From the Big Screen:
This Week’s Best Bets
There’s a delcious bounty of collectible DVDs and Blu-rays this week. Let’s start off with three releases the master of modern French cinema, Jean-Luc Godard:
“Detective” (1985 — France)” Godard’s “Detective” is an invigorating deconstruction of film noir that adds a dash of “Grand Hotel” (1932) melodrama and “Body and Soul” (1947) boxing drama, all tied into an arresting Godardian knot. In a luxury Paris hotel, two detectives (Laurent Terzieff and Jean-Pierre Leaud) are working on the vexing case of an assassinated prince. In a nearby room, boxing trainer Jim Fox Warner (Johnny Hallyday) is getting his young protege´ ready for a fight. But Jim owes big money to the mob, as well as to the Chenals, a bickering husband and wife (Claude Brasseur and Nathalie Baye). In Godard’s fractured, poetic style, the tension ratchets up between these groups until they reach a bloody breaking point … “First Name: Carmen” (1983 — France) Godard’s “First Name: Carmen” is a radical reinvention of Bizet’s opera, updating the story of sexual obsession with bank robbery and kidnapping. Godard himself appears as doddering Uncle Jean, who lends his house to his niece Carmen (Maruschka Detmers) while he is recovering in a mental institution. Carmen and her gang of youthful pals stage a bloody robbery of a bank, during which she falls in love with one of the security guards (Jacques Bonnaffé). Her gang is in the planning stages of an even bigger crime — the kidnapping of an industrialist (or his daughter), using the shooting of a documentary on luxury hotels as a pretext. This bizarre crime spree of sex and death is told via Godard’s dizzying deconstructive style and DP Raoul Coutard’s eye-popping colors, creating a singular work of art to rival Bizet … “Helas Pour Moi” (1993 — France) Godard’s “Hélas pour moi” is a provocative film about faith and desire. Inspired by the Greek myth of Alcmene and Amphitryon, it investigates the story of a god inhabiting the body of a man to experience the pleasures of the flesh. The incident is told through the eyes of a publisher, Abraham Klimt (Bernard Verley), who is interviewing the inhabitants of a Swiss village regarding the strange story of Rachel (Laurence Masliah) and Simon Donnadieu (Gérard Depardieu). One summer Simon leaves on a business trip, but soon after a doppelgänger arrives in the village purporting to be Simon. He appears to be a god in human form, and he pursues Rachel in a series of philosophical seductions that explore divine and physical ecstasy. One of Godard’s most beautiful films (shot by DP Caroline Champetier), “Hélas pour moi” is a thought- provoking and sensuous work of art. All three films are available on DVD and Blu-ray from Kino Classics … The Criterion Collection has on hand two amazing films from French filmmaker Bruno Dumont: “La vie de Jésus” (1997): With his stunning debut feature, the risk-taking auteur Dumont immediately established his reputation as an uncompromising iconoclast on the cutting edge of French cinema. Blending unflinching realism with moments of startling, light-filled beauty, La vie de Jésusfinds unexpected philosophical richness in the quotidian, small-town existence of Freddy (nonprofessional David Douche in a revelatory, one-off performance), an aimless young man with epilepsy who, in his childlike simplicity, embodies both great tenderness and terrifying brutality. Leaving the film’s cryptic title tantalizingly open to interpretation, Dumont dares viewers to see the divine in a seemingly dead-end world. On DVD and Blu-ray, with new 4K digital restoration, approved by Dumont, with uncompressed stereo soundtrack on the Blu-ray … “L’humanité” (1999): The transcendent second feature by Dumont probes the wonder and horror of the human condition through the story of a profoundly alienated police detective (the indelibly sad-eyed Emmanuel Schotté, winner of an upset best actor prize at Cannes for his first film performance) who, while investigating the murder of a young girl, experiences jolting, epiphanous moments of emotional and physical connection. Demonstrating Dumont’s deftness with nonactors and relentlessly frank depiction of bodies and sexuality, L’humanité is at once an idiosyncratic police procedural and a provocative exploration of the tension between humankind’s capacity for compassion and our base, sometimes barbarous animal instincts. On DVD and Blu-ray, with new 4K digital restoration, approved by Dumont, with 5.1 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray.
Over a decade after re-defining the thriller with “The Third Man,” director Carol Reed returned to the genre with “The Running Man” (1963). Reuniting with that film’s cinematographer Robert Krasker (BAFTA-nominated for his work here), Reed goes in the opposite direction visually, framing the twisty plot in sun-kissed widescreen color. Rex Black (Laurence Harvey) has successfully faked his death in a plane crash and escaped to sunny Málaga under a new identity, waiting for his wife Stella (Lee Remick) to arrive with £50,000 of life insurance money. It’s the start of a blissful, trouble-free new life for the couple — until Stephen (Alan Bates), the insurance agent in charge of investigating Rex’s death, suddenly arrives in town. Is he just holidaying in Spain, as he claims, or is he on assignment to foil Rex’s scheme? Adapted by John Mortimer (later the creator of “Rumpole of the Bailey”) from the novel “The Ballad of the Running Man” by Shelley Smith, this underappreciated entry in Reed’s celebrated oeuvre makes its official worldwide home video premiere. 2K restoration of the film by Sony Pictures. On Blu-ray from Arrow Academy/MVD Entertainment … Making its Blu-ray debut this week is the rather bizzare but absorbing “Thirst” (2009 — South Korea), from Chan-wook Park, the director of “Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance,” “Oldboy,” “Lady Vengeance” and “Stoker” In this shockingly original vampire story with a chilling, erotic style, a blood transfusion saves the life of a priest (Kang-ho Song), but also transforms him into a vampire. He struggles to control his insatiable thirst for blood until a love affair unleashes his darkest desires in deadly new ways. Daring and operatic, “Thirst” is a truly wicked love story that takes classic vampire lore to twisted new heights. From Kino Lorber Studio Classics … “Between the Lines” (1977) is the second feature film from pioneering American independent director Joan Micklin Silver. Set in the offices of a Boston alternative newspaper where the writers and editors enjoy a positive and open-minded work environment. Music critic Max (Jeff Goldblum) uses his influence to score dates, while news reporter Harry (John Heard) is dating the lovely Abbie (Lindsay Crouse), the publication’s lead photographer. However, it seems as though their relatively carefree days are numbered when the owner of a major publishing company buys the paper, leading to more money, but even more changes. Co-stars Gwen Welles, Bruno Kirby, Marilu Henner and Michael J. Pollard. In a 2K restoration. On DVD, Blu-ray, Digital, from Cohen Film Collection … And, lasltly, for all you classic horror fns out there, there’s “Universal Horror Collection Vol. 1,” a four-disc set with hi-def verions of four films celebrating horror icons Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi: “The Black Cat” (1934), “The Raven” (1935), “The Invisible Ray” (1936) and “Black Friday” (1940). On Blu-ray from Scream Factory.