DVDs in Brief
Hubert Sauper's documentary Darwin's Nightmare (HVE) is ostensibly about the Tanzanian fish-processing industry, which relies on the wholesale netting, stripping, and shipping of non-indigenous Nile perch, introduced into Lake Victoria by European colonists at the turn of the century. Sauper offers harrowing visions of squalor, in communities that live off rancid fish scraps and industrial waste, and he cannily suggests how all this economic inequity might play out: with the disease-ridden multitudes infecting the gun-runners who buzz through on supply runs, on their way home to Europe and beyond
Surely one of the most beautiful-looking features ever photographed on video, Climates (Zeitgeist) is the latest from Nuri Bilge Ceylan (Distant), a director-cinematographer who's unquestionably (and deservedly) the country's most internationally celebrated filmmaker. Like Albert Brooks' Modern Romance by way of Michelangelo Antonioni (L'Avventura), the film explores an on-again/off-again relationship poisoned by jealousy and obsession, but from a quiet, mesmerizing distance. Ceylan and his real-life wife Ebru play the lead roles, which adds a discomforting personal element
Maria Maggenti's Puccini For Beginners (Strand) stars Elizabeth Reaser as an unsentimental writer who loses her girlfriend and winds up in the arms of Justin Kirk, the first man she's dated since college. Then dissatisfaction with Kirk's subtle paternalism pushes Reaser toward Gretchen Mol, a giggly young thing who's never been with a woman before—and who, unbeknownst to Reaser, is Kirk's ex-girlfriend. For most of its first hour, Puccini For Beginners is a warmly lit New York movie, full of witty people making jokes about Kant and Philip Roth in bookstores and loft apartments. Then everyone shows up at the same party, secrets get revealed, and the movie slips a gear, down into grinding farce
Once dismissed as a network strictly for hardcore nerds who will watch anything in their favored genre, the SCI FI Channel has been scoring lately with original series like Battlestar Galactica and Eureka (Universal), a critically admired show about a small town packed with eccentric geniuses. The first season strands a U.S. marshal and his rebellious daughter in a backwater berg where the auto mechanic is a space-shuttle engineer, the children play with mathematical formulae, and the whole town hides one whopper of a secret.