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Favorite Criterion Commentary


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17 replies to this topic

#1 of 18 OFFLINE   Mike D

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Posted October 05 2004 - 05:05 AM

I realize "best commentary" threads have been done before, but I want to focus specifically on serious, thought-provoking and insightful commentaries by critics, historians, biographers and other scholars. Like those often found on Criterion DVDs (and LDs).

Which commentators have given you the greatest appreciation for the cinematic arts?

#2 of 18 OFFLINE   Rob Gardiner

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Posted October 05 2004 - 05:46 AM

Scorsese and Schrader on TAXI DRIVER

Film historian whose name escapes me on SOME LIKE IT HOT

Cronenberg and crew on CRASH

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#3 of 18 OFFLINE   Jeff_HR

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Posted October 05 2004 - 06:31 AM

The commentary on the Criterion "King Kong" LD. I believe it was the 1st or 2nd commentary ever done on a LD.
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#4 of 18 OFFLINE   Rich Malloy

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Posted October 05 2004 - 07:17 AM

Marian Keene "Notorious"
My personal favorite, but all her Criterion commentaries are fantastic. How good? Try this little test (follow me on this): watch "His Girl Friday" on the C-Tristar DVD, and check out all the special features included on that fine release. Then, listen to Keene's commentary on Criterion's "The Lady Eve". My prediction? Even after reviewing all the "His Girl Friday" extras on the C-Tristar disc, you'll come to a much deeper understanding and appreciation of "His Girl Friday", its significance and place within movie history, after hearing Keene's "The Lady Eve" commentary.

Laura Mulvey "Peeping Tom"
Never has there been a better pairing of scholar to film in any commentary. Mulvey's style isn't nearly as engaging as Keene's, but her scholarship (and particularly that particular niche she's carved herself) suits the subject matter to a "T".
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#5 of 18 OFFLINE   Brian Thibodeau

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Posted October 05 2004 - 09:02 AM

I've listened to Terry Gilliam's BRAZIL track a few times over the years and have found it to be one of the most enlightening tracks I've ever heard, both in terms of Gilliam's philosophy and his craft.

#6 of 18 OFFLINE   richardWI

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Posted October 05 2004 - 09:28 AM

yeah, Gilliam on Brazil and Fear and Loathing.. He always brings it, and never lets up except to catch his breath.

The guy on the Magnificent Ambersons commentary. The story behind that film should bring a tear to the eye of any film lover.

8 1/2 had a great one too, as did Solaris. L'aventura was good as well. They expanded my views.

#7 of 18 OFFLINE   Brendon

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Posted October 05 2004 - 10:13 AM

Peter Stone and Stanley Donen on Charade: not the most enlightening of commentaries with repect to film making, but in terms of anecdotes and imparting a love of the film they made, second to none!

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#8 of 18 OFFLINE   Mike D

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Posted October 05 2004 - 11:18 AM

Thanks for the replies so far.

To keep this from overlapping too much with other commentary threads I would like to specifically exclude commentaries from people involved with the production of the film.

Although they may certainly produce great commentary tracks please don't list tracks featuring directors, actors, writers, producers or crew. Thanks.

As an example (not from Criterion), I enjoyed Greg Mank's commentary on the 1932 version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde . His comments are historical and anecdotal more often than academic or analytical and his presentation is more conversational than scholarly, perhaps for this reason he manages to sustain interest for the entire running length.

#9 of 18 OFFLINE   Mark_vdH

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Posted October 05 2004 - 12:45 PM

Casper Tybjerg is excellent on both Häxan and The Passion of Joan of Arc.

I also really liked Peter Cowie on Tokyo Olympiad.
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#10 of 18 OFFLINE   Brook K

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Posted October 06 2004 - 03:50 AM

Peter Cowie: Hiroshima Mon Amour

Donald Richie: The Story Of Floating Weeds (the best of the Ozu tracks so far)

Stephen Prince: Red Beard (the best Kurosawa track, fascinating analysis of his use of telephoto lenses, along with thematic elements and production/personal history)

The Testament Of Dr. Mabuse (can't recall the commentator and I'm too lazy to look it up, but it's a fine track)

Also second the Keane, Mulvey, and Tybjerg tracks already mentioned.
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#11 of 18 OFFLINE   Mark_vdH

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Posted October 06 2004 - 04:05 AM

Yeah, I forgot, the Cowie commentary on Hiroshima Mon Amour was also pretty interesting.

