Film DVD Reviews
THRILLER IN THE ELECTRIC MIST (15) 117min (High Fliers) ●●●●● The real mystery surrounding this adaptation of James Lee Burke’s bestselling crime novel In the Electric Mist With the Confederate Dead is why a perfectly respectable Hollywood movie boasting such an impressive cast and crew should be released straight-to-DVD? It stars Tommy Lee Jones as veteran Louisiana detective and recovering alcoholic Dave Robicheaux, also
who penned The Pledge for Sean Penn. OK, it’s no
masterpiece – Kromolowski’s script and Tavernier’s direction are somewhat pedestrian, and perhaps the source material is a little too genre conventional – but the cast is solid and the plot involving enough. That latter sees Robicheaux’s investigation of the serial killing of young prostitutes and the unearthing of an ancient racially motivated murder, both of which crimes are inevitably linked. Extras include
features Mary Steenburgen, Peter Sarsgaard, John Goodman, Kelly Macdonald, Ned Beatty and blues legend Buddy Guy, and is directed by French auteur Bertrand Tavernier from a script by Jerzy Kromolowski,
Beaches of Agnes
Having exhausted the vaults of British Transport Films, the GPO Film Unit and the National Coal Board Film Unit, the British Film Institute now turns to the Central Office of Information. COI Collection: Volume 1 – Police and Thieves (BFI) ●●●●● is actually a fascinating glimpse at old school policing, prevention and punishment. From Jack Lee's beautifully photographed Children on Trial, about two Liverpool slum children’s experiences at ‘approved schools’, to the unsentimental Four Men in Prison, these short monochrome films play like minute realist dramas and are far more compelling than they should be.
One of the releases of the year has to be Three Films by Jean-Marie
Straub and Daniele Huillet (New Wave Films) ●●●●●, the long overdue collection of films by the French filmmaking team known for their intellectual rigour, Marxist overtones and austere aesthetic. Their work is generally more admired and name checked than seen, but hopefully this lovely set of three of their films, The Chronicle of Anna Magdalena Bach (1968), Sicilia! (1998) and Une Visite au Louvre (2004) will change that. The Agnes Varda Collection: Volume 2 (Artificial Eye) ●●●●● brings the
work of the aging stateswoman of French cinema up to date with lovely documentary Jacquot de Nantes (1991, about her husband Jacques Demy), brilliant gritty drifter drama Vagabond (1985), feminist drama L’Une Chante, L’Autre Pas (1977) and her recent autobiographical portrait Beaches of Agnes. The Little Box of Big Gay Love (and other stories) (Peccadillo) ●●●●●
features 25 gay short films – that's over seven hours of entertainment. As is the way with short film collections, there is some dirt in with the pearls but either way this would make a great Valentine's Day present.
Finally let's spare a thought for original French bad boy Jean-Claude Brisseau. Brisseau was and is one of the baddest of the new French cinema extremists who include Gasper Noe, Catherine Breillat and Bruno Dumont. His most famous film is the immoral and erotic Les Choses Secretes (Secret Things). However, arrest and prison stalled his career in the mid noughties when he was done for sexual misconduct (with three women he was auditioning, allegedly). Two of Brisseau’s earliest films Un Jeu Brutal/De Bruit et de Fureur (Axiom) ●●●●● are available for the first time on DVD. They are as rough, shocking and mad as anything he made later. Cinema does not come much more provocative, challenging or incendiary than this. (Paul Dale)
58 THE LIST 4–18 Feb 2010
obese consumer culture’ and accordingly gives her subjects room to digress and expound on the ideas that drive them. We are left in no doubt that this bunch of eccentrics, loners and mad men are exercising their artistic freedoms in ways that few artists ever do. Well worth renting, downloading or stealing. Minimal extras. (Paul Dale) DRAMA TAKING CHANCE (PG) 78min (HBO) ●●●●●
There’s something to be said about a movie which doesn’t take the knee-jerk sensationalist route to making its point. And with a sensitive subject, such as the war in Iraq, you can see why Taking Chance would opt not to ramp up the heat. Appalling as a gung ho approach would have been, it’s matched by this dignity-filled, tedium-loaded movie about a marine bringing a fallen soldier back home. With its lush production and over- reliance on slo-mo, it comes across like a spectacularly dull episode of Cold Case and provides yet another reason for wishing that Blair and Bush had kept their warmongering tendencies in their pockets.
Kevin Bacon plays a guilt-ridden Lt Col Michael Strobl who steps up from his military desk job to escort the body of teenage marine Chance Phelps (hence the terrible title) to his Wyoming home. The DVD extras, which quietly discuss the true life and death of Phelps, are a marginally more affecting way to spend an afternoon. (Brian Donaldson)
British actresses – Vanessa Redgrave and Glenda Jackson – go head to head as Mary and Liz. It’s all bustles, barbs and baits while the then cream of British stage and screen (Timothy Dalton, Ian Holm, Patrick McGoohan, Trevor Howard) hover like vultures awaiting the final kill. Undoubtedly the template for Shekhar Kapur’s even more fanciful two Elizabeth films starring Cate Blanchett. Good extras include an isolated John Barry music track, commentary by film historians Nick Redman and Jon Burlingame. (Paul Dale) DOCUMENTARY DIED YOUNG, STAYED PRETTY (E) 95min (ICA) ●●●●●
Eileen Yaghoobian’s film delves into the underground poster culture in North America. In detailing the motivations and examining the creative spirit of these independent graphic designers, Yaghoobian uncovers a whole stratum of embittered creativity, one driven to essay America’s schizophrenic culture with all its inherent greed.
Yaghoobian understands that she is dealing with what is very much an underground counter culture that is at war with what they see as America’s ‘morbidly
‘behind the scenes’ documentary Journey Through the Mist. (Miles Fielder) MUSICAL/HORROR THE FOX FAMILY (15) 102min (Terracotta) ●●●●●
Manic Korean tale about a family of shape- shifting ‘kumiho’ (literally a nine-tailed fox) spirits hiding out with a circus troupe as they prepare to become human beings. The chance occurs only once every thousand years and requires that they eat a human liver. Can they do it? Easier said than done when they’re a warm-hearted family not really given to the ruthlessness required. Padding out the running time with musical numbers as we await the big day, the film has its tongue in its cheek and up the audience’s derriere. This macabre piece of musical slapstick is pitched somewhere between The Happiness of the Katakuris and The Addams Family. The cast includes Korean stars Ha Jung-woo, Ju Hyeon and Park Si- yeon, and there’s an extended reference to Nic Roeg’s 1973 chiller Don’t Look Now. Like eating liver, Lee Hyung- gon’s film is bit of an acquired taste. Minimal extras. (Tony McKibbin)
DRAMA MARY, QUEEN OF SCOTS (PG) 126min (Second Sight) ●●●●●
Charles Jarrott’s 1971 historical melodrama chronicling the tiaras, tantrums and Machiavellian spite traded between Tudor royal cousins Mary and Elizabeth re-emerges on DVD as something of a surprise. For Mary, Queen of Scots is no stuffy history lesson but a pretty spicy battle of wits in which two fine