The Films Of Alejandro Jodorowsky: La Cravate, Fando Y Lis, El Topo, The Holy Mountain
(Anchor Bay, 1957-73) D: Jodorowsky, w/ Jodorowsky, Sergio Kleiner, Diana Mariscal, Alfonso Arau. Rating: NN; DVD package: NNNN
Alejandro Jodorowsky was a great underground hit back in the early 70s. El Topo, his mystical, acid-tinged western, aptly described by Pauline Kael as what might have happened had the Spanish surrealist Luis Buñuel attempted a spaghetti western, was the first great success of the midnight movies circuit. The Holy Mountain is an even more mystical, messianic mess, but if you like surrealist ego run amok, it's hard to argue with a movie where the director is also the scenarist, star and composer - though "composer" may be stretching it a bit.
If you're interested in Jodorowsky, it's hard to beat Anchor Bay's four-DVD, two-CD box set. The beautiful transfers of El Topo and The Holy Mountain come with new director commentaries (in Spanish, with subtitles).
His two early films, La Cravate and Fando Y Lis, are included the former a mime adaptation of Thomas Mann's play The Transposed Heads, the latter a free adaptation of Arrabal's absurdist play.
Most importantly, Louis Mouchet's 1994 documentary, The Jodorowsky Constellation, is a big help when trying to make sense of the director. A mime in his youth, in old age he's still more pretentious than three French literary theorists put together.
Extras Director commentary on El Topo and Holy Mountain, La Constellation Jodorowsky, soundtrack CDs for El Topo and The Holy Mountain, theatrical trailers, brief new interviews with Jodorowsky, stills galleries, script excerpts. Spanish and English audio. English, Spanish, Portuguese and French subtitles.
(DreamWorks/Paramount, 2006) D: Bill Condon, w/ Jamie Foxx, Beyoncé Knowles, Eddie Murphy, Jennifer Hudson. Rating: NN; DVD package: NNNN
The first hour of Dreamgirls is like watching a really long trailer for Dreamgirls. The second hour is like watching all the movie's Oscar clips in a row.
This is the story of Motown and the Supremes, with Curtis/Berry Gordy (Jamie Foxx) as Satan and Effie/Florence Ballard (Jennifer Hudson) as the sacrificial lamb on the altar of the stardom of Deena/Diana Ross (Beyoncé). Eddie Murphy is along as the convenient symbol of the music back when it was still black, so sometimes he's James Brown and at other times Marvin Gaye or Little Richard.
Problem is, composer Henry Krieger and lyricist Tom Eyen are Broadway hacks, and none of the songs in the play/movie is as good as Stop In The Name Of Love.
The DVD package has an imposing pile of extras, including a two-hour making-of that will tell you all those things you need to know, as well as audition and screen test footage. How the movie was made turns out to be more interesting than the movie itself.
Extras Extended musical numbers, Beyoncé music video, feature-length making-of, featurettes on lighting, costumes and editing, audition and screen tests, image gallery. English and French audio. English and Spanish subtitles.
(Alliance Atlantis, 2006) D: Todd Field, w/ Kate Winslet, Patrick Wilson, Jackie Earle Haley. Rating: NNN; DVD package: bare bones.
Director Todd Field (In The Bedroom) worked with novelist Tom Perrotta on this adaptation of Perrotta's tale of suburban adultery and parental paranoia.
It's rather like John Cheever without the martini lunches and commuter trains, but I wish Field would stop using the art-house "ritard" slowing everything down so you have time to get pregnant in the pregnant pauses and to savour every little nuance.
There are times when I know we're supposed to be thinking about Kate Winslet's guilty thoughts but all I can do is listen to the chirping crickets.
The reason to watch Little Children is the performances of Winslet, Jackie Earle Haley and Noah Emmerich.
As for the film's Oscar nominations, as much as I like Winslet, she's turning into this decade's Glenn Close or Marsha Mason, the automatic fifth nominee on everyone's Oscar ballot, and this is not her best work.
Extras None. English, French audio and subtitles.
(TLA/Mongrel, 2005) D: Emmanuel Carr`re, w/ Vincent Lindon, Emmanuelle Devos, Mathieu Amalric. Rating: NNN; DVD package: NNN
One morning, vincent lindon is sitting in the tub shaving and asks his wife (Emmanuelle Devos) what she'd think if he shaved his moustache. Then he does, and nobody notices. Indeed, they act as if he'd never had a moustache.
This drives Lindon up the wall, and the result is that people who know him now think he's crazy. The Moustache is, on the one hand, tonally compelling, as you can never figure out where the film is going. On the other, it's dramatically underpowered, because there's not a great deal at stake once we're sure that Lindon's not actually going crazy.
The pleasures here are the finely detailed performances; so much of French film is small-scale domestic drama, it's the sort of thing the French do more convincingly than anyone else, helped by the way every French film actor seems to have worked with every other actor at least twice. They achieve domestic familiarity with great ease.
Extras Director/editor interview, making-of featurette. French audio, English subtitles.
Coming Tuesday (May 8)
Music And Lyrics
Drew Barrymore is adorable; Hugh Grant recycles his character from About A Boy as a faded 80s pop star. Worth a rent for the painfully pointed parody of 80s pop videos.
Breaking And Entering
(Weinstein/Alliance Atlantis, 2006)
Director Anthony Minghella's first contemporary film since Truly, Madly, Deeply, with Jude Law and Juliette Binoche as mismatched lovers with ulterior motives.
Deliver Us From Evil
Chilling documentary study of clerical sexual abuse and the Catholic Church's role in covering it up.
A Comedy Of Power
Hard to go wrong with the director/star combo of Claude Chabrol and Isabelle Huppert. This political thriller disclaims any resemblance to recent political events in France. Yeah, right.
= Critics' Pick
NNNNN = excellent, maintains big screen impact
NNNN = very good
NNN = worth a peek
NN = Mediocre
N = Bomb