A week riddled with DVD gems that got little or no theatrical attention:
The Last Bolshevik (1993) and Happiness (1934)
The Sixth Side of the Pentagon (1967) and The Embassy (1973)
The Case of the Grinning Cat (2004)
Remembrance of Things to Come (2001)
All directed by Chris Marker.
These four DVDs showed up in my releases for April 8th, at which point they were available only through the Wexner's Chris Marker Store. But they are well worth mentioning them again. Now they are available at all the bastard online retailers. The first DVD is a two disc set that includes Marker's film about the Russian film director Alexander Medvedkin as well as Medvedkin's silent film Happiness. There are also a host of extras. The second DVD might be a good one to watch while the local media tries to demonize protesters at the RNC in St Paul. The Sixth Side of the Pentagon chronicles the 1967 protest in Washington, D.C. to end the war in Vietnam. The Embassy on the other hand is a fiction film depicting dissidents seeking refuge in a foreign embassy after a military coup d'état in an unidentified country. Read about Remembrance of Things to Come here, and my personal thoughts about The Case of the Grinning Cat here.
Before I Forget (2007) directed by Jacques Nolot
The best film in this year's Queer Takes series at the Walker, Jacques Nolot stars, writes and directs this film about aging, grace and humility. The camera stares unflinchingly not only at undeniable beauty but also the harsh reality of the complex human condition. In this case, the human condition is applied to an aging hustler living with HIV for 24 years. It's a film about observation, and more specifically the observation of self-observation.
Fist of Legend (1994) directed by Gordan Chan
Possibly the best kung fu movie ever made. A remake of Bruce Lee's Fist of Fury, Fist of Legend had only been available in the most deplorable versions that were dubbed, cut and renamed. (The best version used to be a VCD where the Mandarin track was on one channel and the Cantonese on the other - that's just how bad it was.) Thankfully that has all changed and Fist of Legend is now available here and elsewhere with the original edit and soundtrack. Jet Li is in his prime, and his kinetic wonderment is in fine form thanks to action choreography by Yuen Woo Ping.
Forsaken Land (2006) directed by Vimukthi Jayasundara
The first Sri Lankan film to ever be awarded a prize at Cannes, Jayasundara's directorial debut received the Camera d'Or for Best First Film. It played in NYC two summers ago, but I'm not sure if it got any further than than in the US. It's pretty awesome to see it on DVD, even at this late date.
The Wolves (1971) directed by Hideo Gosha
Here's another 'best' film, in this case one of the best yakuza films ever made. I picked up the UK import after reading someone else's proclamation that it was the best yakuza film. The Wolves is part of the 'Ninkyo Eiga' genre or yakuza chivalry films that are for more character driven than violence driven. Gosha's big contradictory claim to fame is that he has been virtually unknown on this side of the Pacific and as a result has gained quite a following amongst us fanboy types. Gosha's rich palette and inovative style in The Wolves is quite stunning and the story itself is nothing short of gripping. Tatsuya Nakadai, who plays the lead, anchors the film with his presence. Check out the trailer here.
Workingman's Death (2005) directed by Michael Glawogger
This amazing documentary played for a week in the final day of the Bell as a documentary only 'movie house.' I saw it there, but wish I had seen it on a huge state of the art screen. This highly aestheticized visual look at manual labor may not be everyone's idea of a great documentary with its lack of commentary or opinion. Personally, I think it makes it that much more powerful. Glawogger takes us to five location where the work people do is unimaginable: illegal mines in the Ukraine, sulphur mines in Indonesia, slaughter yard in Nigeria, shipbreaking in Pakistan, and steel complex in China. Workingman's Death is an unbelievable visual experience.
Reprise (2006) directed by Joachim Trier
I really loved this movie. Although it played almost a year a half ago at MSPIFF 25, it only got a theatrical release this year. I found it very moving (without being heavy handed) in addressing the manifestations of personal achievements and failures and how they propel or social lives. It is also beautifully acted by people I had no reason to disbelieve. I would totally watch this film again.
Itty Bitty Titty Committee (2007) directed by Jamie Babbit
A sweet movie about young rebellious girls who like girls.
The Promotion (2008) directed by Steve Conrad
I thought this film looked good and ten times funnier than Step Brothers. However, I was still trying to work of my Edina Cinema hangover from the holidays and was still on a conscious injunction.