In Which We Curate The Criterion Collection For Your Pleasure

La Nouvelle Blague

by Molly Lambert

David Denby’s rave for Juno in the New Yorker. I can’t wait to read Dan Humphrey’s short story “10/5/05” in the young writers issue. Juno was number one last week, this week it was displaced at the box office by The Bucket List. But the teen mom-com has major longevity on lock. It’ll still be in theaters raking in ducats when all the other entertainment has dried up from the strike.

I blame the New Wave for the hyperfocus on “coolness

Screenbloggeur supreme Diablo Cody picked her top ten Criterion Collection films. This led me to spend two hours on the CC’s site figuring out what mine are. I’ve only seen a fraction of them, so bear that in mind when you are furious that A Story Of Floating Weeds isn’t listed.


a. The Adventures Of Antoine Doinel: Cheating and counting this box set of semi-autobiographical François Truffaut films and shorts as one. Antoine Doinel would approve of my cheating.

b. Alphaville: A Jean-Luc Godard movie for people who don’t like Godard movies. Alphaville is like Blade Runner gene-spliced with a Naked Gun film. Science-fiction, politics, and sight gags abound.

c. Fishing With John: A nature documentary starring Lounge Lizards leader John Lurie and other equally inexperienced adventurers like Tom Waits and Willem Dafoe. Directed with equal parts drollery and daftness by Lurie.

d. The Passion Of Joan Of Arc: Carl Th. Dreyer’s silent classic. Thought to be lost, a perfect copy was found at a mental institution. A tied to the stake Renée Falconetti uses just her face to give the greatest acting performance you’ve ever seen in your life.

e. Rushmore: Wes Anderson’s sophomore effort, a sentimental favorite. I like to think about all the little Liz Lemons and Lisa Simpsons out there for whom Juno will be as seminal as Rushmore.

f. Le Million: “René Clair’s lyrical masterpiece had a profound impact on not only the Marx Brothers and Charlie Chaplin, but on the American Musical as a whole.” Just a great movie to charm even the worst cynics and musical haters.

g. The Lady Eve: Like the New Yorker’s other film critic Anthony Lane, I am a huge nerd for Barbara Stanwyck. I love Preston Sturges movies in general, and Henry Fonda and Stanwyck just murk it with the dialogue in this one.

h. Sullivan’s Travels: Another great from Preston Sturges, this might be my favorite movie ever. It’s either Sullivan’s Travels or Clueless, and Amy Heckerling’s masterpiece has yet to get the Criterion treatment.

i. How To Get Ahead In Advertising: I love you Richard E. Grant, I would like to make a sandwich with you and Alan Rickman. Just a cheese sandwich will be fine. No mayo. Thank you loves. This movie is dark, hysterical, and very English English.

j. Trouble In Paradise: The Lubitsch touch is all it’s cracked up to be. The best Lubitsch films are insanely charming, witty and arch. But still winning, never cloying or glib. If I ever write a romantic comedy this good I’ll die of self-satisfaction. TIP was adapted from a play and rewritten by Samson Raphaelson, who wrote The Jazz Singer, The Shop Around The Corner, and Suspicion. Believe it or not, he’s Bob’s uncle.

k. Children Of Paradise: Okay this is actually my mom’s favorite movie but I wanted to put it on the list. It’s a French epic saga, like Gone With The Wind. Speaking of Gone With The Wind, I just saw it on TCM and it was unexpectedly hilarious.

l. Through A Glass Darkly: I do not always need to laugh. Sometimes I like to brood and brood.

m. Knife In The Water: Sometimes I like to have the fear, and this Roman Polanski three-person drama film is taut like a wire that is made of suspense. Tess Lynch loves giving herself the fear. It was her birthday yesterday. Buy her presents.

n. Band Of Outsiders: I love both Truffaut AND Godard. I’m bitextual. That joke was for Ian McAlpin. If Todd Haynes read(s) This Recording I guarantee you he’ll be loling 4eva over it 2.

o. 3 Women: Robert Altman’s 3 Women is like Ingmar Bergman’s Persona reinterpreted as a Tennessee Williams play. Top notch performances from my favorite seventies superstar strangewaifs Shelley Duvall and Sissy Spacek.

p. A Woman Is A Woman: This is what I’d call a fun romp, as far as Godard movies go. Features the unearthly beauty of young Anna Karina.

