A Hollis Frampton Odyssey [Criterion Collection] [2 Discs] [DVD]

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Special Features

  • New high-definition digital restorations of all twenty-four films
  • Audio commentary and remarks by filmmaker Hollis Frampton on selected works
  • Excerpted interview with Frampton from 1978
  • A Lecture, a performance piece by Frampton, recorded in 1968 with the voice of artist Michael Snow
  • Gallery of works from Frampton's xerographic series By Any Other Name
  • PLUS: A booklet featuring an introduction by film critis Ed Halter; essays and capsules on the films by Frampton scholars ruce Jenkins, Ken Eisenstein, and Michael Zryd; and a piece by film preservationist Bill Brand


Process Red
Critical Mass
Maxwell’s Demon
Winter Solstice
Probably the most widely seen of Hollis Frampton's films, Nostalgia documents Frampton's move from photography to film through an elaborately witty joke on autobiography, identity, and memory. The film presents a succession of his photographs from the '60s, one after another. The photographs have been placed on a hotplate, and as each one burns to a crisp, a narrator describes the image that came before it. The viewer has to rely on his or her memory of the image that was just burned while listening to the description of it and simultaneously watching the next one burn. While the text is autobiographical, it is written in a variety of styles parodying different kinds of scientific, technical, and artistic discourse, and is read not by Frampton himself, but by his fellow filmmaker Michael Snow. These devices distance Frampton from the personal nature of the material (he even issues an apology to Snow, using Snow's own voice, about a bad photograph he once took of him). Nostalgia perfectly illustrates Frampton's sly wit and dazzling intelligence. Its deceptively simple structure, which becomes clear very early on, both disguises and emphasizes the complex relationship between language, image, and memory. ~ Tom Vick, Rovi

Surface Tension
Magellan: At the Gates of Death, Part I - The Red Gate
Manual of Arms
Carrots & Peas
Zorns Lemma
Zorns Lemma is named after mathematician Max Zorn's "lemma," an axiom which states that given a set of sets, there must be a further set containing a representative item from each individual set. The film is constructed in three parts, each of which is meant to represent a phase of intellectual development. The short first part, which mimics the intellectual and moral education of young children, consists of a blank screen and a voice reading from The Bay State Primer, an early American grammar textbook that teaches the letters of the alphabet by using them in sentences derived from the Bible. The 47-minute second section is much more complex and alludes more specifically to the mathematical axiom from which the film takes its title. It begins with a presentation of a 24-letter version of the Roman alphabet (dropping two letters corresponds to earlier versions of the alphabet and the 24 frames-per-second rate at which film runs through a projector). The letters are presented against a black background and each is shown for one second -- a rhythm that continues throughout the section. Further sets follow which present alphabetically arranged words filmed in the environs of New York. During each run-through of the alphabet, the letters are replaced, one by one, by successive one-second shots of continuing actions (waves breaking, a man changing a tire, etc.), until all of them have been replaced. Hollis Frampton intended this section to imitate the way cognitive and linguistic skills develop a fuller understanding of the world. The contemplative final section of the film depicts the philosophical serenity that comes with intellectual fulfillment. A man, a woman, and a dog cross a snowy field and enter a woods in a mostly continuous wide shot of the landscape, while on the soundtrack different voices, alternating one word at a time, read from an 11th century metaphysical text, On Light, or the Ingression of Forms, by Robert Grosseteste. Zorns Lemma established Frampton's importance as an experimental filmmaker. Its commitment to knowledge as the path to enlightenment stood in deliberate opposition to fellow avant-garde filmmaker Stan Brakhage's then-dominant belief that experimental film should strive to attain a pure state of pre-verbal, childlike vision uncorrupted by education. ~ Tom Vick, Rovi

Poetic Justice

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