Criterion Loses Its Mind… And How It Can Get You in My Good Graces

I’m not sure if you’re aware of this, but for the remainder of the month all Criterion releases purchased at Barnes & Noble or are 50% off.  This...

I’m not sure if you’re aware of this, but for the remainder of the month all Criterion releases purchased at Barnes & Noble or are 50% off.  This is not a prank.  All Criterion releases purchased at Barnes & Noble or are 50% off through the end of July.  This is like giving any old slob the opportunity to bang the prom queen (“Take it, you sad bastard!”).  Unfortunately, this is slightly bittersweet, considering that there aren’t actually any B&N locations inside city limits that sell DVDs (aside from Penn’s bookstore, whose DVD selection could rival Blockbuster’s).  However, if you’re not put off by the whole online shopping thing, go here now.  (If you were unaware of this sale until now, you’re welcome.)

You should all know that lists get my rocks off harder than Clara Bow clones.  So, of course, this announcement needed a commemorative list.  My life’s goal is to one day be well-known and well-respected enough to be asked to produce my very own Criterion Top 10 List to sit alongside those of Anthony Bourdain, Patton Oswalt, and Sonic Youth.  However, until then, I would never soil the concept by posting a “This-Would-Be-My-Top-10-Criterion-List” in some other publication (There is, in fact, a file on my computer containing this sacred and profane document.  However, unless you bear a striking resemblance to Clara Bow, the chances of you getting into my apt., much less onto my computer, to find it are about as likely as me having included Michael Bay’s Armageddon on said document.)

So in a gesture of even greater self-indulgence (and, to an extent, down right brattiness), I have compiled the list of “The Top 10 Criterion Titles That I Want.”  These are titles that are near and dear to my heart but, for some reason or other, are yet to make their way into my library.  Some of them are out of print (yet B&N got some kind of a raw deal), some of them I own in the form of grainy VHS’s with totally fucked aspect ratios, and some just always seem to have disappeared from shelves like angels before I can ever grasp them.  But for whatever reason, what I have listed below are my “Top 10 Most Desired Criterion Titles.”  Don’t think of it so much as a “hint,” but I will love you forever, if you contribute to my collection.


10. Au hasard Balthazar Robert Bresson (1966) – $14.99

Like so many other great works of art, this love story of a girl and a donkey was first introduced to me in a Placebo song.

9. Les enfants terribles Jean-Pierre Melville (1950) – $19.99

The story of Les enfants terribles would give you the impression that in 2011 it couldn’t even garner a nomination from the Daytime Emmys (or the AVNs, for that matter), but watching it as recounted by Cocteau and Melville still feels like a religious experience.

8. Jubilee Derek Jarman (1978) – $19.99

Although this film would go on to inspire the entire aesthetic of New Wave camp, when it came out, it must’ve looked like a TV-edit of something from Fellini’s period directing gay porn.  And underneath it all lay a very academically poetic account of just what was going on with London’s working class youth in 1977 (which may be the gayest thing about it).

7. Maitresse Barbet Schroeder (1973) – $14.99

Before he created that charming portrait of a talking monkey, or directed thrillers starring the likes of Nick Cage and Bridget Fonda, Barbet Schroeder was exploring the (often humorous) world of underground BDSM.  In cinema, like in life and love, often nothing gets the job done like some good old fashion spanking.

6. Pierrot le fou Jean-Luc Godard (1965) – $19.99

Of all of the great works of cinema to shit on the notion of “true love,” this is probably the most upbeat, colourful, and exciting.

5. I Am Curious… Vilgot Sjoman (1967) – $19.99

Okay, so it’s a bit of a cop out to choose this, which is technically two companion films.  And they are the type of pseudo-vulgar Europeans art house critiques of human sexuality that make me such an obvious cliché.  But I Am Curious—Yellow is not only the greatest Swedish film ever made by anyone other than Bergman, it’s also, most importantly, the greatest film to ever be spoofed in the title of a Simpsons episode.

4. Haxan Benjamin Christensen (1922) – $19.99

Did you know that this film synchs up perfectly with Bauhaus’ In the Flat Field?  Okay, not in a literal sense, but if I could have anyone narrate the history of witchcraft to me, accompanied by stark images of sex and violence, it would be Peter Murphy.  Wait, no, William Burroughs!  What?  He did do a narration in 1968 called Witchcraft Through the Ages and it’s on this release?

3. The Element of Crime Lars von Trier (1984) – $19.99

This may be the most successful dystopian work of art of the twentieth century.  It may also be the hardest film to sit through that you really must sit through.  Just plan time after for a shower and happy pills, if you ever plan on dragging yourself out of bed again.

2. Life During Wartime Todd Solondz (2010) – $14.99

I find something very ingeniously intriguing about creating a work of art entirely dependent upon another for any meaning at all.  If you walked into Life During Wartime with a thorough memory of Happiness, it’s probably the most you laughed in about half a decade.  If you walked in with little or no memory of Happiness, it was probably like playing with a Rubik’s cube for 97 minutes… only less interesting and sexually appealing.

1. La haine Mathieu Kassovitz (1995) – $19.99

This sequel to Godard’s 2 or 3 Things I Know About Her is the only film in French and black and white that my students have ever enjoyed.  This is also one of the only films I’ve ever enjoyed that lacks a single drop of insincerity.


During the day Izzy Cihak teaches transgression, subversion, and revolution at Temple University. At night he haunts Philthy's best venues to cover worthwhile acts for Philthy Mag. Morrissey is everything to him and, in their own heads, all of his friends see themselves as Zooey Deschanel.