Here’s what’s new to DVD, Blu-ray, and VOD this week.
Israeli super-producer Menahem Golan—who died last week at the age of 85—was a man of admirably eclectic tastes, pumping out lowest-common-denominator Chuck Norris vehicles alongside risky, ambitious arthouse projects; imagine Platinum Dunes merged with Annapurna Pictures, and you’ll get a sense of the unique spot that his studio, Cannon, occupied in the ’80s film industry. 1984 was something of a banner year for the company; its slate included Missing In Action, Breakin’, Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo, Ninja III, and, last but definitely not least, this John Cassavetes tour de force. Love Streams was the actor-writer-director’s final and most radical major work—an extravagant, impassioned, and at times just plain weird fusion of naturalism and stylization. Criterion’s new three-disc, dual-format edition marks the first time that the movie’s 141-minute theatrical cut has been available on home video in the United States. Look for our review later this week.
Maurice Pialat and Cassavetes have often been described as kindred spirits; though each had its own ethos and filmmaking style, they shared an interest in what compels people to maintain relationships with friends and family. Pialat’s second feature, We Won’t Grow Old Together, deals with the fractious relationship between a filmmaker (Jean Yanne) and his mistress (Marlene Jobert, pictured above)—an endless cycle of fights and reconciliations that adds up to what critic Ben Sachs once neatly summarized as a “portrait of codependence mistaken for love.” In the U.S., Pialat remains a criminally underseen director, which makes Kino’s release of this early, profoundly unsentimental masterpiece an essential release.
Charles Bronson: Icon of leathery, musky masculinity, possessed of such indelible cool that he spent his career credibly rocking a roadkill hairdo and wearing the kind of thin, wispy mustache teenage boys are usually shamed into shaving off. For a certain kind of viewer—like, say, this writer—the mere casting of Bronson makes a movie a must-see. Those looking to acquaint themselves with his citrus aftershave-like presence might want to start with the watermelon-farming-themed actioner Mr. Majestyk (Kino Lorber), directed by the reliably terse Richard Fleischer and written—with a certain amount of gusto—by Elmore Leonard. Breakheart Pass (Kino Lorber) is one of Bronson’s lesser Westerns, though it isn’t devoid of broader, non-Bronsonite pleasures; the camerawork—by the great Lucien Ballard—isn’t half-bad, for one.
Fritz Lang directed three anti-Nazi films during World World II, all of which are masterworks of one sort or another: the gripping Graham Greene adaptation Ministry Of Fear; the very lefty Czech Resistance yarn Hangmen Also Die!, co-scripted by Bertolt Brecht; and Man Hunt (Twilight Time), an expertly ratcheted thriller about a British big-game hunter who finds himself pursued by a faceless army of German agents in the months leading up to the war. Lang’s work had a complicated history with the Nazis. His silent films were Party touchstones, with Metropolis—a technically astounding but politically immature work that Lang all but disowned in the 1930s—being a personal favorite of Joseph Goebbels. His sound-era work was fixated on intangible, impersonal evil—the kind that radiates from charismatic leaders, infects large populations, and expresses itself through mob violence and mass surveillance. Fascism may be the easiest target in Western culture, but Lang’s mature work used its imagery to probe into the underlying rottenness and fear of all societies, whether totalitarian or democratic.
Speaking of the fascism-obsessed: Tinto Brass—Italy’s Russ Meyer of butts—seems to have channeled all of his most off-putting hang-ups into Black Angel (Cult Epics), his classed-up Nazisploitation remake of Luchino Visconti’s Senso. Though it isn’t half as queasy as Brass’ earlier Salon Kitty, the movie trades in the same kind of erotic revulsion. Those looking for the full Brass experience can also subject themselves to the Tinto Brass: Maestro Of Erotic Cinema (Cult Epics) boxed set, which includes his most recent feature, Monamour, along with upskirt sonata Cheeky! and the turgid omnibus Private, which features half a dozen prosthetic dicks and just as many king-sized beds draped in satin.
