Way Too Indie’s Three Reasons: Films That Deserve the Criterion Treatment
The Criterion Collection is home to hundreds of classic, obscure, foreign and independent films that come with the best possible picture and audio quality along with plenty of excellent special features. Their selection ranges from old Hitchcock classics like The 39 Steps to the massive amount of avant-garde works from people like Stan Brakhage or Hollis Frampton, but their goal of giving important classic and contemporary films their proper treatment has always stayed the same. After being inspired by Criterion’s Three Reasons campaign we decided to give our own three reasons why the following films deserve to get a place in the Criterion Collection.
Cashback - Dustin Jansick’s pick
#1 Freeze Time
The main character imagines that he can freeze time where he gets to freely move around and interact without anyone knowing. Originally, he does this to make time seem to go by faster at work but he ends up taking advantage of his artistic abilities by drawing the female form, clothing becomes optional. The final scene in the film is a magical one that people often experience, when time seems to stop when you kiss the one you love.
#2 Supermarket Fun
After watching Cashback, it makes you consider picking up a part time job night shift at your local supermarket. Or at the very least it shows just how much fun you can have at such mundane job. Racing down the aisles in a shopping cart and stuffing sex toys in women’s shopping bags were just two examples the film gave for mischievous adventures for the immature soul.
#3 Beauty Is Everywhere
One of the themes in Cashback is that beauty is all around you if you take the time to look for it. The visuals found in this indie film rivals other films with 10 times the shooting budget. Moving down aisles around people that are frozen in time was spectacularly done. Possibly the best scene is the 24 second clip of the main character hanging up the phone as he seamlessly transitions to falling back into his bed in a single shot. That shot took one full day of the 25 day shooting schedule to do.
Stalker - Blake Ginithan’s pick
#1 Calm and Cool
Andrey Tarkovskiy loves his long shots and Stalker is filled with plenty of them. He lets scenes play out for minutes on end, even if it’s just three guys walking in the rusted wastelands of ‘The Zone’. At times the camera is so close to our subjects we feel as if we ourselves are walking with these men. Long takes, mixed with some lengthy tracking shots, make for some stunning cinematography. Some scenes the camera just sits and watches creating an edgy atmosphere as we get glimpses of utter magic.
#2 One of a Kind
When some people talk about a film, they sometimes say that they have never seen anything like it. I can truly say I have never seen a film like Stalker before. It’s a full blown science fiction masterpiece that contains no aliens, no ray guns, and no flying cars and somehow, the film feels very firmly cemented in the genre, practically reinventing it. While the basic premise of a man (the stalker) leading two others into ‘The Zone’ (said to have mystical powers) is all that happens, Stalker is about so much more.
Stalker is brutally slow at times. There are times where you feel like time isn’t moving at all. But you don’t care because Tarkovskiy draws you in with unrivaled power. You are drawn into the lives of these three souls as they walk seemingly forever in a barren land where only a glimmer of hope exists. Tarkovskiy’s atmosphere is heightened by this. At times the characters don’t know what lies ahead of them and the tension is very palpable. A rare film where you literally don’t know what’s going to happen next.
Sombre/La Vie Nouvelle/Un Lac - CJ Prince’s pick
#1 The Mind of a Killer
Philippe Grandrieux is a French director whose experimental films are criminally underseen. His debut feature Sombre follows a serial killer across France who goes into a crisis when he encounters a woman that he can’t bring himself to murder. It could be looked at as a (very, very screwed up) love story but Grandrieux shoots the entire film in a suffocating atmosphere, creating scenes of pure unsettling terror while achieving moments of transcendence. Sombre is the only movie by Grandrieux to get a US release, but it’s in an old non-anamorphic DVD. Releases in Europe fared a little better with picture quality but it’s impossible to actually go out and see this movie in North America properly.
#2 A Descent into Hell
His follow-up La Vie Nouvelle takes the elements in Sombre to their breaking point. Grandrieux puts his focus on visual and auditory sensations to get things across and for some La Vie Nouvelle could be seen as absolute torture. In this film we see an American visiting an Eastern European country who, after encountering a prostitute he becomes obsessed with, tries to hunt her down and buy her for himself. As the soldier travels further and further down into the seedy underworld of the sex trafficking business, the movie appears to start going off the rails entirely as we get closer and closer to its disturbing hellish climax. La Vie Nouvelle is a visceral experience that feels like a sensory overload at times, but it’s impossible to forget once you’ve seen it.
#3 A Family Disrupted
Un Lac may not have the dark storylines involving murder and prostitution that made up Grandrieux’s previous films, but it still feels as otherworldly and bizarre as Sombre and La Vie Nouvelle. Un Lac takes place at an isolated cabin where the son, who is madly in love with his sister, has to deal with a new stranger who arrives to help the family out. Despite the more human elements taking precedence here, Grandrieux’s approach hasn’t changed a bit (every scene shot in the cabin is shrouded in so much darkness it’s impossible to get a sense of what the inside looks like), creating a film that has just as much emotional resonance as his other two.
La Vie Nouvelle clip:
Un Lac trailer:
Un Lac full streaming film: