Armchair Vacation: How To Watch Five Of The Biggest December Criterion And Kino Releases Now

Well, cinephiles have had quite an interesting week.

Starting off with a pair of announcements from both The Criterion Collection and Kino Home Video, the duo of home video entertainment companies took the week by storm with the releasing of their respective December lineups, both of which are some of the best that they have offered this calendar year. With Criterion finally giving us the Qatsi Trilogy and the long awaited Chris Nolan film Following and Kino outdoing them all with a massive, 15-disc collection of their beloved Blu-ray releases of the Buster Keaton filmography, December will not only be a huge month, but it’s one that is almost too far off for one to wait. However, for a handful of these films, one doesn’t have to wait. Here’s how you can see five of these releases right now.

5. Pablo Larrain: Director’s Set 

Including the pair of films Tony Manero and Post Mortem, Kino Lorber will be releasing (along with films like Alps and The Well-Digger’s Daughter) a 2-DVD set of these films, both of which come to us from beloved arthouse auteur Pablo Larrain. The company recently released a Blu-ray of the latter film in the set, and while this writer wasn’t a huge fan of that film, Manero is an absolute wonder. A really solid meditation on obsession, Manero is arguably Larrain’s strongest film, and along with Mortem, is currently available to stream on Netflix Watch Instant. Both films are intellectually and thematically similar, and while Mortem is admittedly a weak feature, both films are absolute must-sees for arthouse fans, especially given their ease of watch, thanks to Netflix.

4. Purple Noon

The first major cinematic telling of the ‘Talented Mr. Ripley’ tale penned by Patricia Highsmith, it’s also considered by many to be the strongest telling. Starring the breathtakingly gorgeous Alain Delon as the titular lead character, the film is helmed by Rene Clement and is currently available to stream via Criterion’s Hulu Plus page. It’s a really fantastic film and is one of Delon’s most iconic performances. It’s a gorgeous work featuring top tier cinematography and a screenplay to absolutely die for. It is obviously Delon’s vehicle, but Clement is as much of a star here, giving us a visual feast of a feature film, pairing beautiful camera work with some equally dazzling photography. It’s an underrated gem that is more than deserving of its pending Criterion seal.

3. The Blue Angel

Coming to Blu-ray for the first time in December thanks to Kino, the film is best known as arguably iconic director Josef Von Sternberg’s greatest achievement. There are two versions of the film, a German and English language version, the former of which is currently available to stream on Netflix Instant. Starring Marlene Dietrich, the film is one of Sternberg’s most widely known, and features two brilliant lead performances from both Dietrich as well as Emil Jannings.   A major staple in the world of early sound cinema, the film is luscious in its filmmaking and the sound is absolutely fantastic. A look into the moral decay that was running rampant at the time of its 1930 release, the film features really great photography and the collaboration between Sternberg and Dietrich is one that would not only reap fantastic returns, but would rarely get as rewarding as their first team up, this very feature film. Can’t wait for the Blu-ray? Netflix has your back.

2. Following

This one has been available on Netflix Watch Instant for just about as long as it has been a rumored Criterion release, so what better time to finally toss on Chris Nolan’s debut feature film than the weekend following its confirmation as being a recipient of that almighty Criterion ‘C.’ The film is shot in superb black and white, and while only clocking in at a brisk 70 minutes, the film would lay the ground work for one of today’s most important Hollywood auteurs. Holding more Nolan touches structurally and vocally than the film does visually, there are still a handful of visual touches that one would later find in Nolan films to follow, but most will see the director’s hands all over the script and the overall mood and atmosphere of the piece. The performances here are fine, as is the overall pacing of the film, but while it may be seen as a greater study into the first work of a massively influential auteur than a genuinely great film, Following is a truly solid thriller that proves to be one of Nolan’s most vital and pertinent pieces of work to date. It’s certainly his most playful and lively.

1.The Buster Keaton Collection

Yes, I know. Criterion is releasing the Qatsi trilogy in December, and Kino’s major box set release is nothing more than a collection of previous single releases. However, for those who either aren’t familiar with the filmography of Buster Keaton, or haven’t dug into his canon on Blu-ray, Kino is releasing, in December, what may very well be the year’s biggest box set for cinephiles. Here’s the rundown:

The Ultimate Keaton Collection includes Kino’s short film collection,  The Saphead,  Our Hospitality, Sherlock Jr., Three Ages, The Navigator, Seven Chances, Go West, Battling Butler, The General, College  (a box set exclusive)  Steamboat Bill, Jr.  and  Lost Keaton. The Lost Keaton set looks at his short films from 1934-37.

However, for those not familiar with Keaton’s work, it may be a hefty box for a blind buy. Need not worry however, as Hulu, Netflix and Fandor are playing perfectly into your hands. Not only does Fandor have on its streaming service the entirety of the feature films collected here save for Steamboat and Navigator (both of which Netflix has along with Seven Chances, Go West, Sherlock Jr. and Our Hospitality), but Hulu currently holds within its grasp the fantastic Buster Keaton short film collection. Making for a perfect escape this weekend (for those not finding themselves seeing The Master four hundred times, like you all should), this collection of films is going to be a must own for any cinephile this holiday season. But who says you have to wait that long?

Joshua Brunsting

Josh is a critic, a member of the Online Film Critics Society, a wrestling nerd, a hip-hop head, a father, a cinephile and a man looking to make his stamp on the world, one word at a time.

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