Wednesday, December 13, 2006


I'm sure pretty much everybody who's reading this is familiar with the Criterion Collection, but just in case you're not, I'll explain. Criterion is an independent DVD distributer associated with Janus Films that releases exclusively some of the greatest works of cinematic art onto beautiful transferred DVDs with loads of extra features. Their collection has long contained some of the best works of filmmakers as diverse as Jean-Luc Godard, Michael Bay, Rainer Werner Fassbinder and Richard Linklater. However, until the recent release of their wonderful 2-disc set of the works of the great Stan Brakhage, Criterion had unfortunatly never recognized great experimental film works.

It looks like that is slowly changing. Criterion just recently released William Greaves' classic experimental half-narrative/half-documentary "Symbiopsychotaxiplasm", which sits alongside such films as Fellini's "8 1/2", Jim McBride's "David Holzman's Diary" and Godard's "Contempt" as one of the greatest "films about the making of films" ever made. A truly postmodern filmic meditation, Greaves basically plays a game of the director sitting back and watching as his crew tries to figure out what exactly they're doing and what kind of film they're making. A highly-recommended film that is available for purchase at Borders and should be available for rent at Waterfront Video.

Now if only Criterion will get their shit together and release the Jem Cohen collected works set I've been bugging Jon Mulvaney about for the past three years...


Anonymous said...

Did you say Michael Bay?

-Tanner "waiting desperately for the Joel Shoemaker and Edward Zwick collections" McCuin.

jay said...

Yeah, they release a Criterion version of "Armaggeddon" that got them a lot of flack. But you can't really blame them--they take quite a financial risk releasing the films that they do, so they need revenue boosters every once in awhile to keep them afloat.

I'm not a Michael Bay fan, but I can see the reasons why Criterion could be justified in having him in their catalogue. He has a unique "auteur" style; it's just not one that particularly appeals to me.

If anyone reads the Jem Cohen interview & wants to check out some of his work, I HIGHLY recommend renting (or just buying, because you'll want to own them) "Instrument" (his experimental documentary of 10 years with Fugazi) and "Benjamin Smoke" (which includes performances by Cat Power, Vic Chesnutt, etc.)

I also have copies of some of his short films (including the amazing "Lost Book Found", which is probably my favorite film of all time) so send me an e-mail if you're interested.

casey said...

I reeeeeelie want that Janus box set that just came out.

Criterion just likes to keep us on our toes, methinks. I'm personally more OK with Armageddon than The Life Aquatic.

Wow, that's sad.

jay said...

Yeah, that Janus set looks amazing. Unfortunately, I think I have more than half of the films in the set either in Criterion version or other brand DVD/VHS. So it's hard to justify the $650+ price tag.

Sounds like you hated "The Life Aquatic"! It was certainly a let-down compared to "Rushmore" and "The Royal Tennenbaums", but I'd still watch it over "Armaggeddon" any day.

I should do a blog entry of my favorite Criterion the meantime here's a brief list--

John Cassavetes Box Set, 8 1/2, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, By Brakhage, Brazil, Tout Va Bien, Grey Gardens, Ali: Fear Eats Soul, In the Mood For Love, Cocteau Box Set, Dreyer Box Set, L'Eclisse, Down By Law, F is for Fake, Slacker, Schizopolis, Taste of Cherry....who am I kidding? They're all great.

My only complaint with Criterion--a severe lack of respect shown to prominent contemporary Asian filmmakers, who are arguably making the most groundbreaking modern cinematic art. The fact that a single Wong Kar-Wai and a single Edward Yang film make up the whole of Criterion's output in this genre is despicable. I would kill for some Tsai Ming Liang...

Anonymous said...

What about Chan-wook Park... Oldboy and Lady Vengence were amazing.

jay said...

Good call--I haven't seen "Lady Vengence" yet, but I was highly impressed by Oldboy.

You'd think that a company that was progressive enough to release Passolini's "Salo" (though it went OOP quickly) would have respect for someone like Takashi Miike as well--a beautiful Criterion remastering of "Ichi the Killer" loaded with extra features? I'd buy it.

casey said...

I'd love to see some Miike flicks done Criterion -- Visitor Q needs extra features about the mind-blowing lactation. And Happiness of the Katiguris would make a great choice, too.

And yes, I hated TLA.