This month, a number of our critics share their 10 favorite titles from the Criterion Collection in celebration of the Barnes & Noble Criterion Collection July sale.
Boyhood is a film that has continually grown on me since I first watched it. I’ve grown alongside the film. I was 14 when it was released, and it had a profound impact on me like nothing that I had witnessed before. Even though I was a couple of years younger than the protagonist, Mason (Ellar Coltrane), I felt an intense connection with him. I related to his thoughts and feelings and I felt that I shared experiences with him. Now that I’m a freshman in college, I understand him more than I ever did before. The film has also been helped by captivating, poignant, and realistic portrayals of Mason’s parents by Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette. The deft, steady directorial hand of Richard Linklater seamlessly weaves us through Mason’s life, his relationships, and the beginning of the 21st century. Boyhood is a time capsule that which many young adults will look upon with a feeling of fondness and nostalgia. The sheer impact that Boyhood had on me cannot be overstated and I will gleefully return to it time and time again.
9. Eyes Without a Face
When one thinks of horror films, beauty is not a word that comes to mind very often. Yet, when I think of Georges Franju‘s Eyes Without a Face, I always recall the astonishing imagery found in the film. The serene, porcelain features of Christiane Genessier’s (Edith Scob) mask, the moody lighting, and the slow, deliberate camera movements counteract the terrifying and gory images frequently found on screen. Even those scenes, have a strange aura of poetic beauty around them. There is also a pervasive sense of uneasiness that drapes itself over the film and the feeling of dread and suspense follows you on journey through this mystifying and disorienting film. There is simply no other film like it, horror or not.
8. In the Mood for Love
In the Mood for Love is one of the most emotionally devastating films that I have ever seen. The two main characters are always in close proximity with each other yet remain so distant. It takes a firm hold of your heartstrings and tugs at them until they can be pulled no more. The closeness of the two characters is reinforced by the absolutely stunning cinematography of Christopher Doyle and the masterful direction of Wong Kar-Wai. The framing of the close quarters and close-ups of the characters drives home a sense of claustrophobia and reinforces the intimacy they have with each other. However, the most important aspects of the film are the two lead performances by Maggie Cheung and Tony Chiu-Wai Leung. They play their parts with restraint yet seem to bear their hearts on the screen in every conversation.
Pickpocket was the very first Robert Bresson film that I watched, and what a beginning it was to his filmography. It was the perfect introduction to Bresson’s emotionless, detached, and passive cinema. Pickpocket isn’t flashy, there are no gaudy monologues revealing a character’s inner turmoil, no tricky edits, yet it packed a punch like no other film. Bresson manages to draw these feelings out of his minimalist dialogue and the stone-faced expressions of the actors. The film is also relentlessly gripping, the scenes of Michel (Martin Lasalle) pickpocketing keep you on the edge of your seat as Bresson’s steady camera focuses on the hands of those in scene and you wonder, is one of the hands that of a police officer . The ending is also quite magnificent, it features one of the few displays of emotion in the entire film, and one of the most powerful scenes in cinema history.
6. The Night of the Hunter
Robert Mitchum has one of the spookiest performances ever in The Night of the Hunter. The charismatic, wolf in sheep’s clothing mixed with the Gothic imagery create an astounding effect on the viewer. Mitchum is the stuff of nightmares, his haunting voice will send chills down your spine. He is everything you could want in a villain and this performance affirms him as one of the best actors of the 20th century. Lillian Gish represents the complete opposite of him. She is the love to his hate, the light to his darkness. The imagery also has an evocative effect on the viewer. The shot of Mitchum chasing the children up the basement stairs and the shot of Shelley Winters lying gracefully at the bottom of the lake are the two images that resonated with me the most.