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DVDs in Brief

There are a number of reasons to be impressed with Sarah Polley's stark, quiet writing-directing debut Away From Her (Lions Gate), but possibly the biggest one is the way it deals with Alzheimer's and end-of-life issues without disease-of-the-week melodrama or Oscar-bait melismatics. Polley adapted Alice Munro's New Yorker short story "The Bear Came Over The Mountain" with Julie Christie in mind as a woman whose memories are fading, leaving frustrated husband Gordon Pinsent behind. It isn't a cheerful movie, but it's a heartfelt, moving one…

France's reigning ice queen, the great Isabelle Huppert, usually leverages a position of dominance over those around her; if she's ultimately brittle on the inside, she does her best to cover it up. With that in mind, it's fascinating to see the dynamic reversed in the fine drama Private Property (New Yorker): On the surface, she's vulnerable to the abuses of her two grown sons (real-life brothers Yannick and Jérémie Renier), who ridicule her ambitions to leave their home to start a bed-and-breakfast business. But they underestimate her inner resolve, and pay a steep price…

In Johnnie To's Election, a dispute over who should become chairman of one of the triads' largest societies develops into overt and covert intra-gang war. In the sequel, Triad Election (Tartan), the ultimate winner of the previous bloody campaign decides to break tradition and run again, against a rising star who plans to modernize and decriminalize the mob. Triad Election's message about the stain that power leaves on men's souls is a little hackneyed, but To supports it with an unbroken string of well-observed, well-acted scenes where rich villains jostle for position and try to maintain the illusion that they're just trying to build better lives for their children…

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Snow Cake (IFC) stars Alan Rickman as a sad loner who develops a friendly relationship with high-functioning, antisocial autist Sigourney Weaver, based on their mutual love of jumping on trampolines, eating snow, and playing a version of Scrabble with made-up words. Snow Cake's portrait of autism is uncommonly accurate and sensitive, but the rest of the movie offers one of those blinkered indie scenarios in which the only decent people are the sullen, the childlike, and the afflicted, while everyone else is either a phony or a creep. The story starts off-key, and rarely finds the tune.

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