So Long FilmStruck, Hello Criterion Channel; What Criterion Collection Films Are Must Sees?


#1

So FilmStruck is, or rather was, this streaming service. I guess the pitch was “Netflix for film buffs”, which isn’t a great model. Evidently, it didn’t work so well, because TCM announced that they’re shutting it down.

Honestly, FilmStruck was a sub-par service. That being said, I subscribed to it and enjoyed it a lot because it had a massive catalog of Criterion Collection films, and being a pretentious nerd, I like foreign and cult films. Whether or not Criterion Collection films will be available for streaming anywhere hasn’t been announced, which leaves me crossing my fingers.

So before FilmStruck shutters next month, what movies do you recommend giving a watch?

Thanks! I may throw in some of my recommendations, too!


#2

Carnival of Souls, a short, low-budget horror film made by people whose primary experience was in industrial filmmaking, which makes the level of spooky (Even now, 56 years later) expressionist atmosphere all the more impressive. The entirely organ score is also really cool and distinctive.


#3

I don’t know if the entire Criterion Collection is on FilmStruck because I’ve never actually used it but please: Everyone :clap: go :clap: watch :clap: House :clap:right :clap: now :clap: and :clap: also :clap: La Jetée

EDIT: Also if you’re interested in Ikuru or any Akira Kurosawa after Waypoints, you should catch any of that stuff also a lot of Seijun Suzuki’s catalogue is available through the Criterion Collection and is totally worth looking at if it’s streaming.


#4

I’m a big Wong Kar Wai fan, so whatever they have of his, probably In the Mood for Love if I had to pick one, although Chungking Express and Fallen Angels are interesting taken as a pair.


#5

The Battle of Algiers is a must see. One of the more complex portrayals of fascism and revolution that is critical of both. Not in a centrist ‘both sides’ sense, the revolutionaries are clearly the better party, but more an examination of violence to achieve a political goal. Lots of brutal violence in this, so beware.

The Vanishing is a classic Hitchcockian-style horror film. Kubrick apparently thought it was the most terrifying thing he had ever seen. I dunno if I’d go that far, but it is a solid film. It focuses around a man’s hunt for why his girlfriend completely disappeared. Very unnerving.

Le Samouraï is a fantastic French hitman movie. Totally something to get you in the mood for Hitman 2, if you’re interested in that game.


#6

House is my all time favorite movie and I will not apologize for it

(and yes, it is on Filmstruck)


#7

I could talk about a lot, but let’s stick to four that might be in my top5 favorite films of all time. Sans Soleil, a documentary/essay/meditation on the nature of memory and images that honestly is really hard to describe well, but it’s incredible. The Seventh Seal, Bergman’s funniest and most profound work, has most of the great things you can put in any movie. The Passion of Joan of Arc, probably the best silent movie and the best performance I’ve ever seen. And The Young Girls of Rochefort, a colorful French musical about two artist sisters, and one of the most enjoyable things I can imagine.

(also co-signing on Wong Kar-Wai and Seijun Suzuki, the first makes some of the best romance movies of the last 25 years and the second makes crazy stylish crime movies)


#8

I’ll ditto Le Samourai and Sans Soleil.

Le Samourai is by Jean-Pierre Melville who also did Le Doulos and Bob le Flambeur which I’d also recommend. Le Samourai is famously an inspiration for both Jarmusch’s Ghost Dog and John Woo’s The Killer.

Sans Soleil is by Chris Marker director of the aforementioned La Jetee.


#9

I really enjoyed Certified Copy. It’s very similar to the movies in Linklater’s Before trilogy, except nothing makes sense and it stars perpetual best actress, Juliette Binoche.

I also liked Jigoku, which is a good one for fans of Japanese horror (apparently this one was hugely influential for that scene).

Oh, and Fassbinder’s Ali: Fear Eats the Soul is super relevant today and is just a great movie. Then, from the same director, there’s World on a Wire, which is basically The Matrix but from 20 years earlier and it has some of the most inventive cinematography I’ve ever seen. Honestly, I’d probably recommend anything from Fassbinder.


#10

I like La Haine a lot. Z is a really good political thriller, with a gut punch for an ending. The Sword of Doom is real dope, a huge inspiration for the Kill Bill movies. Kwaidan is really beautiful, not horror, but kinda spooky ghost stories.


#11

The 400 Blows, the Ali Trilogy, Every Film Akira Kurosawa Ever Made


#12

This isn’t an old movie, but it came to Critereon last year: Desert Hearts is an early 80s queer romance movie set in Nevada in the 60s. Independantly produced by its director Donna Dietch, it has an incredible soundtrack, and the writing is firey. Highly recommended.


