Dear Santa: Criterion, please

If you happen to be shopping online, a stop at premier DVD publisher Criterion is likely to derail your giving into dreams of receiving. Their site kicks ass, frankly. Not only can you drool over new releases of your favorite classic, arthouse and foreign films, you can browse a plethora of famous peoples’ top ten Criterion lists. Bill Hader is actually a cinephile genius with Kurosawa’s HIGH AND LOW as his number one and an obscure Ozu as his number three! Bill Hader and Ozu? I teach at a film school and when I wear my Ozu t-shirt that’s shaped into an Ozzy logo I get nothing but blank stares. Nice work, Hader. And Kim Gordon puts a film on her list (Catherine Breillat’s FAT GIRL) that she admits to not having seen! Awesomely bold.

But back to buying. Criterion does such an amazing job reinventing a film through not only through its famous Criterion extras, but also by redesigning a film’s identity and thereby inviting you to rediscover it in a new way. Take Kieslowski’s brilliant 1994 trilogy, THREE COLORS: RED, WHITE, BLUE. The original posters and DVD covers featured the respective lead actresses: Irene Jacob in profile, ominous red hues behind her, Julie Deply lying on white sheets, Juliette Binoche in front of babbling blue water. The new box set features an abstracted image – a fountain of color meets a fireworks display. Or, take Lena Dunham’s TINY FURNITURE. The original poster featured a medium close up of Dunham lying on the floor next to, well, tiny furniture. The Criterion DVD, on the other hand, is an extreme close up of her slightly anxious looking face, constructed, on closer look, by chunky pixels a la Chuck Close. The effect of being so close is not only to emphasize her age, as her skin has that unmistakable early 20s baby look, but also her situation, trapped inside early adulthood with all of its challenges, one current one being an emphasis on digital communication. It makes me rethink the film and want to watch it again! (And buy it. See their trick?) Santa, can you help? While TINY FURNITURE is not out until February, others are ready for stockings now: Sundance Channel original CARLOS (Olivier Assayas), Altman’s 3 WOMEN, Bergman’s FANNY AND ALEXANDER box set. Nice!