This dizzying short film made by ::kogonada for Criterion’s web site is a moving gallery of cover images from the company’s ever-expanding collection of DVDs and Blu-rays, created to advertise the book Criterion Designs, which presents more than 30 years of art from the company’s products. As one image after another clicks by, covers along with clips from films by Wes Anderson, Akira Kurosawa, Harold Ashby, Alfred Hitchcock, Roman Polanski, Francois Truffaut, Fritz Lang, and anyone else you might name, a thought might arise: what’s in a cover? We’re told not to pay attention to it, to remain focused on what’s inside the packaging rather than outside it, but how can we do this? It’s not that we’re superficial beings, when all is said and done; it’s clear that the film inside the DVD box must be a more moving experience than the still image on the cover. And yet the cover represents something. It’s our last reminder, before we watch samurai go sword to sword, before we watch young Harold mock-kill himself before falling in love with batty Maude, before we dance around in circles with Jules and Jim and everyone we know, that what you are watching is a manufactured thing. It took years for someone to make, a tremendous amount of discipline, the coordination of hundreds of skilled laborers, all for the creation of something which flies across our retinae quite easily, something which was designed to be received by us without a thought for the toil that goes into it. What’s interesting about these Criterion covers is how much personality there is in them, and how handcrafted they seem, how much and how meaningfully the seams show, as if they were designed to appeal to the part of us that understands that a filmmaker is an artist, as much prey to quiet, personal moments of inner torment as anyone, just with an ancient medium for sharing them, whose challenges constantly vie for primacy over its rewards.
Watch: A Beautiful Film Based On Criterion DVD Covers