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The Official Criterion "Blind Buy" Support Thread

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The Official Criterion "Blind Buy" Support Thread

Old 01-13-04, 12:27 PM
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The Official Criterion "Blind Buy" Support Thread

There seem to be a lot of people who are interested in buying some of the Criterion movies, but are a little reluctant to plop down the cash on movies without knowing a little more about them.

This thread is where they can come to get some more insight, from the people who already have them or have seen them, into what makes the movies worth (or not worth) the buy.

Rules:
- No "spine number" posts
- No "to complete the collection" posts
- No "because it's one of the greatest movies ever" posts
- Please include actual reasons for you positive or negative endorsement

Hope people find this useful . . .
Old 01-13-04, 12:30 PM
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I'll get us started . . .

I'm looking into buying The Grand Illusion which I have heard several people say is possible the best movie ever made, but no one ever seems to say why. Inisght?

Also Lord Of The Flies . . . I haven't found much on this except hints that it is a very emotionally and technically raw production (in a good way ). Worth getting? (P.S. - I loved the book.)
Old 01-13-04, 01:15 PM
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And while you are thinking about Grand Illusion, how about some insight to Rules of the Game? Why is it touted as being one of the greatest films ever made?


Talemyn, for me, Lord of the Flies, is one of those great films that you can only watch once. By that I mean, it is so vivid and disturbing that once seen, I have no desire to see it again. Sort of like Schindler's List. If rewatchability is not there for me, I'd rather rent the movie.
Old 01-13-04, 01:36 PM
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Grand Illusion - First, I don't think this is the greatest movie ever made, but that's beside the point. It's a great movie, and everybody should watch it at least once, IMO. Why is it great? Well, it's got great acting, writing, direction, of course. But what makes this film special is the multi-layered themes that are dealt with in the film. Without giving too much away, the film is about how World War I destroyed the aristocracy in Europe. To be more precise, it's about how, due to an ossified social code, the aristocracy destroyed itself by engaging in a pointless, destructive war. The film demonstrates how the destruction of the existing social order paved the way for a new Europe, ran by the burgeoning middle class, jointly with the working class. The film also argues that those two classes must work together, or share the same fate as the aristocracy (a lesson they have not yet learned).

Also, Grand Illusion argues that society is divided more by social class than by political or geographic divisions. In other words, aristocrats from France and Germany have more in common with each other than with their own countrymen.

When you combine the film's deft handling of these complex themes with Renoir's masterful direction (he was doing stuff with deep focus a decade before Welles), you have one of the greatest films ever made, a film that bears repeated viewing as it reveals itself to the viewer.

Also, it's really just a lot of fun to watch. It's no dry academic exercise by any means. There are great moments of humor and pathos throughout the film.
Old 01-13-04, 02:35 PM
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I've been buyin a ton of blind buy Criterions...mainly Kurosawa...picked up Ikiru today...and my future Criterion Blind Buys are Samurai 1&2...Rashomon...Passion of Joan of Arc...Third Man...and Cries and Whispers...

Anyone pick up that Bergman set...I picked that up the other day...wow!
Old 01-13-04, 02:55 PM
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this is so weird this was just put out there..i was and still am going to post a question i had about this criterion release..just rented it on VHS (blah!!)..and let me say WOW!!! one of the most tense and taught thrillers i have seen in a long time..it almost..almost mind you left me gasping for breath at the end. it was just so well done and the acting was superb by the lead as is usually for this one.

so truth is i was at Best Buy today and was going to "blind buy" today..literally only a few hours ago. i saw the title and knew it simply from reading threads on this board, but never read anything about the actual film. i picked it up and saw Dustin Hoffman. Then Directed by Sam Pechinpah. Read the back and seemed interesting and I liked The Wild Bunch, my only other foray into Pechinpah. Then the $32.99 price tag made be think again and I saw 3 copies and realized if I wanted it it would be there. So I went to Blockbuster picking up another movie and they had the VHS of this movie. I got it and just watched it and I was ultimately sorry, SORRY! I didn't "blind buy"...
well, the movie is of course Straw Dogs and it was really really good.

I am not sure if this is what the thread called for, but that is my 2 cents worth..hope it helps. Now, I need convincing to pick it up since I won't be aching to see again anytime soon, though I know the DVD version would enhance 10 fold. and i thought i read this was going to be OOP..is that not true? thanks.
Old 01-13-04, 03:38 PM
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Originally posted by scott1598
. . . and i thought i read this was going to be OOP..is that not true? thanks.
I can't help you with any more information about the film itself, but Straw Dogs is technically OOP already (as of Jan. 1, I believe).

wenders . . . great analysis! That is exactly the type of thing that I was hoping to get in this thread.

garolo . . . interesting thought on Lord of the Flies. Anyone else agree? Disagree?

