It's happened to the best of us: You're at a party, or on a date, when somebody drops the line, "It was like something straight out of an Ingmar Bergman movie," and knowing laughter ensues. You laugh, too, because you kinda sorta know what it means (it means "weird," right?), but inside, you give yourself yet another reminder to watch all those supposedly great old movies that you've just never gotten around to seeing.

François Truffaut, Ingmar Bergman, Luis Buñuel, Roman Polanski, Jean Cocteau: At some point you've probably kicked yourself for not knowing more about these directors, who, you've been told, made some of the greatest films in history. (I know I have.) Chances are, your favorite contemporary directors cite these guys as major influences, but when you're at the video store, these aren't the films that fly off the shelves and into your hand.

Being the creatures of free will that we are, we can choose to rectify this dilemma now, and the Northwest Film Center (NWFC) is making it very easy for us to do so. In one of their most exciting bursts of programming in recent memory, NWFC presents "Janus Classics," a series devoted to masterpieces of global cinema.

Founded in 1956, Janus Films was the distributor of what we now dub classic international films. All the aforementioned directors—plus Hitchcock, Godard, Fellini, Kurosawa, and the like—had their films seen through the innovative and tireless work of Janus, who gave the world (and future directors) alternatives to mainstream Hollywood fare. Most recently, Janus was incorporated into Criterion Collection, which is devoted to preserving the world's best films in their best possible condition. Similarly, the NWFC series, which includes groundbreaking classics like Jules et Jim (Truffaut), The Lady Vanishes (Hitchcock), and Knife in the Water (Polanski), is comprised only of "pristine" 35mm prints. I don't know about you, but my days of laughing nervously whenever someone drops a 400 Blows reference are just about over.