My friends at The Criterion Cast have an annual tradition of podcasting about their favorite Criterion releases of the year. I love the special show and re-listen to them every so often. This year’s show has just been posted, and I’m anxious to hear the thoughts of all of the great participants: Ryan Gallagher, Scott Nye, David Blakeslee, Keith Enright, Aaron West, and Arik Devens. Click here to see the shownotes and listen to the show.
In anticipation of listening, I wanted to throw my own list of favorites up. I think it’s been a great year of releases, and several in my top 20 could easily be in my top ten. At time of posting, I have been able to get through 42 of the 66 releases (by my count). At the bottom of this post you can see a list of the releases I still need to watch and which might have a spot on this list once I do. You can see my full rankings, which will be added to (and which will shift) over time, here.
Rounding out my top ten are 10. The Confession, by Costa Gavras (1970); 9. Speedy, by Ted Wilde (1928); 8. Hiroshima mon amour, by Alain Resnais (1959); 7. Valerie and Her Week of Wonders, by Jaromil Jireš (1970); and 6. Mulholland Dr., by David Lynch (2001).
5. Day for Night
d. François Truffaut (1973)
(original review from August 18, 2015)
Though I’d never seen it before sitting down to watch the new Criterion Collection release — indeed had never given it much thought, falling, as it does, after Truffaut’s auspicious years as an instigator and purveyor of the French New Wave — François Truffaut’s delightful and pensive thirteenth feature, Day for Night, may be my favorite work by the French master.
4. Moonrise Kingdom
d. Wes Anderson (2012)
(original review from September 22, 2015)
What a delightful and beautiful edition for a delightful and beautiful film, and my favorite film by Wes Anderson. Criterion had originally slated this home video release for the end of July, right at the height of summer. I originally saw the film in the summer, and indeed the film itself almost feels like a summer film: we’ve got the scout camp, we’ve got the lazing around during the day — we’ve got the pleasant weather — but actually the film takes place in September, at summer’s end, fifty years ago in 1965. Storms are coming, a painful idyll is coming to a bittersweet close. Michael Gaskell’s melancholic Criterion cover highlights this more somber mood while still showing a harbor from a storm.
3. Eclipse Series 42: Silent Ozu — Three Crime Dramas
d. Yasujiro Ozu (1930, 1933)
(original podcast from May 2015)
Sometimes it’s only worth going through a director’s early work as a mere curiosity (for example, I don’t think there’s much value in most (not all, but most) of Hitchcock’s silent films), but that is not the case here. These are tremendously crafted, wonderfully subtle and evocative films in their own right. This set includes Walk Cheerfully (1930), That Night’s Wife (1930), and Dragnet Girl (1933).
2. A Day in the Country
d. Jean Renoir (1936)
(original review from February 13, 2015)
This was my release of the year up until a few weeks ago, and it was hard to put it in the number two spot as this is a gorgeous masterpiece. The exploration of an idyll — with all of its implications of memory and imagination, simplicity and brevity, purity and absence — is a favorite subject of mine. It’s a gem, and this release makes it shine. The supplements are also fantastic. Though the film is short — just 41 minutes — the edition is absolutely worth the full price.
1. The Apu Trilogy
d. Satyajit Ray (1955, 1956, 1959)
(original review from November 17, 2015)
Though hard to put A Day in the Country in at number two, it was impossible to put this marvelous release in at anything but number one. These three films are special. Only recently coming to know them, I am unsure how my relationship with them will develop, but they are already so important to me personally. Ray’s work has already affected my outlook on life and on those around me as he uses his camera to show reverence for time and for our inner lives — to our dreams, our hopes, our agony, our persistence. Though deeply rooted in Bengali culture, the three films are universally human. This set includes Pather Panchali (1955), Aparajito (1956), and Apur Sansar (1959).
*Releases I hadn’t seen when making the above list and so were not in consideration:
- The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant
- My Winnipeg
- Every Man for Himself
- An Autumn Afternoon
- Fellini Satyricon
- The Soft Skin
- Gates of Heaven/Vernon, Florida
- The Thin Blue Line
- Odd Man Out
- The Friends of Eddie Coyle
- The Rose
- The Merchant of Four Seasons
- My Beautiful Laundrette
- The French Lieutenant’s Woman
- Breaker Morant
- Mister Johnson
- The Honeymoon Killers
- My Own Private Idaho
- A Special Day
- Eclipse 44: Julien Duvivier in the Thirties
- Dont Look Back
- Jellyfish Eyes
- Burroughs: The Movie