As we approach Black Friday and the end of 2021, I’ve decided to talk about some of the best Criterion Collection releases of the year. It wasn’t a strong catalog compared to the one of 2020, with titles such as Come and See, Parasite, Beau Travail, and Crash. However, we had many important foreign titles and the first Criterion Collection 4K announcements, making 2021 a very interesting year nevertheless. Here are our favorite ones:
The World of Wong Kar-Wai Set
Even though I’m not a huge fan of Wong Kar-Wai, is impossible to deny that this Criterion release was one of a kind. Featuring the remastered versions of As Tears Go By, Days of Being Wild, Chungking Express, Fallen Angels, Happy Together, In the Mood for Love, and 2046, this remarkable box-set brought forward the chance for many people to discover the cinematic world of Kar-Wai in the best possible quality available to cinephiles around the world.
The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957) by Jack Arnold
I’ve never really thought about watching this movie until the Criterion Collection announced they were releasing it on blu ray. After I watched it, I couldn’t believe how fun and incredible this movie was! Even though this is some kind of B production that influenced a series of second-rate films, we can’t deny that The Incredible Shrinking Man is an extremely entertaining and relevant film in the history of cinema, and the fact that the Criterion chose this title for a brand new restoration is the proof of how special and eclectic they are!
The Mirror (1975) by Andrei Tarkovsky
Little by little the Criterion Collection is remastering the works of one of the greatest filmmakers of all time. After Stalker, Solaris, Andrei Rublev, and Ivan’s Childhood, it was finally time for The Mirror by Andrei Tarkovsky to receive such special treatment. Being one of the most personal films by the Russian director, we can expect amazing things from this restoration since the Criterion always makes sure to have a print that looks better and more special than previous blu ray releases of the film master.
The Damned (1969) by Luchino Visconti
A movie that I had actually bought on DVD a few months before they announced they were releasing it on blu ray, The Damned is probably my second favorite Criterion release of 2021 for two specific reasons: first, it’s an extremely heavy and disturbing movie about the rise of the Third Reich that I liked it even more after rematching it; and second, it’s a movie that definitely needed a restoration. Thankfully, the Criterion has released a brand new print that does not only looks gorgeous but also features this magnificent cover that translates the spirit of the movie extremely well.
Citizen Kane (1941) by Orson Welles
There’s nothing more emblematic than choosing Citizen Kane for being the first 4K Criterion Collection release. After all, it’s not only a movie that has been considered the best film of all time by many people, but it also carries some sort of irony for having a K that could stand for either K or 4K. I must admit I don’t plan to buy any 4K movies because they are simply way too expensive, but it’s impossible not to ignore this important event for it’s a movie that is receiving the attention and care that it truly deserves.
Irma Vep (1969) by Oliver Assayas
Another movie that I only saw this year, Irma Vep is probably Oliver Assayas’ coolest film to date for telling the story of the remake of Les Vampires, while it’s also a homage and critique to the cinema industry, a debate of the differences between American and French films, a study of the actors and filmmakers, their relationship, and much more! Arrow Video already had a Blu-Ray edition of this film, but now we know Irma Vep has just gained the edition it deserves.
Smooth Talk (1985) by Joyce Chopra
Being a movie that I’ve discovered only because the Criterion had announced it, Smooth Talk is probably one of the best feminine films about growing up I’ve ever seen. Featuring an amazing performance by Laura Dern and one of the most beautiful metaphors for losing one’s virginity, this Joyce Chopra film has probably inspired movies like The Virgin Suicide and Thirteen, making it a must-buy for everyone who wishes to broaden their repertoire of female directors, or simply to enjoy an outstanding coming-of-age film.
Secrets & Lies (1996) by Mike Leigh
Considered by many people as one of the best British films ever made, Secret & Lies is an amazing movie with brilliant performances. By telling the story of a black woman who decides to search for her biological mother, Mike Leigh creates a realistic study of characters in post-Margareth Thacher’s Britain that tackles themes of motherhood, family, and connection. A must-watch film.
The Ascent (1977) by Larisa Shepitko
The more I rewatch films the more I believe is important to revisit them, for it was only after my second watch of The Ascent that I realized how truly outstanding this movie was. I don’t know if it was because I wasn’t in the mood to watch this film back in 2014, or it was the amazing restoration this movie gained, but The Ascent is probably one of the greatest films ever made that simply no one talks about. Telling the story of two Russian soldiers who leave their troops to look for food, Larisa Shepitko builds a film full of allegories that tells a story similar to the crucifixion of Jesus. All of that through an incredible performance by Boris Plotnikov and a stunning cinematography that will be highlighted from now on through this marvelous restoration.
La Piscine (1969) by Jacques Deray
Being without a doubt the best Criterion Collection release of 2021 in my opinion, La Piscine is a mandatory French Film by Jacques Deray featuring Alain Delon, Romy Schneider, Jane Birkin, and Maurice Ronet. Being also one of Alain Delon’s best films, La Piscine can be seen as a portrait of an era in not only Delon’s career but also French cinema in the 60s for its coolness, sensuality, and mystery. This is also the only Criterion release of this year that I was able to buy, so feel free if you’d like to send me any Christmas gifts this year from the Criterion Collection!