Sunday, December 14, 2008
by this point, most people with even a mild interest in film have at one point or another suckled on the impeccable, illuminating teat of the criterion collection. the gold standard in home video since they burst on to the scene with their line of laserdiscs in the 80s, criterion truly cemented their legacy with their dvds, which now number more than 450. the most essential films throughout the history of the young medium collected under on aegis, criterion is not renowned merely for the works they elect to release, but the care they put into doing so. working with the respective directors whenever possible, the folks at criterion commission and supervise the restorations and transfers that their discs feature, devote an inordinate amount of time to creating an overwhelming number of fascinating and meticulously researched extras, and stuffing it all into packages so tactilely beautiful they often rival the films within them. seriously, you could stick the mishima: a life in four chapters box onto a wall at MOMA and no one would think it out of place. these things are film school in a box - i can't fathom a more concise yet complete means of experiencing an entire medium than plowing through the collection from start to finish. without criterion (and their partners at janus films) i never would have discovered f for fake, wages of fear, minor ozu, early louis malle, or... i dunno, a few hundred other movies without which cinema would be bereft of integrity. what's more, these packages allow you to rediscover films you already love, their transfers and features have allowed me to look at films anew more times than i care to remember. it's the kind of company that would never consider releasing paul schrader's aforementioned mishima yukio biopic without ALSO releasing the one (short) film mishima ever made, patriotism. and of course they number the spines of their releases so that suckers like me will feel physiologically compelled to buy them all. yeah, my love for this company is nothing short of extreme fandom, and for anyone who doubts that this is the right venue for me to air my obsessions, i got some words for ya - #63, CARNIVAL OF SOULS. #91, THE BLOB. and don't even get me started on the monsters and madmen set. delovely.
anyhoo, blah blah blah CRITERION JUST RELEASED THEIR FIRST BLU-RAYS. so i goes ahead and i puts #453, CHUNGKING EXPRESS into the ol' PS3. blammo! unleash the tears. i've never seen anything like this. wong kar wai's film is one of the most indelibly romantic films of my lifetime, and the grain of previous versions doesn't do it any favors. an ode to nostalgia and the ethereal qualities of unnoticed human interactions, the very look and essence of film was vital to the film's feel. supplanting the grain of the quentin tarantino / rolling thunder release with the glossy sheen of HD just wouldn't do, and criterion knew it. i don't have the technical know-how to um, know how they did it, but this blu-ray LOOKS LIKE FILM. there's almost a wee bit of cognitive dissonance that i can't hear a projector whirring away behind me. i keep peepin towards the upper right corner of the screen in anticipating of the cigarette burns, but they never come. criterion has essentially bottled the fleeting opportunity to see one of my favorite films in a movie theater for all times. for keeps. it's a beautiful thing. i'm afraid to put in THE THIRD MAN disc that's sittin beside me at this very moment, if only because the thought of Orson Welles in HD on a full stomach is the stuff of nightmares.
the moral of the story is do yourself a favor, get a ps3, and let the good times roll. at the very least, head on over to www.criterion.com and peruse the collection. i owns them all, and i might have kids just so i have people to whom i can proudly bequeath these things to. okay, faye wong's cover of dreams by the cranberries is playing as faye wong the actress cleans tony leung's apartment. so, um, yeah, we're done here.