Film DVD Reviews

THRILLER SECRET DEFENSE (15) 166 min (Artificial Eye DVD retail) ●●●●● Veteran New Wave filmmaker Jacques Rivette (Paris Nous Appartient, La Belle

Noiseuse, Celine and Julie Go Boating) explores the sins of the past. Rivette regular Sandrine Bonnaire plays Parisian research scientist Sylvie Rousseau. When her brother shows her a picture, it looks like their father’s business partner was implicated in his death some years before. Sylvie heads south intent on killing Jerzy Radziwilowicz’s lubricious manipulator and Rivette does several things that make this, if you like, a sensation- oriented rather than a narrative driven conspiracy thriller. He slows everything down so that every moment has potential menace; he keeps the revelations vague and slightly improbable, and uses the everyday sound of objects dropped into silence instead of using a score. If most filmmakers show that conspiracy is contained by the story and generic baddies and corporations, Rivette masterfully suggests that within any plot there is another lurking, and uses naturalistic means to give us a sense of paranoia beyond the frame. Minimal extras. (Tony McKibbin)


Where the Wild Things Are

Cool just doesn’t quite do the job of summarising the compilation of theme tunes and incidental bits from the Incorporated Television Company’s archive. Even if you’ve never seen the likes of Danger Man, The Saint or Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased) the original not the lame Vic’n’Bob rehash you can’t help but wish you were back in the heart of the Swinging 60s when passive smoking and lurid misogyny was all the rage. With the Best of ITC (Network ●●●●●) you can either take in all the blaring horns and soar away strings in a wholly un-postmodern way or reflect bitterly on how some of these tunes have become bastardised as theme tunes by broadcasters such as Mark Radcliffe and Chris Evans.

If ‘painfully cool’ nutshells the ITC sound, then ‘bruisingly eclectic’ is likely

the best description to hand for Fantastic Mr Fox (Abkco Records ●●●●●). As Wes Anderson becomes the latest director to dip into the Roald Dahl back catalogue, he does so with a jam-packed sonic backdrop provided by the likes of Burl Ives, Art Tatum and Jarvis Cocker, while surely nabbing the soundtrack tune title of the year: ‘Just Another Dead Rat in a Garbage Pail (Behind a Chinese Restaurant)’. Funny People (Concord Records ●●●●●) doesn’t match Fox for variety, instead plumping for a folk-rock finish but evens up the score on the quality factor with McCartney, Wilco, Lennon and Coconut Records featuring strongly. Burdened with the knowledge that Spike Jonze has got his directorial mitts

on Maurice Sendak’s classic tale of anger management and yellow-eyed solitude, you might fear that the soundtrack by Karen O and The Kids will sound as overblown and wonky as the film has potential to be. Fortunately, Where the Wild Things Are (Polydor ●●●●●) manages to breathe hope into the venture with sensitive balladeering pitched somewhere between The Breeders and Patti Smith. It all falls apart when Ms O unleashes her melody- unfriendly kids choir for moments that will undoubtedly work beautifully for big screen displays of island anarchy but when intended for your ears only provide actual bodily harm. Somewhat more soothing, but no less scary, is Life on Earth (Trunk Records ●●●●●), a selection of offerings from the 1979 series which did for frogs and flatworms what the ITC archive achieved for dandy crimefighters. As this compilation suggests, it wasn’t just the daleks who had that era’s telly watchers diving for cover. (Brian Donaldson)

52 THE LIST 22 Oct–5 Nov 2009

DRAMA JEANNE LA PUCELLE: THE BATTLES/THE PRISONS (15) 160/176min (Artificial Eye DVD retail) ●●●●●

where she will be by the evening. Minimal extras. (Tony McKibbin) THRILLER NIGHT TRAIN TO INVERNESS (U) 70min (Pegasus DVD retail) ●●●●●

Directed by oft overlooked British film and TV director Ernest Morris (The Tell-Tale Heart, The Court Martial of Major Keller), this tight, train-bound 1960 thriller has a lot to recommend it. When ex-convict Roy

Lewis (Norman Wooland) turns up in London to see his estranged wife and seven-year-old son Ted, his mother-in-law refuses to let him see them. Frustrated, he kidnaps his son and boards the night train to Inverness for a new life in Scotland. But Ted is a diabetic and Roy hasn’t got any insulin. Gutsy (for its time) and very watchable, Night Train to Inverness is certainly a period curio, not least because that is indeed Dennis Minder Waterman as young Ted. Minimal extras. (Paul Dale)

COMEDY/DRAMA PLAYING AWAY (15) 97min (BFI DVD retail) ●●●●●

A very welcome reissue of Horace Pressure Ové’s 1987 comedy of race manners. When a West Indian cricket team from Brixton travels to a Suffolk village to play against the local team as the

Following on from Carl Dreyer and Robert Bresson in exploring the story of Joan of Arc, Jacques Rivette offers an account of the martyr that is as political and gender oriented as it is spiritual in this 1995 two-film epic finally available on two separate standalone DVDs. Sandrine Bonnaire (Vagabond, Police) plays her as a matter-of-fact woman who dresses as a man and takes her orders from God almost the way one might consult an accountant or any lay expert, and as with many a Bonnaire role there is an earthy naturalness. For Rivette the divine and the devilish lie in the detail; it’s a five and a half hour account of Joan leaving her village, fighting for her king, and dying for God, King and country. If Dreyer’s film was famous for its use of close-ups, Bresson’s for its clipped editing, Rivette’s Jeanne la Pucelle is a work of mise-en-scene as the director tracks and zooms to capture the nuance of power relations in screen space. An epic of muted feeling, the film’s most telling and powerful line comes when Bonnaire mounts the steps to the stake and wonders

culmination of the village’s Third World Week, racial tensions quickly bubble to the surface. Writer/director Ové subtly explores and ultimately transcends racial stereotypes to make one of the best but least well-known British sports films of the 1980s. Excellent extras include Horace Ové in conversation with Mike Phillips and an illustrated booklet containing essays and credits. (Paul Dale) HORROR COLIN (18) 97min (Spirit Entertainment DVD) ●●●●●

Young Welsh horror movie fan Marc Price apparently made this zombie flick for just £45 the cost of keeping his crewmates in tea and biscuits for the 18 months of weekend filming plus a few buckets of red food dye. If true, that makes this credit-crunch chiller a remarkable achievement, and all the more so for being a pretty good addition to the much reworked horror subgenre. Price has hit on a fresh approach by having one of the living dead as the protagonist. As the film opens Colin (Alastair Kirton) is turning into a flesh eater after having been bitten by one. Thereafter, it follows him as he wanders around a post-apocalyptic suburban London, where he bumps into other undead and human survivors, and through these encounters Colin learns more about who he was and what he has become.

It’s a good enough idea to maintain the interest in what, it has to be admitted, does look like a low- or no-budget film. Minimal extras. (Miles Fielder)