The Criterion Collection is amazing, but it could always be more amazing. The ever-expanding list of films (so much of which is worth buying) has some pretty big gaps. So that’s why I’m here: to help coax the company into choosing some films that they might not be thinking of right now (or ever).
Originally this list featured more traditional picks, like Ingmar Bergman’s Persona, films that, while excellent, really don’t need another recommendation and that may very well be in the pipeline already. So I looked else, and came up with ten films (it’s more than that, but ten sounds nice) that deserve proper Criterion treatment. Although few of them would ever play in an arthouse theater, they nonetheless have enough artistic merit to earn a place in the Collection’s hallowed halls.
And be sure to check back later today for another list by resident snob Hubert Vigilla, who chooses a bunch of films you’ve never heard of but pretend to know so you don’t seem dumb at parties.
There’s something fascinating about the inclusion of Pier Pasolini’s Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom in the Criterion Collection. It’s always been there, too, with a spine number of only 17. That film is absolutely an artistic achievement and deserves a place in the Collection. So too does Srđan Spasojević’s A Serbian Film. Like Salò, A Serbian Film uses its (extremely) shocking imagery in service of a grand political message, although it’s about as subtle as… well, infant rape. Admission into the Collection is something of an artistic validation, and A Serbian Film could use some artistic validation. It would also be nice to get a true Uncut release rather than just the “Unrated” version put out by Invincible Pictures.
Gaspar Noé is notoriously stingy about his process, and so his techniques remain a mystery. A mystery that the Criterion Collection should solve. Enter the Void is a film unlike any other, and on those merits alone it warrants inclusion in the Collection. But it’s really the potential wealth of features that would make it such an exciting proposition. I would love to learn more about exactly how the whole thing was made. I’ve seen the tiny bits of stuff that’s out there, and it’s woefully incomplete. I don’t think anybody but Criterion could do it justice.
I want to see Tony Kaye’s original American History X. The movie that everybody knows and loves (myself included) has been publicly disavowed by its creator, after he had control wrested from him in the editing room. His version of the film has been lost to time, but that’s why The Criterion Collection exists. I want the company to find the old negatives and let Tony Kaye have at them, bringing the film he wanted to make back to life. Yeah, it would be 2013 Tony Kaye and not 1998 Tony Kaye at the helm, but the end result probably won’t have changed dramatically. Make that happen and bundle it together with the official release and it would be one hell of a package.
Takashi Miike’s most infamous film (Audition is up there), the uber-violent Ichi the Killer fills a niche that the Criterion Collection rarely does outside of its Eclipse series (which features classics like Goke, Body Snatcher From Hell). Putting a film like Ichi the Killer into its main library sends an even more inclusive message than the one already put out. The Criterion Collection may have a lot, but it doesn’t have anything like Ichi The Killer, but I think that’s in need of a change. And while we’re on the subject…
I think Criterion should buy Palisades Tartan Asia Extreme and create a level between the main releases and the Eclipse line. Not every Palisades Tartan release deserves the full treatment, but every so often a film really does, and as they proved with the Vengeance Trilogy’s release, they’re completely capable of doing great extra content on releases. That’s all well and good, but it should be done under the Criterion name. “Palisades Tartan Asia Extreme” is such an aggressive name, which fits the tone of the films it features, but imagine “Criterion Eclipse Extreme” or something like that. It sounds far more inviting, and a lot more people would be likely to check out the films if they had that off-kilter C on the the corner of their box art.
I really don’t think I need to justify this choice, but let me explain what I want from it: while most of this list should be added to the Collection and stay in circulation, Die Hard should join the ranks of films like Hard Boiled that get Criterion releases that cement their place in its library forever and then go out of print as quickly as they were in. The Die Hard Criterion release should be a true collector’s item.
Few directors have such fascinating films under their belt as Kim Jee-Woon. The man has done everything from a wrestling comedy (The Foul King) to a psychological horror film (A Tale of Two Sisters) to an excellent take on the Western genre (The Good, the Bad, the Weird). There’s just so much quality on display (he’s not my favorite director for nothing) that he would fit right in with the other directors who have been showcased by Criterion. [Note: The Last Stand can be omitted from this release or not; I won’t be offended either way.]
What? More Miike? Damn right. Ace Attorney is the best damn videogame adaptation out there, and it deserves to get the kind of treatment only Criterion can give. Quality videogame films are essentially nonexistent, but they are only getting more prevalent (Polygon thinks we’re on the verge of that revolution). At some point, Criterion will have to acknowledge them. I could have ironically recommended a Uwe Boll film or something to be the first representation of that sort of film in the Collection, but I seriously believe that Miike’s accomplishment has earned its place there. The Criterion Collection is supposed to be a showcase of important films and important milestones in film. Well, there’s a milestone right here.
I want Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead Trilogy to be in the Criterion Collection for essentially the same reason I want A Serbian Film there: validation. I don’t think the films individually would qualify, but as a whole I think they represent a significant artistic achievement. The set would have to be accompanied by essays that explain how the progression of narrative and tone does this or that and special features that really dig deep into the creation of these films and their continued relevance. With the remake trilogy in the works and hints at a fourth film, now would be as good a time as any for Criterion to take these on. Plus, the current HD transfers are meh at best, which would never be a problem with a Criterion release.
James Bond has never been in the Criterion Collection even as a one-off like Die Hard should be, but I think Skyfall should be the film to change that. It’s a spectacular achievement both as a Bond film and just as a film. It’s got a level of technical polish that most of the other films in the series lack, and its just a damned good movie in general. Just as it celebrates 50 years of Bond, so too would a Criterion release of the film (even if it’s a year late).