors let loose in Criterion’s DVD vault picking out movies they want to take home.
- Here’s a comprehensive Index of goodies on the Criterion website (to date):
- Film Essays (1135)
- Video (986)
- Clippings (453)
- Big Screen (311)
- Photo Galleries (284)
- Announcements (221)
- Hulu (214)
- On Five (189)
- News (159)
- Press Notes (135)
- Web Exclusives (132)
- Interviews (124)
- Three Reasons (122)
- Features (82)
- Dispatches (46)
- Behind the Scenes (42)
- 10 Things I Learned (37)
- Posters (30)
- Quotes (28)
- Sight & Sound Poll 2012 (25)
- Flashbacks (21)
- Contests (20)
- Performances (16)
- Video Essays (15)
- Book Notes (15)
- From the Eclipse Shelf (15)
- Criterion Designs (12)
- One Scene (11)
- Chef du Cinema (10)
- Criterion Tube (4)
So by now I think you can see why I’m very happy that The Criterion Collection exists. In conclusion, allow me to say that Criterion is keeping film alive and well by frequently looking back but increasingly looking forward and always striving to keep it fresh!
FYI: Criterion releases begin with the movie, there are no “coming soon” nor “new releases” nor ads or even “copyright warnings.” Imagine!
FYI: Their cover art ain’t bad neither!