This week’s roundup includes reviews of a trio of vintage foreign films on Blu-ray, highlighted by the classic by French director Marcel Carné, 1938’s “Hôtel du Nord,” released this week by the Criterion Collection.
Blu-ray Releases of the Week
Hôtel du Nord (Criterion)
French director Marcel Carné was unparalleled when it came to creating memorable, thoroughly original slices of poetic realism onscreen: his 1938 masterpiece was made after his first mature film, 1937’s “Port of Shadows,” and before 1939’s lovely “Le sour de jeve,” both written with his greatest collaborator, poet Jacques Prevert, who also wrote the director’s supreme classic, 1945’s “Children of Paradise.” These films share many of the same characteristics: effervescent, romantic, lively, loving looks at the relationships among several interlocking characters, here played by, among others, the great French stars Annabella, Arletty and Louis Jouvet. Criterion’s usual superb release includes a spectacular-looking new hi-def transfer, which brings to the fore Louis Née and Armand Thirard’s extraordinary B&W photography; extras comprise a 1994 documentary about Carné, a 1972 TV program about the film’s making, and a new interview with “Amélie” director Jean-Pierre Jeunet about Carné’s influence.
The Burned Barns (Cohen Film Collection)
This routine 1973 French policier was directed by Jean Chapot, a competent veteran who brings little originality or wit to this would-be tense murder mystery, as magistrate Alain Delon arrives in a small farm village to investigate the strange death of a young woman. Both Delon and Simone Signoret (as the mother of a prime suspect) use their considerable charisma to overcome a turgid script and unconvincing direction; only Sacha Vierny’s gritty photography makes much of an impression. There’s a superior hi-def transfer; extras are interviews with crew members.
Naked Over the Fence (Cult Epics)
Before becoming an international sensation in the erotic classic “Emmanuelle” the following year, Dutch actress Sylvia Kristel starred as a pop singer who gets involved with making a stag movie in this silly 1973 crime drama by director Frans Weisz. Kristel’s effortless charm is on display throughout, even though the movie is nothing special. Still, the actress brightens things up whenever she appears. The film looks decent on Blu; extras include behind the scenes footage, an audio commentary, audio interviews with Weisz and composer Ruud Bos, and a limited edition CD of Bos’ soundtrack.
In-Theater Release of the Week
Three Minutes—A Lengthening (Neon)
A short home movie discovered decades after it was shot is the lynchpin of director Bianca Stigter’s illuminating and poignant documentary, which uses that bit of 16mm film showing people going about their lives in a neighborhood of Nasielsk, Poland, in 1938, to examine how such fleeting images caught by a camera can answer myriad questions, from quotidian details to more pressing queries of whether any of these people survived the coming Holocaust. In addition to being a quite moving (in both senses) historical research project, the film is also the ultimate in cinematic study, as it continuously zooms in on, slows down, pauses and rewinds the footage to glean as much information as possible, to try and resurrect and immortalize these long lost faces.
DVD Release of the Week
NCIS Los Angeles—Complete 13th Season (CBS/Paramount)
In the most recent season of the NCIS franchise’s first and most successful spinoff, the latest of the group’s investigations include several of those ripped from today’s headlines, including lethally deadly trolls on the web, omnipresent white nationalist groups and the ever-shadowy Chinese intelligence. Chris O’Donnell and LL Cool J continue to lead an energetic cast of dedicated professionals in a series of entertaining inquiries. This 5-disc set includes all of the season’s 22 episodes; the extras comprise several featurettes, a gag reel and deleted/extended scenes.