03/07/2005

Criterion DVDs

Would be interesting to hear some thoughts about the Criterion range of DVDs.

Many of kamera's favourite films are available in special Criterion editions, usually at a vastly inflated cost. The Criterion seal of quality is certainly a major draw for people buying them - superior transfers, exclusive interviews and commentaries, directorial seals of approval etc - but are the Criterion versions really that much better to justify their £30+ pricetag?

For context, I'm writing as a Criterion devotee - I've got lots on my shelves, so I certainly have something of a vested interest. But should kamera be recommedning the Criterion DVDs as the definitive editions?

Best Criterions on my shelves:
Rushmore & The Royal Tenenbaums
The Adventures of Antoine Doinel (5 DVD boxset)
Brazil (3 DVD boxset)
L'Avventura
Last Tempatation of Christ (with exclusive Scorsese commentary!)

Any nominations for the best Criterion DVD edition?

6 comments:

Andy Murray said...

I'm glad I shelled out on Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas - extras a-plenty, from deleted scenes to Johnny Depp reading letters from Hunter S... even the scabarous short film Gilliam made to run before the official premiere when Alex Cox was contesting his writer's credit... it'd take you days to watch it all. And by God you'd feel funny afterwards.

Criterions are pricey, especially if you can get stung for an extra tenner or so for import changes as they're expensive items. But if I recall correctly, cdwow often discount them so generously that they don't cost enough to incur the charges. And no, I'm not on a percentage or anything...

Beth said...

I'm hard-pressed to come up with the best Criterion DVDs (as Olly pointed out, they're almost uniformly amazing), but I have to say I was pretty disappointed with my purchase of Cleo from 5 to 7. Don't get me wrong- I adore the film, and am grateful it's available on DVD at all, but the only extras included on the disc are English subtitles. Had it been issued by anyone other than Criterion, I would have been fine with it, but they've set the bar so high in terms of extras that this felt like a major letdown.

Edward Lamberti said...

I have several Criterion DVDs and have been very impressed with them, on the whole. There are plenty more I'd like to get but I am always at pains to check different versions available and then make a decision as to the best one to buy. For this, sites such as dvdbeaver.com and dvdcompare.net are invaluable.

Of the Criterions I've bought so far, I'm very pleased with the Antoine Doinel box set - although the mk2 editions contain slightly different extras, so I guess I'll be getting them too at some point! I've also got the two Antonioni releases, L'avventura and L'eclisse. The transfer of L'eclisse has a fair amount of flicker on it, which disappointed me somewhat, but I've read so much about how difficult it has been to see a good quality version of this film, I was grateful for its release, and on the whole the DVD is fine (good sharpness and contrast, decent extras etc.). I've also got La commare secca (the print of which is, I think, lifted from the Italian Cinema Forever DVD, and very nice too - along with a good, if brief, modern interview with Bertolucci), Contempt, The Vanishing (no extras except for a trailer, but a wonderful movie in a decent transfer), Tokyo Story, That Obscure Object of Desire, Cries and Whispers, the 5-disc Fanny and Alexander set, and The Silence of the Lambs. The last of these was an early release for Criterion (spine number 13) and though by modern standards the transfer isn't up to par (a little soft, and not anamorphically enhanced) it does have some extras not on the MGM release, including an audio commentary with Jonathan Demme and co., so it's well worth buying if you like the movie and can find a copy.

I'm not a massive fan of Criterion's cover design. I feel that often they have a rather remote presence. Sometimes I just wish the cover art would reach out and grab me - the way many of Warner Home Video's releases do. But that's just a cosmetic consideration.

Should we be recommending them? By all means - as long as they're the best versions available. It'll be interesting, for example, to compare their upcoming The Flowers of St. Francis with Eureka's recent Region 2 Francesco giullare di Dio - we might have a chance to own both the Italian and the US versions of the film. I think we would be mistaken in thinking that Criterion automatically equals highest quality. And I would encourage DVD users to seek out comparisons on the Net so as to decide which is the best version (for them). But yes, I do like Criterion a lot, and I'm always anxious to see what they're going to release next.

Cinema Journal said...

I think that Criterion DVDs are very worth the pricetag. Even if they don't have loads of extras, they usually are providing the best print available (at the time) of a very worthwhile film. Sometimes I look back at some of my VHS and see how poorly the production sometimes was, such as the incredibly incorrect ratio on Godard's "A Woman is a woman."

My favorite Criterion's are Cocteau's "Orphic Trilogy," Antonioni's "L'Eclisse," Fellini's "8 1/2," and especially Olmi's "I Fidanzati" and "Il Posto" - those last two are magnificent transfers.

Anonymous said...

I only own a few but I love Criterion's Ace in the Hole, Yi Yi and Ran.

louis said...

I am huge fan of Criterion DVDs and its quality. Now, I am planning to buy The Silence of the Lambs and Tokyo story on it.
dentists edinburgh