I get a bit jittery come December. A nervous tick sets in. An anxiety rests deep in the gut. It’s time to pick the best DVD releases of the year. And I have no idea what to choose. Not for lack of selections, of course.
The Devil. Beelzebub. Mephistopheles. Baphomet. Scratch. Old Nick. Lucifer. SATAN. The supernatural being who tempts man’s
soul to sin and ruin from his fiery underworld throne goes by many names
(and if Jagger and Richards are to be believed, he wants us to guess
them, too). He’s a creature — mythical or otherwise, depending upon
where you fall ideologically — of many different faces, as well.
In 1959, Venezuelan filmmaker Margot Benacerraf’s Araya shared the International Critics Prize at the Cannes Film Festival with Alain Resnais’ Hiroshima, Mon Amour. Resnais’ film was a sensation heralding a new cinema, a New Wave. Today, it’s widely recognized as a classic of world cinema. But what happened to Araya? It disappeared.
It’s rare when a film achieves absolute perfection. And such hyperbole shouldn’t be thrown around lightly, but Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench deserves the praise. A low-budget affair shot on grainy, black-and-white 16mm, Guy and Madeline has a simple plot: Boy loves girl. Boy gets bored and leaves girl for another. Girl moves on with her life. Boy realizes the error of his ways and tries to find the love he spurned.
The year is 1348. The bubonic plague is ravaging Britain, striking hundreds of thousands dead and leaving even more suffering in its slow, painful grip. What’s causing this pestilence? An official explanation comes from the Church, who decrees that it is God’s punishment. Mankind has sinned. A divergent line of thought grows, though. Evil is behind this destruction. And it must be stopped — in God’s name.
Adapted from a stage play by David Lindsay-Abaire, who also penned the script, Rabbit Hole follows a couple (Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart) eight months after the tragic death of their 4-year-old son. The grief threatens to destroy their marriage.
At first glance, Mike Leigh’s Topsy-Turvy seems the oddball amongst the work of a filmmaker best known for the raw explorations of contemporary lower- and middle-class British life in Life Is Sweet, Secrets and Lies, Naked, Happy-Go-Lucky and more. A period piece set in Victorian London, the film looks at the often contentious relationship between Gilbert and Sullivan and the creation of their musical, The Mikado.
From the opening credits of Enter the Void, which pulse like strobes at an all-night rave, through the ambiguous ending, Gaspar Noe pummels his "drugs are bad" thesis with subtlety of a jackhammer. Of course, subtlety is not in the director’s vocabulary.
Is terrorism funny? Are Islamic jihadists bent on destroying Western culture a laugh-riot? Not normally, but in British filmmaker and writer Christopher Morris’ Four Lions, they are dangerously hysterical. The black comedy follows a group of inept, wannabe terrorists who are determined to find glory as suicide bombers.
The French Ministry of Labor bestows the title, Le Meilleur Ouvrier de France, on the top craftsmen in France. Textile designers, photographers, woodworkers, masons, graphic artists, florists and beyond can all strive for the honor. Kings of Pastry explores pastry chefs as they strive for this honor.