Film classics eye supplemental material

While the quality and freshness of DVD bonus material is often questionable these days, the art of creating supplemental material is far from lost.

The Criterion Collection, best known for pristine transfers of classic films, has established a reputation over the years for auteurish attention to supplemental content, including commentaries, archival and newly recorded interviews, full and partial documentaries and even short films.

“The goal is to have unity between the elements,” says Peter Becker, the privately held company’s prexy. “The edition should feel of a piece with the filmmaker’s intentions. We start a project with a producer; we have 12 on staff.

“(The producer) then digs into everything out there regarding the film and filmmaker and decides what stories need to get told,” Becker adds. “How many minutes doesn’t matter if you’ve discovered some incredible found footage of a director working on a film. It’s through research that we decide what the final release is going to be. It’s more like curating a museum exhibit than anything else. And it’s a process that we’ve managed to make commercially viable.”

The “collection” now numbers more than 400 titles and includes some of the most notable pics ever made: “The Seventh Seal,” “Rashomon,” “Breathless” and “8½,” to name a few. It also offers a selection of cult titles like “Robinson Crusoe on Mars” and the upcoming “Two-Lane Blacktop” as well as what the company calls “important contemporary films,” which include Gus Van Sant’s “Mala Noche” and John Huston’s “Under the Volcano.” Though Criterion charges for its efforts (a suggested retail price of $40 per title is typical), film lovers know they’re unlikely to be disappointed.

Criterion has even added supplemental materials when reissuing better transfers of titles it previously released, among them “M,” “Seven Samurai” and “The Third Man.”

“Every title we work on somebody somewhere loves,” says producer Issa Clubb, who’s been with Criterion a dozen years. “I joke that whatever movie I’m working on is the greatest ever made, and we try to treat them that way. That being said, we don’t just say it’s great. We try to show why.”

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