DVD Spotlight: 8/5.

The Burmese Harp Douglas Messerli reviews four films by Kon Ichikawa for nthposition, finding The Burmese Harp "implausibly rewarding," Fires on the Plain a "darkly comedic work, a tale which reminds one, at times, of Beckett's utterly confused and immobile figures," An Actor's Revenge "a legend that explores the complex issues of human sexuality more thoroughly than most films of the day" and watches, in The Makioka Sisters, "politesse... subtly transformed into bitter hate, as love quietly acquiesces to despair and pain."

 

"Was there any film director who was at the same time both more British and yet more international in spirit than Michael Powell?" DK Holm reviews a handful of Powell and Pressburgers for the Vancouver Voice. Related: Billy Stevenson on A Matter of Life and Death.

Joy House "Stuck in the summertime hell of superhero crapola and CGI migraines, it's not hard from where I stand (which is, frankly, still a state of bedevilment about how the typically abbreviated and overwrought non-storyness of The Dark Knight has so many educated viewers bamboozled) to find relief in the forgotten matinee fodder of a less bombastic time," writes Michael Atkinson at IFC. "This week, it's René Clément's rather delightful 1964 suspenser Les Félins (The Felines), titled here (after the American pulp paperback it was based on, by prolific noiriste Day Keene) Joy House. There's not much that's earth-shaking about Joy House (except perhaps Lalo Schifrin's pre-Jerry Goldsmith score). But it's a movie in a way movies haven't been in a long time: graceful, relaxed, fun-loving, unpretentious." Also reviewed is the "overlooked Hungarian film The Witman Boys."

"The Tarantino Inglorious Bastards will certainly be longer, more detailed and more elegantly structured than the Castellari version," writes Dave Kehr in the New York Times. "Making movies hasn’t been this much fun for a long time now, one reason watching them may seem even less so."

Un Flic In Trafic, "Tati depicts highways as open wounds in flowering fields" even as he "is nonetheless transfixed by the sleek visual sublimity of modern life," writes Richard Brody in the New Yorker. Also briefly reviewed is Un Flic, in which "Melville's chilly manner turns sardonic as he vents pent-up bile."

The Noir of the Week, parts 1 and 2: Bill Hare on Shadow of a Doubt.

At Not Coming to a Theater Near You, Aaron Cutler has a theory as to "why the American director Jim Jarmusch's debut feature, Permanent Vacation, proved more popular abroad than it did in the US. Jarmusch wrote the 1980 film, in a sense, in a European syntax, and shot it in a European style. It lacks both the narrative structure and Hollywood genre trappings of later (and admittedly, better) Jarmusch films like Stranger Than Paradise, Down by Law and Broken Flowers; consequently, American viewers not already versed in Jarmusch's influences might overlook the film's hypnotic beauties and simply dismiss it as weird."

Glenn Kenny's "Monday Morning Foreign Region DVD Report," now a regular feature in the Auteurs' Notebook: "Keith Uhlich's observation that the film ultimately possesses 'all the interior profundity of a wiffle ball' notwithstanding, [Love on the Ground] offers up a variety of pleasures, from the always tonic assuredness of Rivette's mise-en-scene to its illuminations of the film's two lead characters—or rather I should say its two lead actresses: Jane Birkin and Geraldine Chaplin."

Crisis Online viewing tip. Elbert Ventura introduces a riveting video slide show of Robert Drew's JFK documentaries, Primary and Crisis (plus a few extras): "Stacked up against today's documentaries, which tend toward overweening subjectivity and strident polemics, Drew's movies seem like relics. Here, it seems, was the first gaze - the audience granted an intimate glimpse of their leaders, the subjects not yet trained to play to the cameras. Ironically, Drew's innovations would end up killing the very spontaneity he captured. The ubiquity of portable cameras, whose development Drew helped speed along, would eventually usher in the era of media-trained politicians."

Related online viewing: Jackie's tour of the White House. Thank you, Mad Men - and Fimoculous.

DVD roundups: Sean Axmaker (MSN), Paul Clark (Screengrab), Harry Knowles (AICN), Peter Martin (Cinematical), Noel Murray (Los Angeles Times), PopMatters and Slant.

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