DVD Spotlight

By Aaron Hillis

The Important Thing is to Love

L'important c'est d'aimer (The Important Thing is to Love)
Directed by Andrzej Zulawski
1975, 113 minutes, In French with English subtitles
Mondo Vision

The opening seven minutes of Polish iconoclast Zulawski's first French production—adapted with Christopher Frank from his novel La nuit américaine (no relation to Truffaut's Day For Night)—tease with such psychodramatic intensity that one might mistakenly brace for the button-pushing provocations of an exploitation flick. It opens with hard-luck actress Nadine Chevalier (Romy Schneider, who won a Best Actress César award in 1976 for the film) staring at the camera in someone's domicile, a woman's offscreen voice cueing her to back up, turn around and approach the body of a dead gunman leaning against a blood-splattered wall.

Blog entry 06/17/2009 - 2:47pm

 By John Esther

What is a Sundance Film Festival without a Parker Posey movie? This year the unofficial Queen of Sundance starred in writer-director Ryan Shiraki's Spring Breakdown, about three women "holding on for one more day." At the festival, I caught up with Posey's co-star Jane Lynch, one of the funniest character actresses around; her previous credits include being part of Christopher Guest's ensemble -- Best in Show, For Your Consideration -- plus Role Models, The 40 Year Old Virgin and other scene-stealing roles.

For the most part an amusing movie performed by amusing women, and yet with no theatrical release to speak of, Spring Breakdown should see more life on DVD. (It arrives on disc this week.)

Lynch has also been doing some fine work on the small screen as of late, including the Starz Network's Party Down (about a catering company), and Fox's cheery new Glee. The film's director, former Saturday Night Live producer Shiraki, also chimed in on our conversation as we all drove together -- as will become abundantly clear at the end of the interview.

Blog entry 06/01/2009 - 5:35pm

[We're extremely proud to bring Shooting Down Pictures cine-whiz Kevin B. Lee into the fold with a fabulous new video essay for GreenCine Daily's DVD of the Week: Johnny Got His Gun. Headbangers, unite!]

Blog entry 04/29/2009 - 1:38pm

As both Jeffrey and James note here, critics in general got pretty animated about The Spirit, and not in a good way. Occasional GreenCine contributor Scott Weinberg wrote on Fearnet: "If, however, you like your films to include stuff like good sense, character development, internal logic, and a smooth-flowing story ... well, all I can say is that someone should have gotten Robert Rodriguez on the phone." But hold the phone! say Jeffrey and Jim, in their, er, spirited defenses of the film, enjoying it for what it is.

Reviewer: Jeffrey M. Anderson
Rating (out of 5): ***

Due to holiday pressures and deadlines, I missed the press screening for The Spirit, as well as its Christmas Day opening. (One of my colleagues informed me that he "was willing, but The Spirit wasn't.") I didn't catch up to it until it was all but pronounced dead a couple of weeks later.

And as it began, I found myself grumbling at the stupid dialogue right off the bat.

But as the film went on, I discovered that it had a kind of appealingly dumb, playful quality. Indeed, it's far more low-key and purely enjoyable than either the amazing but grim Sin City (2005), which Frank Miller co-directed, or the aggressively stupid 300 (2007), on which he's only credited as the creator of the source material. It moves in a similarly artificial, elastic way, but without the fetishistic need for excessive violence. Here Miller is paying tribute to the great comics pioneer Will Eisner, a man whose work any comics nut worth his newsprint should know. (Eisner's work has often been rightly described as the Citizen Kane of comics. I definitely recommend them to potential viewers.) To that end, Miller effectively combines his own style with Eisner's style, which was starkly visual, but also humorous.

Blog entry 04/23/2009 - 1:02pm

By Aaron Hillis, GreenCine DailyHiding Out, the Lost Collection DVD

Hiding Out
Directed by Bob Giraldi
1987, 98 minutes, USA

"I can't hide here forever. My grades aren't that good."
- Jon Cryer, Hiding Out

Don't wipe your glasses clean, you absolutely read that title correctly. While I'd be lying if I attempted to defend this predictable, lightweight thriller-cum-teen comedy as some unsung masterpiece, I'll unashamedly admit that Hiding Out holds a dear place in my suburban-child heart. (Which is precisely what Lionsgate is banking on, but more on that later.) Jon Cryer—a year after enamoring teen girls as Pretty in Pink's Duckie, and two years after his role in Altman's neglected O.C. & Stiggs—stars as twenty-something yuppie Andrew Bujalski Morenski, a wealthy Boston bond dealer whose accidental entanglement with mobsters puts him in the line of fire before he can testify against these villainous inside traders.

