Blu-rays of the Week
My Journey Through French Cinema (Cohen Media)
Even at a staggering 190 minutes, Bertrand Tavernier’s personal chronicle of what most moved him onscreen since he became besotted with movies in his youth is done so beautifully, so charmingly, so admirably, that you wish it would go on for far longer (the end credits hint at a Part 2, and in the Blu-ray’s 12-minute bonus interview, the director admits he is currently making an eight-hour series follow-up, which I hope finds its way to Netflix or another streaming service). As always with Tavernier, there are marvelous anecdotes, brilliant insights, treasured observations: when he’s discussing Maurice Jaubert among the greats of ‘30s and ‘40s film composers, Tavernier’s passion comes through so forcefully that you feel his warmth, his embrace, his marvelously attuned personality to all things cinematic. The hi-def transfer is luminous.
Desert Hearts (Criterion)
Donna Deitch made this low-key 1985 lesbian relationship drama about a Columbia professor who comes to Reno for a quickie divorce only to fall in love with a free-spirited local woman. What gives the film its flavor and staying power are the beautifully modulated portrayals by Helen Shaver and Patricia Charbonneau, who make Deitch’s at times soapy story involving and revelatory. Criterion’s hi-def transfer is excellent; extras include interviews with Deitch, Shaver and Charbonneau; excerpts from a documentary about Jane Rule, who wrote the 1964 novel Desert of the Heart on which the film was based; a discussion between Deitch and actress Jane Lynch; and Deitch’s audio commentary.
Funeral Parade of Roses (Cinelicious)
This giddily seductive, bizarre but brilliantly effective work by director Toshiro Matsumoto was supposedly an influence on Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange (there’s a sardonic scene of women fighting in slo-mo that predates and anticipates Clockwork). But this scattershot film uses documentary-style interviews, heinous killings and gritty B&W photography to create an unsettling but very recognizable modern world. There’s a great hi-def transfer; extras include a commentary and a second disc of Matsumoto short films.
Humans 2.0 (Acorn)
In the second—and apparently final—season of the British sci-fi series about a present-day world populated by synths (robots which have become indispensable to humans’ everyday lives), some of the synths are starting to have feelings and emotions. The show seems to run in place after introducing tantalizing concepts, but its variations on a theme are done convincingly enough to keep our attention. There’s a stellar hi-def transfer; extras comprise brief featurettes.
In Pursuit of Silence (Cinema Guild)
In Patrick Shen’s often mesmerizing documentary, the concept of silence in an increasingly noisy world is explored, even everyday decibel readings in cities like New York contributing to sickness and a less than optimum life expectancy. Gorgeous to look at—in lingering shots of soundless landscapes, silence speaks volumes—and featuring Alex Lu’s complementary score, Shen’s filmic meditation is a cautionary tale and cri de coeur. The visuals look spectacular on Blu; extras include deleted scenes, extended scenes and a Lu interview.
The Limehouse Golem (RLJ)
In Juan Carlos Medina’s stylish Jack the Ripper rip-off, Bill Nighy is a police inspector in Victorian London tasked with solving the case of a serial killer who is terrifying the locals while trying to save a young woman, accused of poisoning her husband, from the gallows. The movie moves swiftly and surely, even if its obvious denouement treats its twists like it’s some kind of shocking revelation. There’s a superb hi-def transfer; extras include several short featurettes.
DVDs of the Week
Reiner Holzemer’s impressive behind-the-scenes documentary chronicles fashion designer Dries van Noten, a Belgian among the most notable of his generation. Following Dries while he designs his brand-new collections allows viewers to ponder his style and influence alongside many talking heads, set to a soundtrack by Radiohead’s Johnnie Greenwood that’s much less a pastiche of Krzysztof Penderecki’s dissonant music than usual.
Eight Films by Jean Rouch (Icarus Films)
French ethnographic filmmaker Jean Rouch made several seminal films over the course of his long, storied career, and this invaluable collection collects eight of them, including several of the masterly full-length films that broke the boundaries of non-fiction ethnography and narrative fiction, such as The Human Pyramid (1961), The Lion Hunters (1965) and Little by Little (1969). Also included is an hour-long documentary, Jean Rouch, The Adventurous Filmmaker, by director Laurent Védrine, which takes the measure of the artist and his vast influence.
From the Land of the Moon (Sundance Selects)
In Nicole Garcia’s tragic romance, Marion Cotillard gives her usual committed performance as a mentally ill French woman who is married off to a solid, salt of the earth type but finds true love with an exuberantly “different” man she meets while in a sanitarium. It might be too much in its exploration of physical and mental intensity—how about a drinking game whenever Cotillard’s eyes well with tears?—but there’s no denying the artistry contained in this old-fashioned downer. The lone extra is a 25-minute making-of featurette.