Rifkin's Festival

Digital Week – January 25


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My latest Digital Week roundup features Woody Allen’s latest, “Rifkin’s Festival,” which is streaming and in theaters this Friday, along with the entertaining crime drama “American Night” and Coney Island-set character study “Brighton 4th.” On disc, there’s a new 4K release of the controversial 1992 erotic drama, “The Lover,” and on Blu-ray a heartwarming portrait of the head Beach Boy, “Brian Wilson—Long Promised Road.”

In-Theater/Streaming Releases of the Week

Rifkin’s Festival (MPI)

Rifkin's FestivalOne of Woody Allen’s lesser works, this halfbaked comedy is set at the San Sebastian Film Festival in Spain, where cranky critic Mort Rifkin (Wallace Shawn) accompanies his wife Sue (Gina Gershon)—press agent for the hot young French director Philippe (Louis Garrel)—and, as he worries they’re having an affair, himself falls for a beautiful local doctor, Jo (Elena Ayana). As always, there are one-liners galore (some funny, others recycled) as well as affectionate but tepid takeoffs on classics like “Citizen Kane,” “8-1/2,” “Jules and Jim,” “Breathless,” “The Exterminating Angel” and “The Seventh Seal.” But the material feels stale and not very urgent, while Shawn’s stiff appearance doesn’t help matters as Woody’s alter ego. Still, San Sebastian looks lovely and both Gershon and Ayana are beguiling as the women in Rifkin’s life.

American Night (Saban Films)

American NightDirector/writer Alessio Della Valle’s harsh chronicle of organized crime and art forgery revels in loopy twists and turns alongside excessive, cartoonish bursts of violence, but there’s no denying it’s a hfast-paced and always watchable wild ride. I haven’t seen Jonathan Rys-Meyers in years, but he’s quite good as the shady art forger, Paz Vega is sensational as his art expert lover, and Lee Levi and Annabelle Belmondo are excellent as young women in his orbit; Della Valle conjures an authentic atmosphere of the intersecting art world and criminal underworld.

Brighton 4th (Kino Lorber)

Brighton 4th (Kino Lorber)In a succinct, minor-key drama that unfolds like a short story, director Levan Koguashvili and writer Boris Frumin follow an elderly man who leaves his home in the former Soviet nation of Georgia to visit his son in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, where an enclave of emigres lives. Although the plot goes exactly where one expects—especially when there’s discussion of dad being a former wrestler, along with the small-time mob boss to whom the son owes a lot of money—Koguashvili and Frumin adorn it with sharp-eyed characterizations, giving enough variety to the relationships that the movie never approaches melodrama as it subtly gets under the skin.

4K/UHD Release of the Week

The Lover (Capelight)

The Lover (Capelight)French director Jean-Jacques Annaud’s 1992 adaptation of Marguerite Duras’ memoir about her affair with a Chinese man in Indochina in 1929 at age 15 nearly got an X rating for its steamy sex scenes, which are the most memorable moments in a mainly aloof and distant film. Jane March makes a spectacular debut as the young heroine, while Tony Leung is less interesting as the title character; Jeanne Moreau narrates in French, English or German (depending on which version you decide to watch). Robert Fraisse’s sumptuous cinematography looks especially enticing in 4K; extras include archival interviews with Duras and Annaud, a making-of featurette and deleted scenes.

Blu-ray Releases of the Week

Brian Wilson—Long Promised Road (Screen Media)

Brian Wilson—Long Promised Road (Screen Media)In Brent Wilson’s touching documentary, journalist Jason Fine—who’s had a close relationship with the main Beach Boy for a quarter-century—discusses Brian Wilson’s long career with the man himself as they visit places that resonate in Wilson’s life and art over the past 60 years. This intimate glimpse at an artist who has persevered even in the throes of a serious mental illness features numerous paeans from the likes of Elton John, Bruce Springsteen and Taylor Hawkins, which speaks to his influence on generations of rock stars. There’s a first-rate hi-def transfer; extras are additional interviews and deleted scenes.

Dancing with Crime/The Green Cockatoo (Cohen Film Collection)

Dancing with Crime/The Green Cockatoo (Cohen Film Collection)This pair of crackerjack crime dramas has been all but forgotten, mainly because there’s nothing here that hasn’t been done better in countless other movies—still, both are good for a watch if there’s nothing else to do. 1947’s “Dancing with Crime” boasts nice chemistry between Richard Attenborough and Sheila Sim (a married couple offscreen at the time) as a couple of snoops tracking a killer, while 1937’s “The Green Cockatoo” features the charming René Ray as an innocent woman pursued by both police and criminals. Both films have decent if not exceptional hi-def transfers.

Song of the Thin Man (Warner Archive)

Song of the Thin Man (Warner Archive)The last and certainly least of the “Thin Man” series, this 1947 entry finds Nick and Nora Charles—and their beloved dog Asta—tracking down another murderer, this time with ties to the colorful jazz world. William Powell and Myrna Loy are their usual sharp-witted selves and the supporting cast includes ingénues like Jayne Meadows and Gloria Graeme, but the by-the-numbers plotting (and lame Poughkeepsie jokes) make this the least memorable “Thin Man” flick of all. The B&W movie looks terrific on Blu; extras include a vintage short, “A Real Important Person,” and classic cartoon, “Slap Happy Lion.”

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