The time has come for me to begin a project I've longed dreamed of, which is to watch and review as many of the films in the Criterion collection as I can in a summer season. Tonight I stood in front of the three long shelves that house that collection in the amazing Gen-X Video store in uptown Waterloo and began making a list. The primary goal is to watch films that I have not actually seen, but always wished I had. And yet, as my fingers thumbed the fat and slim spines of the colour-coded titles, I realized I would not be able to resist also talking about movies I've always loved.
The Criterion Collection, as many know, began in the 1980s as a way of bringing art house titles to a brand new home video market. They have since survived not only many changes in ownership and direction, but also many transformations of video viewing media technology, from laserdisc to DVD to blu-ray and most recently, pay-per-view download. I have always been a bit unclear as to why and how the titles are chosen. Surveying the list, there is no doubt in my mind that some of the decision making has been esoteric, representing only the idiosyncratic passions of one of Criterion's founders. There are also titles very noticeably missing - great, great films that deserve this chance at preservation and veneration. There is nothing, for instance, from the silent era, no Murnau, no Vidor, not even the better-knowns Griffith or Chaplin. And in other cases, a filmmaker has been observed, but the choice of film is surprising. Faced with the opus of Krysztof Kieslowski, for instance, the Collection favours only La Double Vie de Veronique, a wonderful film, but not his best. It's clear that the CC is trying to avoid a kind of AFI "top 100", preferring instead to focus on films whose path to glory has been controversial or shall we say... subtle, and/or holding up now renowned films that once upon a time seemed destined to gather dust in vaults.
I'm excited about this. So is my hana, who always gets a treat when she visits Gen-X and thus has many smiling nights ahead!
First review by tomorrow night!