Criterion Collecting

I’ve been checking a lot more DVDs out from my local libraries lately, and a couple recent ones were from the Criterion Collection, which has somehow become a sleek shorthand for quality films.  As a librarian I guess I love collections, but I’m sort of unclear as to the selection criteria (haha) for Criterion?  (Found it.)

At any rate, I was reminded of this video on the digitization of analog film that has been such a key part of Criterion’s mission since 1984:

Every time we start work on a film, we track down the best available film elements in the world, use state-of-the-art telecine equipment and a select few colorists capable of meeting our rigorous standards, then take time during the film-to-video digital transfer to create the most pristine possible image and sound.  Source

The movies I’ve been watching have been newer so I thought that wouldn’t be an issue, but turns out Aki Kaurismäki still films on film, so tools like Nucoda and Flame were used as part of the transfer from analog to digital, as pointed out in some fine print in the accompanying booklet…


Image by Manuele Fior

Speaking of Kaurismäki, the last movie I saw was his 2011 Le Havre, with a gorgeous cover image by Italian illustrator Manuele Fior which also speaks to the high artistic level of Criterion’s packaging; they have a shop for prints based on select artwork from their DVD covers and the distinctive brand labeling has been parodied on a Fake Criterions Tumblr too.  Guess that’s how you know you’ve made it…

From now on I will eagerly anticipate announcements of new Criterion releases like I do opera seasons and comic books; for the accompanying grouping and graphic design!


Arab Pictures Generation

“Archival artist” is not a medium I’d heard of before, but it’s fitting for Akram Zaatari, the Beirut-based artist and archivist whose work is on view at MoMA through Monday.  A founder of the Arab Image Foundation in 1997, devoted to preserving photography from North Africa and the Middle East, the two videos at MoMA bely the image-collecting tendencies at the center of his artistic practice.

The centerpiece of the exhibit (with movie house style seats and everything), “On Photography, People, and Modern Times” showcases items collected for the AIF in the late 1990s along with filmed interviews with the images’ donors on their memories of the events and people captured in those pictures.  Continue reading