Thanks for the help so far . . .
Old 01-13-04, 03:42 PM
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Originally posted by talemyn
wenders . . . great analysis! That is exactly the type of thing that I was hoping to get in this thread.
I can do one for Rules of the Game, if you like.

Last edited by wendersfan; 01-13-04 at 03:45 PM.
Old 01-13-04, 03:50 PM
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Originally posted by wendersfan
I can do one for Rules of the Game, if you like.
I, personally, don't need one yet, but garolo seemed interested. And . . . who knows . . . it might push me into another blind buy.
Old 01-13-04, 04:42 PM
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Originally posted by wendersfan
I can do one for Rules of the Game, if you like.
I don't recall ever seeing Rules, so any insight would be much appreciated. Thanks!
Old 01-13-04, 04:49 PM
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Well, I want to share my horrible experiences with a "blind buy". Perhaps some of you wise members might be able to give me some therapeuatic advice. I bought "My Life As A Dog". I thought it was a cute child drama that I could watch with a room full of people with highly conservative morals (not conversative politics). The nudity started coming and coming... I was whipped, tarred and feathered. It wasn't a pleasant experience. Then we watched Irreversible and everything became better... (just kidding)...

I'm thinking of getting Grey Gardens. What do you people think about it? I'm more interested in watching it to gain insight on the erratic personalities in the doc. But I also want to be entertained. No doubt, it'll be educational, but is it entertaining, that is the question.

Talemyn, I am not padding my post count with this post!
Old 01-13-04, 05:18 PM
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Just wanted to say that this a good thread that we should keeping adding to. I would like to add that Lord Of The Flies is a great film. I wasn't expecting much but once again Criterion releases another winner. Great small film that works really well due to its source material. There were no liberties or short cuts taken. The movie is great.
Old 01-13-04, 05:34 PM
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I've only seen Rules of the Game once, 2 years ago, in a badly preserved print with subpar subtitles, but have no qualms placing it as one of the best movies I've ever seen. Much of wendersfan's fine description of Grand Illusion can apply: excellent cast, direction, script, etc. Again, Renoir employs a deep focus camera before Citizen Kane that despite the poor print I saw, is very striking.

Where Grand Illusion takes a relatively elegiac tone to the downfall of the old Europe, Rules... lets the punches fly at the waning class system, only years before World War II. And after seeing older films, either by Griffith, Murnau, Lang, Chaplin, Keaton, Eisenstein, Dreyer, Lubitsch, etc. (all masters and geniuses when it came to defining the new medium), Renoir's work stands with them as watershed moments, equipped with a subtle grace and humor all his own.

Altman's Gosford Park is essentially a remake but with a murder mystery attached and bittersweet tone. Altman pines for those days, Renoir lacerates them. In a great self-conscious move, Renoir casts himself as somewhat of a bridge between the servants and the guests, though even he is powerless in the end to change things.

One thing to say about both Grand Illusion and Rules of the Game is that watching them is like watching the history of cinema unfold, so much has been gleaned from those movies (and most older classics) that the aspect of time adds a whole new dimension.
Old 01-13-04, 06:28 PM
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Originally posted by jayson1017
Talemyn, I am not padding my post count with this post!
Never thought otherwise . . . and I must say, you're starting to sound less and less like danol, with every post, too.

lesterlong . . . glad you like the thread . . . I was hoping we could get some good analysis and reviews of these films going, especially given how good they are purported to be. Thanks for the insight on Lord Of The Flies, BTW.
Old 01-13-04, 07:56 PM
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Excellent thread Talemyn. I've been on the fence about a few recently... If anyone has any insight on....

"M"

"The Long Good Friday"

"The Killers"

& "Spartacus" (is it worth the upgrade?)

I would greatly appreciate it.
Old 01-13-04, 10:17 PM
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Well, As for Long Good Friday, I'd put it up alongside any mafia movies from the U.S. and I think it holds its' own. Bob Hoskins is truly brilliant in it and it's worth a view for his performance alone. It has a rawness characteristic of the 70s, but it hasn't aged hardly at all....my only real qualm with it is that, like a lot of earlier Criterions, it isn't Anamorphic, and there are no extras beyond the trailer. Regardless, it's a great addition to my collection that I really enjoy.

If you like it, then I'd also recommend Neil Jordan's Mona Lisa - and vice versa....
Old 01-13-04, 10:39 PM
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THis is a wonderful thread. I love foreign/classic/contrivorsial films and buy quite a few Criterion dvds as blind buys. I'll be reading everyones responses.
Old 01-13-04, 10:41 PM
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SilverScreen, I don't know for sure, but I had thought that the Universal disc had the same transfer as the Criterion one (someone will correct me if I'm wrong, I'm sure). When you ask if it's worth the upgrade, I assume you mean on the strenght of it's extras. I would have to say without question.

