(Sony, 2005) D: Michael Haneke, w/ Daniel Auteuil, Juliette Binoche. Rating: NNNNN
As if he were trying to gloss David Lynch's Lost Highway, Austrian auteur Michael Haneke begins Caché with mysteriously threatening videotapes that are sent to the Laurents (Daniel Auteuil and Juliette Binoche). But Haneke has bigger fish to fry than Lynch's reality/illusion paradox, or perhaps explores the same paradox with a reality that's more real. The illusion is the bobo normalcy of this Parisian marriage. To paraphrase David Byrne, this is my beautiful house, this is my beautiful wife, now some half-remembered person/event/memory from my childhood wants to rise up and somehow take it from me.
Haneke keeps a remorseless distance from his characters. He employs a mercilessly objective camera style in an era when filmmakers default to close-up, keeping back and forcing us to look at these lives.
Some reviewers feel the important thing about Caché is that it "deals" with issues of French colonialism and racism, but that's too easy. Its real subject is the fragility of the characters' bourgeois comfort. They're destroyed not only by this frightening intrusion into their lives, but also by the way it challenges their self-image. It's brilliant slow-motion thriller with great performances; Binoche and Auteuil have played married so often that they feel like a married couple.
Extras: A pair of excellent half-hour featurettes: an interview with Haneke and an on-set piece that actually shows what a director does. French soundtrack. English and Spanish subtitles.
Chuck Berry: Hail! Hail! Rock 'N' Roll, The Ultimate Collector's Edition
(Image/Paradox, 1987) D: Taylor Hackford, w/ Chuck Berry, Keith Richards. Rating: NNNNN
Two decades back, Taylor Hackford and his producers got together with Keith Richards to stage a 60th birthday tribute show for Chuck Berry. The result is this highly entertaining film, with some great musical guests including the young Robert Cray, Eric Clapton, Linda Ronstadt and Etta James. The DVD goes the feature film one better with its tales of a recalcitrant and self-sabotaging Berry who would not show up for the shoot unless he was paid. Daily. In cash. No one ever said you had to be a nice guy to be a great musician, and Berry probably spent enough of his life getting burned by producers and record companies to justify his paranoia. But here, in essence, he's messing with people whose objective is to honour his contribution to pop culture. Of course, I know lots of people who are very nice, but none of them can claim to have invented rock 'n' roll.
The high rating is for the four-disc edition. The two-disc set is good, but if you're interested enough to want it, you'll want all the goodies on the four.
Extras: The two-disc edition has an hour-plus making-of documentary and another hour of rehearsal footage, including some great guitar jams and Etta James blowing the roof off the rehearsal hall. The four-disc set adds the complete interviews that Hackford excerpted for the movie - half-hours with the magnificently self-absorbed Jerry Lee Lewis, the thoughtful Bo Diddley, the astonishingly pompous Sam Phillips and others, and an hour of Berry, Little Richard and Diddley sitting around reminiscing about the early days of rock 'n' roll, money, the music business and American racism. Plus an extended discussion between Berry and Robbie Robertson. Theatrical trailer. DTS soundtrack.
Imagine Me & You
(Fox, 2005) D: Ol Parker, w/ Piper Perabo, Lena Headey. Rating: NNN
This charming, low-key comedy stars Piper Perabo as a young Englishwoman who, while walking down the aisle on her wedding day, locks eyes with the florist and realizes she's not just marrying the wrong man, she's marrying the wrong gender. It's sort of One Wedding And No Funeral, with lesbians instead of Hugh Grant. Though it's not a striking or startling movie in any way - writer/director Ol Parker decides what the problems will be fairly early in the story and then follows the usual ways of overcoming them - the two stars really carry the picture. Perabo's adult performance atones for her work in Coyote Ugly.
Extras: Director commentary, deleted/extended scenes with commentary, cast interview. English, French soundtracks. English, Spanish subtitles.
Masters Of Horror - Lucky McKee: Sick Girl
(Anchor Bay, 2005) D: Lucky McKee, w/ Angela Bettis, Erin Brown. Rating: NNN
Another extras-packed issue in Anchor Bay's Masters Of Horror TV series. Lucky McKee did an exceptionally interesting little horror picture called May starring Sick Girl heroine Angela Bettis. Here, she plays a dorky entomologist who falls for an artist. The part was actually written for a man, then given to Bettis virtually unchanged, which leads to, among other things, the awkwardest lesbian seduction scene ever and a performance of genuine comic oddness. (This sharp actor also starred in the TV remake of Carrie). As in this month's other MOH issue, John Landis's Deer Woman, the monsters are pushed to a level of abstract absurdity, the better to concentrate on character comedy. McKee gives Bettis and co-star Erin Brown lots of room.
As usual with this series, the issue comes with an excellent extras package, though surely I'm not alone in thinking it's a little early for career retrospectives on a guy who's made two films. McKee ain't exactly John Carpenter.
Extras: Director/cast commentary, interviews with McKee, Bettis, Brown, production featurettes, stills gallery, DVD-ROM screenplay.
Coming Tuesday, July 4
(Weinstein/Alliance, 2005) Pierce Brosnan plays a hit man at the end of his tether who buddies up to Greg Kinnear's dull normal travelling salesman.
(Universal, 2005) Biopic about the life and suspicious death of Rolling Stone Brian Jones. Not a documentary.
(Weinstein/Alliance, 2005) Johnny Depp plays the Earl of Rochester, adding to my suspicion that Depp often picks his roles for the wardrobe.
= Critics' Pick
NNNNN = excellent, maintains big screen impact
NNNN = very good
NNN = worth a peek
NN = Mediocre
N = Bomb