Blog entry 04/16/2009 - 11:59am


Review by Vadim Rizov (The Village Voice, The House Next Door).


1970's Dodes'ka-den stands alone and damned in film history as the rare film whose failure drove its director to attempt suicide. Unprecedented in Akira Kurosawa's career up to that point (its failure guaranteed no similar offerings), Dodes'ka-den was horrendously received in Japan; Kurosawa responded by slashing himself over 30 times with a razor. He survived; the film's reputation didn't. Criterion's issue of the film offers a chance at redemption. Safe to say the film won't be canonically integrated anytime soon — it's fairly turgid — but also rewarding viewing for Kurosawa devotees. There's nothing else like it in his canon.

Blog entry 03/19/2009 - 12:04pm

By Aaron Hillis, GreenCine Daily

Days and Clouds

Days and Clouds (Giorni e nuvole)
Directed by Silvio Soldini
2007, 115 minutes, In Italian with English subtitles
Film Movement

It's not that we need another reminder of the demoralizing economy, but Bread and Tulips director Silvio Soldini's modest new captivator -- about a middle-aged Genoa couple whose relationship begins to buckle under the weight of financial duress -- exposes the tenuous politics of potentially every marriage with perceptive nuances, not the archetypal plate-throwing hysteria or maudlin austerity of countless European art-house dramas.

Blog entry 02/04/2009 - 3:33pm

Herzog Shorts Collection 2 Michael Atkinson for IFC on White Dog: "[B]eing put off by [Sam] Fuller's smacked-face style means missing the brute power of his metaphors and the audacity of his dialogue with society." Also reviewed is the Herzog Shorts Collection: Volume 2: "What's interesting... is how consistently throughout Herzog's career as a documentarian he has sought out people who almost by definition have no knowledge or interest in who he is, or, often, why he's filming them. Is that why he chooses them as his subjects? Is it an anti-narcissism, or a utopian desire for savage innocence? When is someone going to write a good biography of this myth-heavy man?" Amen.

Speaking of Fuller, though, Glenn Kenny's "Tuesday Morning Foreign Region DVD Report" for the Auteurs' Notebook this week is on Verboten!, Fuller's "statement on Nazis, their war crimes, and the post World-War-II occupation of Germany."

Blog entry 12/18/2008 - 1:18pm

DVDs, 12/2.

White Dog

"In its blunt, bludgeoning way, White Dog ranks among the toughest and most probing examinations of racism in American cinema," writes Dennis Lim in the Los Angeles Times . "[Sam] Fuller's brute-force direction gives this outrageous allegory the hyperbolic treatment it demands." More from Erin Donovan at the Guru and notes on it from Craig Phillips.

"The late Marguerite Duras's novels, with their accretion of visual detail and incantatory dialogue, lent themselves to movies, but Duras disliked others' adaptations of her work and began, in the 1960s, to direct," writes Richard Brody in the New Yorker. "Her fourth film, Nathalie Granger (in a two-disk set from Blaq Out / Facets), from 1972, is a vehicle for a pair of international divas, Jeanne Moreau and Lucia Bosé, albeit an unusually low-key one; the setting is a cluttered old house near Paris, which was Duras's own."

Blog entry 12/02/2008 - 4:56pm


Bottle Rocket "The coincidental releases this week of a pair of cult staples - Freaks and Geeks (in a deluxe 'yearbook' set) and Bottle Rocket (in a Criterion edition) - make for an intriguing compare-and-contrast exercise," writes Dennis Lim in the Los Angeles Times. "Since these early efforts, Judd Apatow and Wes Anderson have emerged as the twin kingpins of misfit man-child comedy." Related: "Owen and Luke Wilson's mom is apparently a pretty kick-ass black-and-white photographer and she documented tons of the Bottle Rocket boys adventures." The Playlist samples the work of Laura Wilson.

"Five years down the line, All the Real Girls retains its position as one of the most visually distinctive American independent films produced," writes Vadim Rizov at Screengrab. It may also be "one of the most influential films of the decade."

Blog entry 11/26/2008 - 3:16pm

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