The Girls directed by Mai Zetterling

Digital Week – May 10


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This week’s roundup is highlighted by a retrospective at Film Forum in lower Manhattan of the unheralded Swedish actress and filmmaker, Mai Zetterling, along with a new film, “Happening,” by director Audrey Diwan, about a pregnant young woman in 1963 Paris—but current events make it relevant today.

In-Theater Releases of the Week

Mai Zetterling (Film Forum, through May 19)

Mai Zetterling (Film Forum, through May 19)
Swedish actress-turned-director Mai Zetterling was in a few early Ingmar Bergman films, but her worthy directorial efforts have been mostly overlooked. This retrospective of films that Zetterling acted in or directed includes several must-sees, especially her first films behind the camera, 1964’s “Loving Couples,” 1966’s “Night Games” and 1968’s “The Girls,” which showcase her as an artist with something to say, along with the unsurpassed acting by her fellow performers Harriet Andersson, Bibi Andersson and Gunnel Lindblom.

After a fallow period in the 1970s, Zetterling returned with a vengeance with her final film as a director, 1986’s “Amorosa,” a fiercely honest biopic of Swedish writer Agnes von Krusenstjerna, played with complexity and raw emotion by Stina Ekblad, who also anchored another brilliant but forgotten film that same year: Bo Widerberg’s “The Serpent’s Way” (which I don’t think has ever been released in the U.S.). There’s also “I Rollerna Tre” (“Lines from the Heart”), a lovely 1996 documentary by director Christina Olofson, with both Anderssons and Lindbolm affectionately discussing their friend Zetterling, who died of cancer two years before.

Happening (IFC Films)

Happening (IFC Films)In light of the impending Supreme Court decision to kill Rose v. Wade and make abortion difficult once again, Audrey Diwan’s achingly personal study of Anne, a student who has few options to end her pregnancy in 1963 France, has become even more disturbingly pertinent. Anchored by a moving and beautifully modulated performance by Anamaria Vartolomei, whose Anne must traverse the built-in patriarchy at school, at the doctor’s office and everywhere else, Diwan’s non-preachy exploration of the real impact of having no good choices is devastating in its implications.

The Wobblies (Kino Lorber)

The WobbliesThis 1979 documentary classic is a bracing chronicle about members of the Industrial Workers of the World union (the IWW or “Wobblies,” for short), who were radicals in their own era not to mention compared to today’s pitiful labor movement (although there have been small bursts of heartening news lately). Directors Stewart Bird and Deborah Shaffer assembled a remarkable and indispensable oral history of many of the men and women who took part in strikes and other demonstrations on behalf of their workers provide their own memories and insights, and the directors’ decision to weave several of the folk songs the Wobblies created to share among their union membership throughout the film is an especially inspired choice.

Streaming Release of the Week

Randy Rhoads—Reflections of a Guitar Icon (VMI Worldwide)

Randy Rhoads—Reflections of a Guitar Icon (VMI Worldwide)Andre Relis’ impactful documentary about the legendary musician whose meteoric rise as lead guitarist on Ozzy Osbourne’s first two solo albums—1980’s “Blizzard of Ozz” and 1981’s “Diary of a Madman”—was tragically cut short at age 25 in a 1982 plane crash concentrates on his pre-fame days, as the talented son of a music teacher mom and a founder of the band Quiet Riot. In addition to archival footage of Rhoads onstage and in interviews (where he comes across as engagingly modest), Relis also talks with members of Quiet Riot, Rhoads’ former girlfriend, and his mother and brother to further humanize a young man whose premature death has given him legendary status.

Blu-ray Releases of the Week

The Carey Treatment (Warner Archive)

Carey TreatmentAnother accidentally relevant movie, Blake Edwards’ messy private-eye flick has James Coburn as a doctor at a Boston hospital who investigates when a good friend and fellow doctor is accused of murder after a botched abortion. Released in 1972, this pre-Roe v. Wade movie is entertaining, despite teetering on the edge of incoherence—it was chopped up the studio without Edwards’ input. Coburn is in fine fettle as Carey and Jennifer O’Neill is properly glamorous as his lover, while the hospital setting gives it all gravitas—to an extent. There’s an excellent hi-def transfer.

Dog (Warner Bros)

Dog (Warner Bros)The latest victim of W.C. Fields’ adage to never work with children or animals, Channing Tatum plays Briggs, a former Army Ranger who transports the faithful but traumatized canine Lulu to the funeral of a fellow Ranger, who was Lulu’s master. Nothing goes as planned, of course, but Briggs is comforted by his growing relationship with Lulu, and there’s a low-key happy ending. Needless to say, co-director Tatum is outacted at every turn by the adorable pup (actually, there are three of them), while none of the film’s other humans is allowed to fashion a real character—the gifted Q’Orianka Kilcher, for example, who plays Briggs’ ex, gets about a minute of screen time and a line or two of dialogue, which is too bad. There’s a good hi-def transfer but, surprisingly, no extras: it was a no-brainer to at least include a gag reel.

Girl on a Chain Gang (Film Detective)

Girl on a Chain Gang (Film Detective)A trashy B movie about a momentous subject, writer-director Jerry Gross made this obvious if earnest 1966 drama set in a stereotyped southern town as an enlightened trio (white woman, white man and black man) becomes fodder for the racist, sexist good ol’ boy sheriff and his minions. Badly acted and barely coherent, the movie has its heart in the right place, reflecting its fraught era (just two years after the infamous murder of three civil rights workers in Mississippi by the KKK). The B&W film looks decent on Blu; lone extra is a featurette on director Gross.

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