#13

I don’t know if they were on FilmStruck, but Andrei Tarkovsky made some of the most thoughtful, human sci-fi movies ever in Solaris and Stalker, both of which have Criterion editions. Stalker is loosely based on Roadside Picnic, the same novel that inspired the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. series of games. Neither are particularly faithful adaptations, but I think Tarkovsky’s film brilliantly captures the mundanity that would quickly follow even something as reality-shattering as an alien invasion (although invasion is a strong term. To the aliens it was more of a rest stop.)

Solaris, like the 2002 Soderbergh/Clooney film, is based on a novel by Stanislaw Lem, in which a human deep-space research station encounters an incomprehensible alien intelligence. The book is mostly focused on the “incomprehensible” part and the ramifications of trying to communicate with it. Both films more explore the psychological makeup of the main character, Kelvin.

Tarkovsky movies are notoriously slow burns, with extended (I’m talking like 10 minutes) shots that could be b-roll from a nature documantary. But both are fascinating explorations of humanity trying to comprehend the incomprehensible. If you enjoyed Annihilation, you should definitely check these out (or vice versa!)


#14

I love the hell outta F For Fake, it’s one of the most thoroughly engaging films I’ve ever experienced, Orson Welles’ narration kind of grabs a hold of you and keeps you fixated on the long, complex, detailed plot about art forgery.

Slacker is an interesting watch, too. It’s absolutely experimental, kind of runs off of the question if a movie could really be made without a plot, but it’s still engaging and each character is memorable and impactful in their own way.

Probably my favorite movie ever is Hoop Dreams, which is a very journalistic and humanizing look into the lives of two young, black, high school kids in the Cabrini-Green projects of Chicago in the early nineties. The film runs over high school basketball careers, but it’s more about the two boys and their families’ lives than anything else


#15

Damn, I forgot Stalker was on the Criterion Collection. That’s the one I’d actually consider paying the very steep 35-40 dollar price of a blu-ray to get, honestly.


#16

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#17

Stalker is so good and also if you’ve never seen it before, know that it is completely OK and normal if you fall asleep partway through. It happens to lots of people.


#18

Part of my Japanese degree involved a focus on classic Japanese cinema, so…

Seven Samurai is arguably one of the greatest films of all time, no hyperbole. I mean, Kurosawa is one of the greatest filmmakers and this is essentially his greatest film (yes, we can all argue all day and night about this!). The Magnificent Seven is literally a Western remake of it (and is also a good film in its own right) and it can be fun to watch them back to back.

Rashomon is essentially the inspiration for every film with an unreliable narrator, definitely highly recommended. It’ll also help you understand one of the best throwaway Simpsons jokes.

Yojimbo is another Kurosawa film that, to me, rounds out the classic trilogy of Kurosawa/Mifune films. It’s probably one of the earliest antihero films. Another major Western, A Fistful of Dollars by Sergio Leone and starring Clint Eastwood, is based on this one. That film is also worth watching.

Tokyo Drifter and Branded to Kill are absolutely classic Yakuza films from Seijun Suzuki. If you saw Tarentino’s Kill Bill and were wondering where the inspiration for the entire end sequence came from, much if not all of it is from Seijun Suzuki’s work. The scenes cycle through major primary colors to the point where the main character’s outfits even change going from one room to another to match them, for example. These films are style over substance, over-the-top Yakuza-hero worship.

If you want the other end of Yakuza film-making, I’m pretty sure Takeshi Kitano’s films Hanabi, Violent Cop, and Sonatine are all in the collection and on Filmstruck. I don’t know how to recommend just one of these, but I guess I’d pick Hanabi (might go by “Fireworks” in English).

Kwaidan is a season-appropriate horror film containing four classic Japanese folk tales, in particular known for its take on Yuki-onna.

I’m going overboard, so the last one is Yasujiro Ozu’s Tokyo Story. In the history of Japanese film, I think it’s probably fair to say Tokyo Story is considered a must-see in the history of Japanese cinema.

As for non-Japanese films…

Brazil is a cult classic Terry Gilliam film about a disturbing dystopian future where a typo can destroy someone’s life and contains one of the stranger roles played by Robert DeNiro. I don’t know if the Criterion version is the director’s cut or not, but it’s actually pretty interesting to watch both the theatrical American (“Love Conquers All”) version and the original director’s cut (European release) because the film was heavily censored for US release.

I went on too long and recommended too many. Oh well!


#19

Solaris too, for that matter. It’s probably good to just accept going in that it’s going to take at least three sittings to get through.


#20

If you have a university email you can access Kanopy, which is a streaming service with most Criterion Collection films. I’m always surprised at the available films.