My Favourite Criterion Covers

The brilliant Alex Withrow of And So It Begins… just published an interesting post on his favourite Criterion Collection DVD covers. Now, I’ve always been a fan of Criterion, and their covers have always interested me, so when I read Alex’s post today, I felt compelled to write a list of my own. These include covers for both films I have seen and haven’t, and each director only features once, to be fair. In alphabetical order:

The 400 Blows (1959)

The image of Antoine Doinel, hands on a fence, staring at the unknown outside world, is striking. So clear and true, and we know everything about him just by staring into his eyes. This is the amazing Jean-Pierre Leaud, at a younger age, proving he had talent early on. This is an image which grabs you, the unforgettable face of one of cinema’s most unforgettable characters.

Breathless (1960)

The incredibly simple design of the film’s title and director being printed boldly and largely perfectly reflects the feel of the film. At first you might think it’s a way of cheating and being less creative, but it really is the perfect design, it’s attention grabbing and it makes you question the film.

Diary of a Country Priest (1952)

Seeing the dark ink spill on the DVD cover of Robert Bresson’s first masterpiece is a perfect reflection of the stained soul of the film’s troubled main character.

The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (1972)

The delightful pink lips on the cover of Luis Bunuel’s best film are a perfect way of topping off a masterpiece filled with weird and wonderful scenes; yet another way of making fun of the middle-class pompous freaks that Bunuel despised.

The Great Dictator (1940)

So simple. So funny. Quite possibly the perfect cover for Charles Chaplin’s masterful black comedy, the Hitler moustache is a plain design which at first glance is too simple for some to find special; but that’s the thing with Criterion covers: sometimes the simplicity is what makes them perfect.

The Ice Storm (1997)

The simplicity continues with this dark cover, somewhat haunting in its design of the icy water with the red streak in it, a perfect way of capturing the motion and look of Ang Lee’s masterpiece.

In the Realm of the Senses (1976)

This is a film with explicit, uncensored, unsimulated sex, but buried deep within this sex is an incredibly electric, amazing display of emotion. The cover features a woman exhaling as she is being strangled, in the middle of a disturbing, masochistic sex session. Sizzling with heat and energy.

Ivan’s Childhood (1962)

What a stark, startling design: the image of a young boy standing amongst a shocking wreck, with the spikes of wood ominously pointing toward him and the words of the title slithering along the bottom like ivy.

Last Year at Marienbad (1961)

Much like the Breathless DVD, Last Year at Marienbad is simply the film’s title. But that’s all it needs to be; it would be tough to pick a single image that captures the weirdness and strange beauty of the film, so the title would have to do, sinking into a grey background silently.

The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928)

Marie Falconetti’s astonishing face, as she cries, shouts, begs and breathes in Dreyer’s silent classic, is truly a marvel of humanity. There is no sound, but the images are aplenty, and as we drift through all the characters’ faces, one keeps returning consistently to our mind and to the screen.

Repulsion (1965)

Catherine Deneuve gave her best performance as a woman struggling with her sanity in one of the best films of Polanski’s early career, and to see her face shoot through among the silhouette of her arm is a truly striking sight.

The Seven Samurai (1954)

Again, simple but effective. The symbols of the seven protagonists, as seen on a poster in the movie, brought to vivid life on the cover of the DVD, seven lone strangers banding together as a team.

The Seventh Seal (1957)

Probably my favourite one, this dark and haunting cover to Ingmar Bergman’s amazing movie is just fantastic. Max von Sydow’s face emerging from the shadowy darkness is rawly beautiful, a simple contemplation of a man in emotional turmoil with the issues of life and death.

Three Colours trilogy (1993-4)

Though this won’t be released until next month, it definitely still counts to include this one; the image of the wires crossing together from Red was a perfect image for the cover of the box set because it features all three colours from the three films, and is a perfect example of the message of the trilogy: about people moving around together and apart, eventually bumping into each other again.

The Vanishing (1988)

No one who’s seen the original The Vanishing forgets the film. It is haunting, shocking and its ending is unforgettable. The image of the gas station which is the centre of the film is perfect for the cover, and the darkness above it represents the darkness of the film’s final unexpected location.

Those are some of my favourites. What are some of yours? Leave a comment below.

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Posted on October 6, 2011, in Lists, Movies and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 28 Comments.

  1. That cover for The Ice Storm is brilliant. Love it. Some others I quite like that aren’t listed here are Vampyr and Trafic.

  2. Damn near every cover you included on your list, I seriously considered for mine, especially Repulsion, Passion of Joan of Arc and The 400 Blows.

    I’ve never seen that Ivan’s Childhood one. Wow. That Three Colors trilogy cover is insane. I bet Criterion could do something incredible with The Decalogue.

    Glad I could be of some source of inspiration, thanks for the shot out!

  3. 12 Angry Men, Branded to Kill, Broadcast News, Kuroneko, The Phantom Carriage, The Third Man.

  4. Christian Hallbeck

    I like the cover of the box set edition of “Fanny and Alexander”. But on the other hand the cover of the television version is just as beautiful! Have you bought the box set edition yet?

    • No I haven’t bought it yet but I really really want to. It’s next on my DVD buying list after the THREE COLOURS trilogy when Criterion release it in November.

  5. Christian Hallbeck

    In Sweden we have a tradition of showing “Fanny and Alexander” on television every – or rather every other – christmas. It’s usually the five hour version that is brodadcasted. Otherwise they hardly show any Bergman movies on television now a days. I can’t remember the last time, to be honest. It seems like years… Ten years ago the situation was much better in this respect. How is it in New Zeeland? Have you seen any Bergmans films on television?

  6. Christian Hallbeck

    One movie a week on national television to save your life! Is that to much to ask for!? They showed “The Piano Teacher” on public television here a couple of weeks ago, come to think of it. That would have saved YOUR life that week, I’m sure 🙂

  7. Criterion always has awesome cover artwork. I love the ones for HOUSE and BLACK MOON

  8. I’m actually not a fan of Criterion artwork since they have this arty approach to it that was not intended to start with. In many ways I find them overdone.

    Of the ones mentioned above I like Ivans Childhood the most.

    • I suppose everyone has their own opinion. I find them fresh and original, and often thought-provoking; every time I see a great Criterion cover it makes me want to buy it, so I guess that’s why they make them like that – to attract attention to the film.

  9. Ooooooo. This is a post I can get behind. My favorites that you didn’t mention include

    Army of Shadows
    Kiss Me Deadly
    Amarcord
    Black Narcissus
    and House of Games

    Of the ones you have up there ‘Three Colors’ and ‘Ice Storm’ are my favorites

  10. THE SEVENTH SEAL is my favourite here!

  11. Woooooow, these are gorgeous… very artsy! If only movie posters these days are half as creative! I love The Ice Storm [dark & mysterious] and In the Realm of the Senses [soooo sensual] but the rest are beautiful enough to collect!

  12. Hi Tyler!

    I like you am also living in New Zealand and I’ve recently just gotten into collecting criterion collection films…(a toughy, as you may know).

    My question is:

    How do you decide between blu-ray and DVD? and if left to decide between the two format which format would you normally pick for that movie? is DVD great in itself that most of the time blu-ray isn’t a necessity?

    I’ve had a great internal conflict between which format i should pick…especially in new zealand finding a blu-ray dvd player which is region free isn’t easy (What blu-ray player do you have?)

    Please i would love to hear from you!

    Thanks,
    Tianyang Li

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