New: Subtitles and “Shut Up!”
Hungarian filmmaker Béla Tarr has racked up a number of high-profile admirers over the years, and if you haven’t yet acquainted yourself with his deliberate and visually rich style, a good place to start is with The Man from London (Zeitgeist Films/KimStim; now available). Co-starringTilda Swinton and based on a novel by mystery master Georges Simenon, The Man from London follows an emotionally shut-down railway worker who stumbles upon a suitcase of mob money and finds his fragile emotional life sinking further into despair.
And while you’re nursing some serious January melancholy, why not check out Tuesday, After Christmas (Kino Lorber; now available), which stars real-life married couple Mimi Branescu and Mirela Oprisor as spouses dealing with the husband’s infidelity. If you’ve been keeping up with recent movies like 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days or The Death of Mr. Lazarescu, you know that some of the coolest films on the international scene are emerging from the Romanian New Wave; add this pungent drama to that stack.
Strand Releasing offers up two of last year’s most acclaimed foreign releases: festival fave Romeos (available January 17) is a hip and sweet love story about a female-to-male transgender looking for love in Cologne’s gay scene, while legendary French filmmaker Claude Miller and his son Nathan Miller collaborate on the drama I’m Glad My Mother is Alive, about a young man obsessively searching for his birth mother.
On the documentary front comes one of my favorite films from the 2011 Sundance Film Festival, Shut Up Little Man! (New Video/Tribeca Film; available January 24), a look at how tape-recordings of bickering next-door neighbors went viral in the pre-internet days when “viral” involved putting zines on paper and audio on cassette.
Featured on several Top Ten lists was Hell and Back Again (Docurama; available January 24), which cast an unflinching eye on both battles in Afghanistan and one injured soldier’s attempt to adjust to life back home. And director Chris Paine follows up his own Who Killed the Electric Car? with the sequel Revenge of the Electric Car (Docurama; available January 24), taking us behind the scenes at Nissan, GM, and Tesla Motors for a look at the resurgence of a technology once considered doomed.
Classic: Monsters, Shvitzes and Kung Fu Stews
The growing respectability of the Japanese monster movie (or kaiju) genre gets a big boost from The Criterion Collection’s release of the 1954 Gojira (available January 24) in a handsome set that also includes the English-dubbed American version, Godzilla, King of the Monsters. The original Japanese version not only launched tons of sequels (and imitators) but it also addressed issues of the lingering effects of the atomic bomb on the island nation. This Criterion set also includes commentary tracks for both version, a J. Hoberman essay, interviews, a featurette on the special photographic effects, and much more.
One of the most acclaimed international gay titles of the 1990s, Steam: The Turkish Bath (RaroVideo; available January 31) gets a snazzy re-release, featuring a new digitally restored version and new HD transfer from a 35mm negative, along with interviews and improved subtitles. The story of an Italian businessman who finds himself the owner of one of the last of the traditional Turkish bath houses (or hamam), Steam is a sexy coming-of-middle-age story.
The vintage Roger Corman titles keep a coming: the Lethal Ladies Collection, Vol. 2 (Shout! Factory; available January 24) features a triad of movies about beautiful, butt-kicking women. The Arena stars Pam Grier and her Black Mama, White Mama co-star Margaret Markov, Cover Girl Models follow a trio of fashion plates who get caught up in an international conspiracy, and Fly Me shows what happens when hijackers face off against stewardesses who are even better at martial arts than they are at pouring coffee.
TV: Get Your Fab On
With Absolutely Fabulous returning to television this month on BBC America and Logo, what better time to get caught up with the hilariously boozy adventures of Edina and Patsy than with the relaunch of Absolutely Fabulous: Absolutely Everything (BBC Video; now available), an exhaustive catalog of every series, TV movie, comedy sketch, DVD extra, and even the same-cast-different-characters pilot Mirrorball. And if you’re still jonesing for more, check out the hilarious Dr. Willoughby (Acorn Media; now available), starring Ab Fab’s Joanna Lumley as a ruthless and vain soap actress who plays a kind MD on TV.
Another hilarious Brit, Ricky Gervais sidekick Karl Pilkington, gets sent around the globe in An Idiot Abroad (BBC Video; now available). The befuddled Pilkington makes a hilarious tour guide as he gets sent off to China, India, Jordan, Mexico, Egypt, Brazil and Peru to observe local customs and generally get removed as far as possible from his comfort zone.
Back in the US, there’s America in Primetime (PBS Home Video; available January 17), a four-part doc examining the current golden age of television and putting it into a context with the history of the medium. The DVD includes extended versions of the interviews with such leading lights as Judd Apatow, Norman Lear, Shonda Rhimes, Bryan Cranston, Mike Judge and Felicity Huffman, among many others.
Finally, two big Emmy winners make their way to DVD: Justified: The Complete Second Season (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment; now available) features an award-winning turn by the great Margo Martindale as a most unpredictable villain, and a deluxe collector’s edition of Todd Haynes’ Mildred Pierce (HBO Home Video; now available) features the five-part miniseries as well as two audio commentaries and extensive making-of documentaries.