Travis’ Top Ten Criterion Collection Films of All Time!

Want to know how long I’ve been receiving Criterion’s monthly newsletter, all-the-while daydreaming of being someone of enough cinematic circumstance to be awarded the platform and asked to list my “Top Ten?”

Years.

Want to know when that will actually happen?

Never.

Want to know my “Top Ten,” anyway?

Here you are!


10. Love In The Afternoon

(Eric Rohmer, 1972)

I watched Rohmer’s Six Moral Tales relatively early into my Criterion consumption, and I found its landscapes and language magnificent and other-worldly. To truly feel the emotional effect of “the turtleneck scene” in Love In The Afternoon is to watch not only the film, but the five films before it. Only in the entirety of the cinematic experience do we actually understand its weight. It is a testament to the “bigger picture,” and a treat upon completion that I count as aiding (and perhaps abetting) my marathon.

9. Rebecca

(Alfred Hitchcock, 1940)

Haunted wholly by a past love, Maxim treats his new wife with a detached propriety, oblivious to her unwavering devotion. I watched this film while basically in that exact same place. To me, this film is a reminder of the gifts we receive each day, regardless as to whether they are received deservedly or even knowingly. To me, this film is love.

8. Berlin Alexanderplatz

(Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1980)

More fifteen-hour films, please! Fassbinder adapts Döblin’s story of Franz Biberkopf with an insatiable poetic fervor that bored (definitely no pun intended) into my subconscious and stayed with me for weeks, months after viewing. Criterion has put more care into the packaging of this release than any other, and the result is veritable treasure trove. I feel privileged when I hold it in my hands.

7. Rashomon

(Akira Kurosawa, 1950)

My Kurosawa pick in my top ten does tend to teeter, but after having seen Janus’s restoration of Rashomon, I couldn’t in good conscience exclude it. EVERY SINGLE FRAME of this film is breathtaking. For the sheer experience of this film, I cannot do it more justice than I did in my previous write-up.

6. The Naked Prey

(Cornel Wilde, 1966)

The Naked Prey takes the title of “nostalgia pick” in my top ten. I grew up on this film — watched it with my father practically every time it would air on AMC. Its story, I’ve always found exhilarating; its leading man, superhuman; its adventure, well, adventurous. Thinking this film lost to me forever, I was so elated to see it pop up on Criterion’s “coming soon” announcements (on October 16th, 2007 — yes, I even remember the day) that I actually screamed and jumped out of my chair, and someone in the hallway of my apartment building asked if I was okay.

5. 8 1/2

(Federico Fellini, 1963)

Here, I get to be cliche and say that this film “changed my life.” There is one particular scene in this film (I’ll never tell you which, so don’t ask) that very plainly caused me to evaluate my own life, the decisions I had made and was making, and take steps to exorcise everything impish therein. For this reason, I feel I am a better person for having seen this film.

4. King of Kings

(Cecil B. DeMille, 1927)

Without diving too deeply into a subject that can be both heavy and alienating, I will simply say that in my personal quest for spiritual or theological questions, I have found God in cinema. DeMille is responsible for giving me both my Moses in Charlton Heston, and my Jesus in H.B Warner. Through King of Kings and The Ten Commandments, he has taken actors and deified them, and I cannot downplay the importance of this to both my mental and emotional health.

3. A Story of Floating Weeds/Floating Weeds

(Yasujiro Ozu, 1934/1959)

Knowing full well the difficulty of having to pick any of Ozu’s films as a favorite (inadvertently downplaying the importance of the rest), I struggle to make this decision. It is in Criterion’s Stories of Floating Weeds, though, that I am rewarded with both Ozu’s heart-warming approach of silent film, and his consummate use of Technicolor. Combine this with my personal favorite Criterion cover art, and the difficult decision becomes a no-brainer.

2. George Washington

(David Gordon Green, 2000)

Hands-down, this is the most unapologetically North Carolinian film ever made. David Gordon Green captures it all — the imagery, yes, but also the despair, the suffocation, the depravity, and the beauty therein. This is the twinkling, hopeful promise of a burgeoning director in the genesis of his career. It takes me home upon each viewing.

1. The Passion of Joan of Arc

(Carl Th. Dreyer, 1928)

As I’ve made mention in our podcast, this is absolutely my favorite film of all time, and arguably my favorite piece of artwork. Its intensity is unsurpassed, and shot in such harrowing close-ups that it surrounds and encapsulates the viewer. I have never been pulled into the action of a film so effectively. As for the release, Criterion has done something exceptional in including Richard Einhorn’s Voices of Light accompaniment, which in its aural apocalypse, practically multiplies the level of the film’s intensity. This film so readily moves me at such a base and visceral level (even in recalling, let alone viewing it), that is unquestionably my favorite.


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4 Comments

  • What? No Armegeddon? <lol>

    Compared to most people I know I have a vast knowledge of film. Compared to you, I'm a neophyte at best. Keeping in mind that I have not seen most of the Criterion Collection my top ten might include (In no particular order):

    The Killer (John Woo), The Battle of Algiers; Seven Samurai; This Is Spinal Tap; Grand Illusion; M; Brazil; The Battle of Algiers; Metropolitan; Wings of Desire and Carnival Of Souls (Which is definitely not one of the best films, but I love it nevertheless.)

  • Not bad, not bad! You've got some EARLY Criterion releases represented there.

    In reference to The Killer, I just came across a tshirt for sale over at http://www.rottencotton.com/ that might interest you. I'm certainly going to order it in the near-future

  • Travis,
    Hey there sir.

    RE: Early releases – It helps that I am older than dirt. It gives me a skewed perspective. <lol>

    I have to admit that I don't own the Criterion version of The Killer but I have seen the film in theaters and on DVD many times. I'm going on personal favorites instead of sheer “quality.”

    After all, if it were only quality then Carnival Of Souls would NOT be on the list. I think it's a great film with a unique vision and style, but it's very flawed. The acting is second teir, the script predictable and the production values leave something to be desired. However, I doubt that a budget or A-List director would have produced anything better. As state above, it's a film with vision and to me that shines through.

    However, when it comes to packaging, Criterion goes whole hog on this one. Tons of bonus features in a spectacular edition.

    RE: Tee-Shirt – WOW! That is really great. I will definitely have to pick one up. Though I keep getting distracted by all the models. <lol>

    I might have to pick up a Faster Pussycat Tee-Shirt as well. Roger Corman, another man with a boatload of vision and style.

  • Is thread necromancy allowed?

    I completely understand the difficulty of picking just one of Ozu and Kurosawa’s films. For Ozu, I think end ultimately end up with ‘Late Spring’ as my choice. I think it’s the perfect distillation of all his major themes. Plus it has Chishu Ryu and Setsuko Hara as its leads. They are his iconic actors,really. That said, ‘Good Morning’ has a multitude of fart jokes. If Noriko had let one rip during the bike ride,I wouldn’t feel so conflicted.

    If I were composing a top ten limited by only one title per director, Kurosawa would have to be in there too. Given the relative variety of his work,making that choice is a little bit harder. Rashomon is obviously a major film in world cinema and worthy of all its plaudits for the last 50 odd years. The Shakespeare adaptations would figure highly in my reckoning, likewise greatest hits like ‘Seven Samurai’ or ‘Ikiru’. ‘Yojimbo’ is a classic, as is ‘Stray Dog’. If pushed, though, I’d have to nominate ‘High and Low’. Not only is it stunning in its right, but it’s also an adaptation of a novel by one of my favorite writers. Kurosawa and EdMcBain. That’s just gotta be right.

    Anyhow, I enjoyed your list, please do more.

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