Those who prefer their sex hardcore and Nazi-free—and subscribe to the notion that porn is always better with telephoto lenses and a plot—should pick up one of the twofer releases put out this week by the great cult label Vinegar Syndrome: Purely Physical / Cathouse Fever, Ultimate Pleasure / I Am Always Ready, and Tropic Of Desire / Fantasy World. A Bigfoot double feature—consisting of In Search Of Bigfoot and Cry Wilderness—rounds out Vinegar Syndrome’s releases for the week. Also on the cult front: a Blu-ray of Kevin Connor’s horror hybrid Motel Hell (Shout! Factory).
Georgian filmmaker Otar Iosseliani left the Soviet Union for France in the early 1980s. The first feature he directed there, the Paris-set Favorites Of The Moon (Cohen), is probably his best-known work, and serves as a perfect introduction to his droll, ironic worldview, which tends to regard human behavior from a distance.
The single Blu-ray release 2 By Ken Loach (Twilight Time) consists of Riff Raff and Raining Stones, both prime examples of Loach in peak form; the former marked the start of the English director’s most fertile period. It’s a shame that Loach’s reputation has crashed over the past decade; his work from the 1990s and early 2000s has aged remarkably well, its deft and often graceful direction effectively canceling out the social determinism of the narratives. Also out from Twilight Time: The Buddy Holly Story, which earned Gary Busey—who, once upon a time, was more than just a walking motorcycle-safety brochure—a Best Actor Oscar nomination; the Gordon Douglas-directed Elvis vehicle Follow That Dream; and Stanley Kramer’s 1969 World War II-set flop The Secret Of Santa Vittoria, which finds America’s gooeist message-movie specialist tackling the ever-controversial subjects of whether the Germans were really people with feelings, and whether the Italians are truly a hardy people who love life.
Of course, no week would be complete without Kino Lorber putting out a couple of minor works from the twilight years of the studio era: John Huston’s erratic, uneven Burt Lancaster Western The Unforgiven, and William Wyler’s The Children’s Hour, a snoozy remake of his earlier These Three that’s best known for its awkward, “mature” attempts at engaging with lesbian themes. Also out via Kino Lorber this week are the 1983 Australian drama Careful, He Might Hear You and A Summer Story, which finds the director of The Blood On Satan’s Claw tackling a John Galsworthy adaptation.
Not altogether successful, but nonetheless worth seeing, this widescreen one-man show stars Tom Hardy as a construction foreman whose life falls apart over the course of a fateful drive from Birmingham to London. The movie—set in more-or-less real time, almost entirely inside of the title character’s car—is one part realist experiment, one part contrived pile-up. Unlike, say, John Cassavetes, writer-director Steven Knight (best known for writing Eastern Promises) can never get these two tendencies to interact meaningfully; still, as with his previous directing effort, Redemption, what doesn’t work about the movie is often more interesting than what does.
Shot in 2008 and nominated for a very suspicious Golden Globe in 2011, Frankie & Alice (Lionsgate) finally crawled into theaters earlier this year, looking every bit like a time-capsule from the great awards bait Gold Rush of the 2000s. Set in the 1970s, the movie stars Halle Berry as a go-go dancer with two dissociative identities; she isn’t convincing as any version of the character, which actually makes the movie more interesting.
Keith Parmer’s tobacco-colored direct-to-video thriller Swelter (Well Go) has its share of good moments, especially for viewers who’ve enjoyed watching top-billed Jean-Claude Van Damme mature into a surprisingly fine character actor. The movie is certainly a notch above the merely direct-to-video-esque Rage (Image), a gangster revenge movie that boasts a neat ending twist and one of Nicolas Cage’s sleepiest latter-day performances.
A Haunted House 2 (Universal) is a marginal improvement over its predecessor, if only because it contains a handful of gags that, though not exactly funny, at least manage to stick in the viewer’s memory like a bad dream.
This week’s edition of the B-Minus Squad—movies officially deemed “pretty okay” by the shrugging, short-sleeved sages of the A.V. Club film section—consists of Muppets Most Wanted (Disney), The Railway Man (Anchor Bay), Proxy (IFC), and The Cold Lands (Cinereach). Also released this week are the Irvine Welsh adaptation Filth (Magnola), and The Moment (Screen Media), a barely distributed drama that stars Jennifer Jason Leigh as a photojournalist. The latter managed to get a few zero-star reviews during its severely limited New York run. Color us intrigued.