november is the biggest month of the year for Criterion (it’s when they drop all their major holiday stocking-stuffing stuff), and it’s become something of a fall tradition for them to unload all the big guns just before black thursday. it’s now pretttyyy clear that 2011 is going to be no exception. after a few summer months loaded with as many as 8 releases, criterion is approaching november with a quality over quantity ethos, releasing some of the biggest titles in the company’s recent history, and realizing a lot of fans’ most feverish dreams in the process. November isn’t going to unseat August as my favorite Criterion month of the year, but it’s going to be pretty epic all the same.

hold on to your butts.


#587-590 THREE COLORS TRILOGY (dir. Krzysztof Kieslowski) 1993-1994

Criterion has made sure that literally every person on earth knew that this release was coming, and oh my god is this not going to suck. three of the best films ever made — a trilogy forming the lucid backbone of Kieslowski’s work — finally given the treatment they so desperately deserve. you need this. and if you don’t know that you need this, then you need this even more. pretty much everything you need to know about modern living is contained in these films, and the cohering final moments of RED stand among the most profound interactions you’re ever likely to share with a moving image.

the set is loaded… cinema lessons with Kieslowski (not sure what that means, but i’m sure i want to), interviews with everyone, scene-specific commentary from Juliette Binoche, video essays, Kieslowski short film THE TRAM (watch it here!), short docs, a feature-length doc about Kieslowski, multi-interview programs… whatever, we’re done here. this is amazing. not sure what to make of the box art, but this must have been a bitch and a half to design, don’t want to go the Miramax route and be too obvious, so Criterion settled for a more elliptical design that speaks to Kieslowski’s obsession with the fluidity of existence. i can dig it.

#591 12 ANGRY MEN (dir. Sidney Lumet) 1957

um… excuse me? was i the only one who didn’t know about this? the courtroom drama to rule them all and in the darkness bind them, Sidney Lumet’s beloved ode to justice and dissent is one of those big fish i never thought criterion would even try and land, but here ya go. the disc includes the television version, a serious bevy of interviews, and a Lumet teleplay. and then there’s that cover… look at that thing: it’s got 12 men, all of them angry. perfect. garish and gorgeous and soon to be ours.


#65 RUSHMORE (dir. Wes Anderson) 1998

it’s RUSHMORE. it’s on blu-ray. it’s RUSHMORE on blu-ray. what more do you need from me?

same cover art as the DVD, but if it’s totally perfect, don’t fix it.

#216 THE RULES OF THE GAME (dir. Jean Renoir) 1939

i dunno how many times i can write “one of the best films ever made” without the hyperbole losing its punch, but, i mean… have fun disparaging the merits of Renoir’s masterpiece to anyone. Renoir in 1080p is one of those things that cineastes have been fantasizing about since the early days of the HD revolution, and for Criterion to be handling the up-conversion of the director’s seminal work is… they should have sent a poet. Criterion mentioned something about different supplements, but the extras seem unchanged to me (not a problem, as the Rules DVD was a mess of great features). the art is the thing, here… the fragmented, cerulean cover that adorned Criterion’s original release perfectly captured the film’s nature as a broken puzzle, the new design looks like a New Yorker cartoon (probably because it was drawn by Edward Sorel, a long-time contributor to The New Yorker). it certainly nails the film’s madcap spirit, a giddy farce that falls down the rabbit-hole. two covers, two extremes… can’t make up my mind on which i prefer just yet.

#261: FANNY AND ALEXANDER (dir. Ingmar Bergman) 1982

hey look - it’s one of the best films ever made! Bergman’s magnum opus is the most visually wondrous work of the great auteur’s career, its fantastical use of color making it an ideal choice for the HD boost. this is the Bergman film for people who don’t like Bergman, a wondrously transportive childhood fantasia for kids of all ages. Criterion has graciously included both the theatrical and 5.5 hour TV cut, the latter of which can hopefully now fit on a single disc.


Eclipse #30: SABU! 1937 - 1942

ah, Sabu. the cinema’s most beloved young Indian actor — at least until Dev Patel showed up to blankly stare Slumdog Millionaire into the annals of Oscar history — even today one word is all you need to introduce this unlikely screen icon. SABU! the set comes with Elephant Boy, The Drum, and The Jungle Book… basically, if there’s a classic movie with a half-naked kid riding an exotic animal of some kind, it’s here. fun fact: Sabu died of a heart attack at age 39 in Chatsworth, California. he grew up like Mowgli and died like an actuary. total bummer. great films, as the Eclipse set keeps on delivering the goods.