The first Digital Week roundup of the new year includes several new releases, both on demand (two excellent new documentaries, The Dissident and My Rembrandt) and on disc (the 4K release of the tongue-in-cheek Love and Monsters).
VOD/Virtual Cinema Releases of the Week
The Dissident (Briarcliff Entertainment)
Bryan Fogel’s powerful documentary chronicles the events leading to the horrific murder and dismemberment of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018 by persons under the direction of the Saudi crown prince himself. For anyone who’s followed the story over the past couple of years, very little of what is presented here is new, but the accumulation of evidence and details that form an airtight case against the crown prince as well as sorrow over such an awful act committed to silence a vocal critic of the state makes this shocking and unforgettable.
In Corpore (Nexus)
Sarah Portelli and Ivan Malekin’s four-part omnibus feature about the vagaries of intimacy has a healthy freedom from hypocrisy by unflinchingly dramatizing the physical intimacies of the four couples involved, but by concentrating on what happens in bed leads to a fuzziness of characterization. It mainly comes off as earnest but amateurish—especially in the third segment, set in Berlin—but there are two finely etched portrayals: from Clara Francesca Pagone as a woman who sleeps with an old boyfriend in Melbourne at the beginning and confesses to her husband in Manhattan at the end, and—even more memorably—Naomi Said, heartbreakingly real as an unhappy wife in the second and best segment, set on Malta.
My Rembrandt (Strand Releasing)
In the world of high-priced art, Rembrandt is an Old Master name that brings dollar signs to the eyes of collectors, museum officials and art dealers, and Oeke Hoogendijk’s engaging and insightful documentary follows the travails of several valuable Rembrandt paintings in the hands of private collectors. There’s a portrait of an old woman over the fireplace of a Scottish duke’s estate; another picture up for auction that may or may not be authentic; and a pair of full-length portraits that the Louvre and the Rijksmuseum are contemplating bidding on together. Hoogendijk introduces an array of colorful and even assiduously oddish characters, including Stanley S. Kaplan, an American billionaire and owner of several Rembrandts who recalls the moment when—after purchasing his first Rembrandt painting—he kisses its subject on the mouth. No explanations are required for art lovers.
The Passionate Thief (Rialto)
Mario Monicelli’s raucous but ultimately touching 1960 comedy stars Anna Magnani and Toto, two of the greatest stars of Italian cinema, along with a dubbed Ben Gazzara as an unlikely trio tramping through Rome on New Year’s Eve. Monicelli’s typically light touch treads a fine line between humor and heartbreak, even finding a moment for a brief parody of Fellini’s Trevi Fountain sequence in La Dolce Vita, and climaxing with a perfectly pitched and amusing sequence in a church. This is a remarkable rediscovery that deserves to be seen and savored.
4K Release of the Week
Love and Monsters (Paramount)
This cleverly constructed mash-up of dystopian horror and rom-com stars a likeable Dylan O’Brien as Joel, a nerd still pining for the girlfriend he last saw seven years ago—right before the “monsterpocalypse” destroyed civilization. Much of Michael Matthews’ movie comprises our hero’s adventures through a dangerous landscape, with only an adorable dog as a companion, and if too much of the movie’s running time is taken up by his encounters with various—and, after awhile, repetitive and tired—monstrous creatures, there’s a sweetness and vulnerability that keeps it all watchable, as does Jessica Henwick, who makes a magical Aimee, Joel’s long-lost girlfriend. The eye-popping 4K transfer also accentuates the fakeness of the creatures; there’s a second disc that includes a Blu-ray transfer of the film and short featurettes.
Blu-ray Release of the Week
Lohengrin (BelAir Classiques)
Richard Wagner’s heroic opera is a transitional work between the grand operas of his past and philosophical dramas of the future, but it’s filled with wondrous music and gorgeous dramatic tableaux, the latter of which are only partially achieved in Árpád Schilling’s scattered 2018 Stuttgart staging. Happily, the musical side more than compensates, with Michael König’s stentorian Lohengrin, Simone Schneider’s compassionate Elsa and Martin Gantner’s forceful Friedrich von Telramund. Cornelius Meister superbly conducts the Stuttgart State Orchestra and Chorus; hi-def video and audio are excellent.