Random Adventures in Paradise: A Criterion Collection List (Warning: Restaurant Post)

Though I have seen many Criterion Collection films since childhood, it was only a few years ago that I learned the actual name of the company. I learned the name because of my local public library system (it contains nearly every Criterion film). Since then I have been stuffing my eyes and ears full of the collection, and thus, I think I’ve become one of the happiest people alive.

This is not necessarily a list of my favorite films, though a few do fit into that category. This is an appreciation of public libraries all over—a top ten list of films that I discovered in libraries throughout Austin, Texas at random, meaning I had absolutely no previous knowledge of them; I just saw the box and took a chance. In the end, despite what you think of my choices, I hope to get you back into in your public library—they are a book and movie lover’s paradise.

1. The Human Condition
, Masaki Kobayashi:

One of the only films that actually lives up to its name. After seeing the running time (574 minutes), I almost put it down. But something told me to keep it, and so I did. What I found was the most engrossing trilogy of films I have ever experienced. Tatsuya Nakadai became one of my favorite actors over night, and The Human Condition depending on the day became my favorite film (or set of films) of all time. It also introduced me to Masaki Kobayashi for the first time. If the stars were ever in line during my lifetime, that would have been during the three nights I watched these films.

2. Mishima: A Life in Four ChaptersPaul Schrader:

I think this was the first time I learned the name: The Criterion Collection. Mishima is a biography that decided to do something interesting. Focus on the last day of the subject’s life and fill in the majority of his interiority with segments of his various novels. With cinematography, music, and sets even more brilliant than the cover design, you cannot go wrong by watching this film. Pick up Yukio Mishima’s novels too. They are just as fabulous as this movie makes you think they are.

3. Metropolitan
, Whit Stillman


I passed this up so many times thinking “what a boring cover,” but when I finally read the back and saw the word “comedy” I just took the dive. Thank god I did. I would have had a lot less laughs in my life, I would have missed out on one of my favorite directors too.

4. The Fire WithinLouis Malle


A movie about suicide, that actually makes me want to live. Good job Louis Malle! I only wish I would have found you sooner.

5. The Friends of Eddie CoylePeter Yates:

What a great crime movie. No cheap Hollywood tricks. Just pure unadulterated dirtiness. I love it.

6. Close-upAbbas Kiarostami:

Hilarious, sad, and 100% mesmerizing. This true story is unlike anything you’ve seen before. The actors were also the real people involved in the incident.

Simon of the Desert
, Luis Buñuel


Blasphemous and yet spiritually thoughtful at the same time, Bunuel made a significant religious impact on my life with this film. And the best part isn’t even in the film. It’s the booklet—easily my favorite so far. See the whole film below. It’s only 45 minutes long:

8. The 400 Blows
, François Truffaut:

I don’t know how many times I’ve seen a movie and wanted to scream: “Leave home, kid!” This time the kid actually heard me, and well, my advice was terrible. But I’m still not sure, in this case, if home was the lesser of two evils. An utterly devastating film.

Sans Soleil
, Chris Marker:

Though I’ve never experienced the drug, I’m pretty sure this is what you would call an acid trip from start to finish. The scene with the giraffe…..wow.

10. The Flowers of St. FrancisRoberto Rossellini:

Episodic and filled with all sorts of life and comedy. This is a beautiful film with lots of memorable scenes. The experience of watching this is something like drinking a nice cool glass of water after sweating outside all day.

QOL: human, meaning and truth, beauty, religion/irreligion

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