Every self-respecting cinephile knows the Janus and Criterion logos. Founded in 1956 as a theatrical distribution company that brought the best of international art-house cinema to American audiences, Janus has presented seminal works by Antonioni, Eisenstein, Bergman, Fellini, Kurosawa, Truffaut and Ozu. Janus’s sister company the Criterion Collection also stands for outstanding quality and curatorial expertise. Since 1984, Criterion has issued a continuing series of important films in editions boasting both high technical quality and award-winning accompanying supplements. They pioneered the letterboxing standard and the craft of audio commentary. To date, more than 150 filmmakers have contributed to Criterion’s significant library archive of director-approved DVDs, Blu-ray discs and laserdiscs.
The SFIFF award, named for pioneering San Francisco art and repertory film exhibitor Mel Novikoff (1922-1987), “acknowledges an individual or institution whose work has enhanced the filmgoing public’s knowledge and appreciation of world cinema.” The Coens’ dark Texas comedy “Blood Simple,” which features Frances McDormand, has a special tie to the late Novikoff, who championed the film on release and screened it to enthusiastic audiences in his San Francisco cinemas. The Coens named a character in their recent film “Inside Llewyn Davis” (2013), the colorful owner of Davis’s small record label, after him.
“By insisting on the highest quality for both theatrical and home exhibition, Janus Films and the Criterion Collection have gone beyond honoring great films and filmmakers-they’re doing more than any other contemporary company to make cinephilia sexy again,” said Rachel Rosen, San Francisco Film Society’s director of programming. “Their painstaking restoration of ‘Blood Simple,’ a film that Mel Novikoff also championed, is a great illustration of how deserving they are of this award.”