q. A Woman Under The Influence: John Cassavetes movies are not fun romps. They make you feel terrible; dislocated and depressed, like a Raymond Carver story made celluloid flesh. But you can’t be happy all the time and I think Cassavetes is a genius at depicting sadness and longing. Seventies indie goddess Gena Rowlands acts with her face as well as Falconetti in Joan Of Arc.

r. Opening Night: My favorite Cassavetes movie. It’s heartbreaking, and has plenty of the director’s trademark severe emotional discomfort. It evokes deep painful recognition in the audience with what might be called The Cassavetes Touch. Plus another astonishing performance from Gena Rowlands.

s. Tout Va Bien: Another seventies superwoman, daughter of Henry, “Hanoi” Jane Fonda takes on class and gender politics in Godard’s Brechtian fantasia. Set in a Sausage Factory (an apt metaphor for La Nouvelle Vague itself), Jane and Yves Montand argue Marxism on a bisected set, like the one Wes Anderson later built for The Life Aquatic. There’s sex and supermarkets and subliminal imagery. It gave me college flashbacks.

t. Jules and Jim: The allusions in Vanilla Sky to Jules and Jim was one of the more wildly egregious errors in that strange Scientologist crime against art. You should see Jules and Jim. Don’t see Vanilla Sky unless you really like hating bad things.

u. Masculin Féminin: Yet another Godard movie, this time starring Antoine Doinel (Jean-Pierre Léaud) and yé-yé chanteuse Chantal Goya. Brutally awkward in portions, it’s a forebearer of Andrew Bujalski’s films and a template for low-budget indies about young people.

v. The Spirit Of The Beehive: If you saw Pan’s Labyrinth or The Orphanage you might know that Spainiards have an awesome horror tradition. The Spirit of The Beehive is one of the most beautiful movies I’ve ever seen. It’s about a little girl who gets obsessed with Frankenstein and it’s basically perfect.

w. La Haine: Wunderkind Mathieu Kassovitz’s sophomore effort about life in the banlieues is the French equivalent of Boyz N The Hood and Menace II Society. It is boss.

x. Veronika Voss : The original title of this Rainer Werner Fassbinder film is Die Sehnsucht Der Veronika Voss. Sensucht is the German version of saudade.

If any aspiring wealthy benefactors are wondering what to get me, I would like the Agnès Varda boxset please. She is the lone lady auteur of French New Wave, the Angie Dickinson of Le Pack Des Rats.

Ang Lee does 70s Connecticut angst better than John Updike

More Recent And Upcoming CC Films I Am Stoked For:

The Ice Storm

Pierrot Le Fou

Drunken Angel

Sawdust and Tinsel

Under The Volcano

The Lady Vanishes

Berlin Alexanderplatz

Days Of Heaven

This Sporting Life

Two-Lane Blacktop


(Theme From) New York, New York – Cat Power: mp3

Rambling (Wo)man – Cat Power: mp3

Silver Stallion – Cat Power: mp3

I Believe In You – Cat Power: mp3

Song To Bobby – Cat Power: mp3

David Byrne’s Survival Strategies For Artistic Longevity

DB and Thom Yorke on music and the internet

Radiohead make e-business the new punk

While we’re on the subject of rainbows, why is color and when will we be able to see other spectrums?

Anna Karina and Jean-Paul Belmondo in Pierrot Le Fou


You gotta strike for your rights to porter.

Tess teaches you how to live to be a million years old.

Tyler Coates gets baptized in Hairspray

Molly Lambert is senior editor of This Recording. X is the 24th letter in the alphabet. She is X years old.

15 thoughts on “In Which We Curate The Criterion Collection For Your Pleasure

  1. nice review – glad you like spirit of the beehive – the most beautiful thing i have ever seen. totally haunting. so few people have heard of it too!


  3. Nice overview, it’s good to see all that Godard on the list. I just got word that the new Varda box set shipped to me a few days ago, so I’m really looking forward to diving into that. In the meantime, I’ve been watching a few of her shorts from the 2-disc DVD set she self-released in France, and they’re great — very playful and intelligent, much like early Godard in some ways, mixed with the essayistic sensibility of Chris Marker or Alain Resnais. She’s clearly a real talent, and I can’t wait to check out her features next, courtesy of Criterion.

  4. you guys say “the fear” too? I thought I had made that up but then I remembered I’d gotten it from Withnail and I. Is there evidence to suggest that the phrase “I got the fear” existed before that movie. The fear is so great its the only thing that makes you do anything.

  5. Great list, some of my any release favorites here (Alphaville, Knife in the Water, Masculin/Femenin).

    One correction: Guillermo del Toro is Mexican, not Spanish!

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