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9/2/2010

Film & Video

DVDs Nuts!
Lesser-seen OW-approved titles

 

Cinevardaphoto

Three short films completed about 20 years apart between 1963-2004, and gathered together in this beautiful, complex collection, are separately fascinating but tedious when strung together. Luckily, watching at home affords the proper time between them all, time that can really bring out the charms of each film. The first, Salut les cubains, displays thousands of photographs that Agnés Varda took in Cuba right at the beginning of Fidel Castro’s reign. The second, Ulysse, takes a single photo snapped by Varda in 1954 and opens it up to every kind of interpretation, from the subject to children to a goat. The third, Ydessa, considers the teddy bear. Like a moving, interactive installation, Cinevardaphoto captures the imagination and moves the soul. (available now)

Special Features: Agnés Varda shorts, introduction by Alain Bergala, former editor of Cahiers du Cinema

Harry Brown

Pragmatic and weary with a pulsing undercurrent of menace, the film Harry Brown is most remarkable for the way it mimics its titular character every step of the way. Terrorized by inner-city thugs, and crumbling under the weight of time and the loss of friends and family that it entails, Harry Brown needs to lash out. Harry Brown, the film, thrashes, telegraphing its punches from a mile away and whiffing every other knockout attempt, but when it connects, it’s a whopper. British legend Michael Caine plays Brown as a rampaging vigilante trapped in an elderly man’s body, and that internal struggle elevates his performance to high art. Caine has found in first-time director Daniel Barber a companion unafraid to go down the dark alleys, and Harry Brown stands head and shoulders above the never-ending pileup of Brit gangster films. (available now)

Special Features: Audio commentary, deleted scenes

Shirin

In a 1980 New York Magazine interview, Ingmar Bergman said, “I have many things to talk about because of my fascination with the human being, the human face – which fascinates me more and more – all the dimensions of reality, and the conditions of human life, of the human being.” Iranian master Abbas Kiarostami clearly shares Bergman’s fascination; and so comes Shirin, in which Kiarostami films an audience full of actresses (mostly Iranian, plus French star Juliette Binoche for good measure) watching a supposed film adaptation of the titular Arabic folk poem about an ancient Juliet and her Romeo. Not a single frame of the film in front of these women is seen – it is heard, however. Kiarostami’s film is the watching of this “film,” their faces and expressions as they fidget, fall in love and generally get taken on a ride. After a while, the result is like watching a slideshow consisting only of those theme-park snapshots taken at the apex of a roller coaster ride, but there are moments in this experimental outing that cut deeper than anything the actual movie could have wrought. (available now)

Special Features: Making-of documentary, shorts, essay

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