There's commentary by the film restorors, Kirk Douglas, Peter Ustinov that is fascinating. It's great to hear Kirk talk with obvious passion in his voice (this would have been recorded well before his stroke.)

The screenplay was writen by Dalton Trumball. And there is a 2nd audio commentary of someone reading this massive memo of his, commenting on a rough cut of Spartacus almost scene by scene. From it you understand how a novel is translated to the film, the writer's thoughts on Kubrick, how certain material should be handled in regards to film censorship at the time. One of the better commentary tracks on any dics I think.

There is also a short documentary about the black list. A half hour interview with Ustinov of him telling piss-your-pants funny stories about making the film (great stuff about Olivier's and Laughton's headbutting). Newsreel footage of the premier. Odd promotional stuff from the 60's.

In short, this is a movie that had a lot of interesting stuff swirling around behind the scenes. If you love Spartacus, you'll really want to see this.
Old 01-14-04, 10:01 AM
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Originally posted by SilverScreen
Excellent thread Talemyn. I've been on the fence about a few recently... If anyone has any insight on....

"M"

"The Long Good Friday"

"The Killers"

& "Spartacus" (is it worth the upgrade?)

I would greatly appreciate it.
M, is probably the first serial killer in cinema, if I'm not mistaken. Peter Lorre (his movie debut) is great as the killer who preys on kids, and the police are stump on catching him, send letters to them about the killings. Not a murder mystery, cause you know right away who the killer is. Also Fritz Lang's first "movie in sound". Transfer has it problems, but what do you expect from a movie from 1931. Even though M is from 1931 it still holds well today. I would highly recommend.

Long Good Friday have not seen.

Spatacus, if your a fan of the movie, without a doubt get the Criterion. I got lucky and found it used for $7 at Gamestop one day.
Old 01-14-04, 11:05 AM
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Lord of the Flies: I saw this in HS way back when, we were reading the book in English class, and thought it was such a great adaptation. The acting is crude, but it fit perfectly with the experimental type of directing/production the director used. The entire movie was dubbed, so don't let that throw you off if things aren't exactly in sync. I thought the three lead roles were played perfectly and some of the images were startling, especially the night scenes. I showed this one to a classroom of 30 high schoolers, and they hated it. Not modern enough, like the re-remake, they said.

M: My favorite Lang film. It doesnt portray the serial killer as one dimensional. The trial scene is incredible and has been copied many many times. The directing is fantastic, and even though this is Lang's first sound film, it can really ba taken as a silent film, and it works fantastically. I loved his camera angles and use of shadows. I showed this one to about 10 teens and they all loved it.
Old 01-14-04, 11:12 AM
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The Third Man: This Carol Reed film is a wonderful classic. In a way, it's the older version of The Usual Suspects, because the main villian is a man named Harry Lime, but no one knows who he really is. You don't even
Spoiler:
see Harry Lime until an hour into the film, when he is played by Orson Wells.


It's a fantastic film, one I highly recommend.
Old 01-14-04, 12:05 PM
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Spartacus, Spellbound...

Spartacus is a must-own. The extras I liked were deleted scenes, (some reconstructed as script), one showing Laughton and Gavin walking around downtown Rome discussing politics. Ustinov's comments on Olivier, Laughton and Douglas and the art of acting are inspired, including his surprising assessment of Mel Gibson's Hamlet.

A word of warning about Spellbound. It comes in two printings. The first one is incompatible with most common Toshiba DVD players. This has been corrected in the second printing and Criterion has been very good about this, accepting returns from retailers. So read the fine print at the bottom of the back cover and insist on "2nd printing".

Too bad this thread doesn't include "blind buying" Kino releases because this line also has a few doozies, namely Rouben Mamoulian's Love Me Tonight (1932) which I bought recently and which is worth owning both as an enjoyable musical and an essentiel masterpiece of the cinema.
Old 01-14-04, 12:19 PM
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There is a nice resource regarding Criterion DVD's here
Old 01-14-04, 01:23 PM
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Originally posted by chente
There is a nice resource regarding Criterion DVD's here
Interesting site . . . definately a good resource for info, although the discussion of the actual films was hit or miss sometimes (very good for Lord Of The Flies and George Washington, but somewhat cursory for Rules Of The Game and Picnic At Hanging Rock . . . two other Criterions that have recently caught my eye. ). Thanks for the link!
Old 01-14-04, 01:48 PM
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What about the movies Vagabond or That Obscure Object of Desire??

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