The "split" commentary on Children of Paradise was great during the first disc, but I couldn't get through the second disc's contribution....
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#12 of 18 OFFLINE   Bob Turnbull

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Posted October 06 2004 - 05:00 AM

Definitely agree with the commentaries for both Tokyo Olympiad and 8 1/2. Thought they were fascinating all the way through.

Agreed on Brazil as well, but let's not forget the commentary on the "Love Conquers All" 94-minute version by David Morgan. An excellent contrast between this trimmed, re-shuffled and "happy" version and Gilliam's cut.

Stephen Prince has a great commentary on the now out of print Straw Dogs that really helped me view the film in a different light.

I also really enjoyed Peter Bogdanovich's commentray on The Rules Of The Game. He's essentially reading someone else's essay on the movie and does so quite quickly, but if you have the energy to follow, there's a wealth of info and he keeps it timed to the movie very well (so he's speaking about the proper scene at the proper time).

#13 of 18 OFFLINE   Tim_Stack

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Posted October 06 2004 - 05:50 AM

I dig the Michael Jeck tracks on Seven Samurai and Throne of Blood. Chasing Amy's commentary was funny of course. Silence of the Lambs and The Last Temptation of Christ were good too.

#14 of 18 OFFLINE   Christ Reynolds

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Posted October 06 2004 - 05:54 AM

i think the boogie nights ld has one of the funniest commentaries ive heard, including the pta's commentary on the john holmes documentary.

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#15 of 18 OFFLINE   Matt Butler

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Posted October 06 2004 - 10:16 AM

The Carpenter/Hill?Curtis commentary on the LD of Halloween. It can be found on the 25th Anni AB DVD.

Also ditto on Charade.
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#16 of 18 OFFLINE   Pal_Dramstad

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Posted October 07 2004 - 08:45 AM

David Kalat was the one who did the excellent commentary on "The Testament of Dr. Mabuse". I found the commentary to be very interesting, like a "film school in a box". His styles is very energetic, you can tell this is his passion. I hope Criterion will use his services more in the future.

#17 of 18 OFFLINE   Brian PB

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Posted October 07 2004 - 10:21 AM

If I counted correctly, I've listened to about 55 Criterion commentaries. My favorites (in no particular order):

Gideon Bachman (with Antonio Monda) on (Fellini/1963/#140)
Brian Stonehill on the first disc of Children of Paradise (Carné/1945/Spine #141)
Scott Eyman on Trouble in Paradise (Lubitsch/1932/#170)
Stephen Prince on Straw Dogs (Peckinpah/1971/#182)
Peter Cowie on Hiroshima mon amour (Resnais/1959/#196)
Tony Rayns on Veronika Voss in the Fassbinder's BRD Trilogy boxset (Fassbinder/1982/#205)
Alexander Sesonske (commentary read by Peter Bogdanovich) on The Rules of the Game (Renoir/1939/#216)


#18 of 18 ONLINE   Josh Steinberg

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Posted October 07 2004 - 11:15 AM

Though it does involve a member of the production, I feel that "Spartacus" is worth a mention, specifically the track by Dalton Trumbo. Trumbo is no longer with us, but someone was able to find a series of notes and memos that Trumbo had sent to the producers of the film after he started seeing footage and rough cuts. These notes are fascinating, and you really get a sense of how much a project changes from script to screen. For some things, you might agree that whatever idea Trumbo had that was ignored was better than what was used onscreen, and for others, you might disagree. An actor reads the notes, which have been assembled in such a way that it progresses quite naturally, often scene specific.

As far as scholarly commentaries go on Criterion discs, I have to agree that Stephen Prince's track on "Red Beard" is among the best. If you've never seen that film, I can't recommend it enough - it's my favorite Kurosawa by far. Michael Jeck's track on "Throne Of Blood" is also very good.