This week we have something to suit everyone: low-brow, mid-brow and high-brow:
Nightmare Detective (2006) directed by Shinya Tsukamoto
To say that I am excited about this release is an understatement. My excitement isn't because it is guaranteed to be a great movie, but because this is a movie that could have languished in unreleased limbo for a very very long time and not too many people would have noticed. ShinyaTsukamoto is the quintessential Japanese cult director who stormed onto the scene with his audacious but very low budget Tetsuo, The Iron Man and continued to win fans with Tokyo Fist and Bullet Ballet. However it was his film Gemini that made me a true believer. The tone of his films has changed from boyish endorphin induced action to something that is thankfully a little more mature while maintaining an audacity all his own with A Snake in June and Vital. The little that I have read about Nightmare Detective has encouraging with some calling it his best. For Japanese culture vultures, it has a cast that would make you scream like a teenage girl watching the Beatles: pop mega-star Hitomi as the detective assigned to the case of mysterious suicides, the pretty boy Ryuhei Matsuda as the nightmare detective, and hunky Masanobu Ando the regal Ren Osugi in supporting roles. (I've put up the image from the Japanese DVD, because the cover for the US DVD is just dumb.)
Moolaadé (2004) directed by Ousmane Sembene
Groundbreaking Senegalese director Ousmane Sembene died last year at the age of 84. This film won Un Certain Regard at Cannes in 2004 and is about three years late in being released in this country. Moolaadé takles the issue of female circumcision with direct compassion that is powerful, to say the least.
Zebraman (2004) directed by Takashi Miike
I have long resisted buying the over-priced Japanese DVD of this big budget Takashi Miike movie that seems about as goofy as it does interesting. School teacher by day, Zebraman by night, the title character is something of a homegrown superhero. Although I resisted buying it, I will not resist renting it.
Lust, Caution (2007) directed by Ang Lee
Somehow I forgot about Lust, Caution. When the end of the year hoopla arrived, Lust, Caution totally slipped my mind, and perhaps that is my biggest criticism of Ang Lee's newest film. It is a beautiful and well acted film that had no resonance with me beyond that. Maybe it suffered due to the unnecessary controversy of its NC-17 rating. I don't know. It's a great film with some sex in it where you can see Tony Leung's scrotum (no doubt a factor that made the film much more successful across the Pacific.)
Michael Clayton (2007) directed by Tony Gilroy
I am not ashamed to admit that I rented this film on Tuesday (yes, the day it came out) to see this film a second time. Seeing it for a second time only confirmed by conviction that it is a great film. Michael Clayton's biggest fault is seeming too pedestrian, because it couldn't be farther from your average movie. Fantastic acting, great script, spot-on pacing, and some of the most assured production work, from camera to editing, that you are likely to see.
Redacted (2007) directed by Brian De Palma
Brian De Palma's bomb is not as bad as you have heard, but it is also not as good as I wanted to be. Redacted is a personal film from a pissed off De Palma, and this shows through more than anything. Unfortunately, his attempt to make a film from what is meant to seem like found footage of a horrific, but no doubt common, casualty of war ends up seeming like a cheap scripted reality TV show. I applaud De Palma for his efforts, but he was off the mark. No one wants to really admit that our efforts in Iraq are anything but heroic, and obviously no one wants to watch it either.
Margot at the Wedding (2007) directed by Noah Baumbach
If you hated The Squid and the Whale, you will no doubt hate this film as well. But if you like watching pretentious, socially handicapped people muddle through life, this is a great film. Once again, Baumbach presents characters that are wholly original but somehow familiar. Nicole Kidman, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Jack Black are all great.
Other stuff that I feel apathetic about:
In the Valley of Elah (2007) directed by Paul Haggis
I'm still hatin' on Paul Haggis for Crash, but the consensus is that this is actually one of the better films dealing with our situation in Iraq.
Rendition (2007) directed by Gavin Hood
Taxi to the Dark Side might be a better choice if you are interested in this subject (which we in the US should be; yeah, this is what our country is doing; Britain just admitted today that they refueled plans in the Indian Ocean for these types of kidnappings; I seriously can't believe what this administration gets away with), but I have a hard time believing this film is as bad as everyone says.
Girl Boss Revenge (1973) directed by Noribumi Suzuki
Another 'Pinky' film for fans of the genre.
Kilometer Zero (2005) directed by Hiner Saleem
A good Kurdish film that played here last year during the Walker's Global Lens series.
Life is a Bed of Roses (1983), Love Unto Death (1984), Melo (1986), I Want to Go Home (1989) directed by Alain Resnais
Four film from Resnais, out for the first time in the US on DVD. I admittedly haven't seen a one of them.
Walker (1987) directed by Alex Cox
From Criterion. I love the Alex Cox.
Pierrot le Fou (1965) directed by Jean Luc Godard
I suppose if you have been waiting for the perfect time to watch this film, short of seeing it in the theater, this may be you best chance: two discs, restored transfer, loads of extra crap.