(Sony, 2006) D: Pedro Almodóvar w/ Penélope Cruz, Carmen Maura, Lola Dueñas. Rating: NNNNN; DVD package: NNN
This is the third time I've seen Pedro Almodóvar's Volver and the fourth or fifth time I've written about it, and its charm does not fade on repeated viewings.
It's a great film, a cinematically voluptuous thriller-comedy starring Penélope Cruz as a Madrid housewife who must simultaneously deal with the unexpected death of her husband and the even more unexpected return of her mother (Carmen Maura) from the dead. A bit slow and a bit long, but Almodóvar does give us time to savour the world he has created.
On the extras, the commentary features mostly Almodóvar, who on occasion pauses to let Cruz get a word in. It's in Spanish with English subtitles. As there is no English-language dub of the film, you can't play the commentary and wander off - unless you speak Spanish, of course.
There are some short interviews with Almodóvar, Cruz and Maura that seem to have been done during a junket by an interviewer who decides to "theme" her questions rather than ask about the film itself.
EXTRAS Director/star commentary, director and cast interviews, short making-of featurette, theatrical trailer. Spanish w/ English subtitles.
The Mario Bava Collection, Vol. 1: Black Sunday, Black Sabbath, The Girl Who Knew Too Much, Knives Of The Avenger, Kill, Baby... Kill!
(Anchor Bay, 1960-68) D: Mario Bava w/ Barbara Steele, Boris Karloff, Rating: NNNN; DVD package: NNN
The father of the modern Italian horror film, Mario Bava presents certain problems when it comes to recommending his movies. More than three decades past his key works of the 60s, he looks like a guy with an atmospheric visual sense and a blithe indifference to linear narrative logic, but not necessarily special - unless you've seen enough imitation Bava to appreciate the real thing.
This first box in a promised series offers two of his classic-period horror films, Black Sunday and Black Sabbath (alas, only in the Italian version, which takes away from Boris Karloff's last great performance), the brilliant proto-giallo The Girl Who Knew Too Much, the surreal horror thriller Kill, Baby...Kill! and, presumably because they had a print lying around, his Viking movie, Knives Of The Avenger.
It's a mixed bag, and I wish they'd done some restoration on the transfers, which are acceptable but not first-rate. Tim Lucas's commentaries, imported from the old Image issues, go a long way toward sorting out the different cuts and editions of the films he discusses. And he does a yeoman's job of trying to sort out the plots.
EXTRAS Critical commentaries by Bava biographer Tim Lucas on Black Sunday, Black Sabbath and The Girl Who Knew Too Much; interviews with Mark Damon (Black Sabbath) and John Saxon (The Girl Who Knew Too Much); theatrical trailers for all five films; Bava trailer gallery; TV spots.
Twin Peaks: Complete Season Two
(Paramount, 1990-91) D: David Lynch w/ Kyle MacLachlan, Michael Ontkean. Rating: NNN; DVD package: NNN
David Lynch once said he thought people didn't care who killed Laura Palmer, but I suspect he really meant that he didn't care who killed Laura Palmer, which means that season two of Twin Peaks, aka "My god, we've got 22 episodes to fill," wanders off in many directions without actually getting anywhere much, a fate that befalls long-form series that haven't quite worked out their destination. (Anyone else give up on Lost this season?)
Twin Peaks: Season Two is a must for Lynch completists. He directed five episodes, and this gives us the chance to compare real Lynch to people who are trying to be David Lynch. This is instructive.
On the other hand, Lynch's longstanding fondness for atmospheric visuals combined with his indifference to narrative logic drives some people crazy.
Given Lynch's distaste for commenting on his work and the fact that the series is now 16 years gone, the DVD package is not bad.
EXTRAS Interviews with series directors Caleb Deschanel, Duwayne Dunham, Todd Holland, Tim Hunter and Steven Gyllenhaal and Laura Palmer Diary creator Jennifer Lynch. English, Spanish, Portuguese audio. Spanish and Portuguese subtitles.
Into Great Silence
(Mongrel, 2005) D: Philip Gröning. Rating: NNN; DVD package: barebones
I've been dodging this film since the 2005 Venice Festival, where the catalogue said, "The Grande Chartreuse, the mother house of the Carthusian order, is based in the French Alps. Into Great Silence is the first film ever made about life inside the Grande Chartreuse. Silence. Repetition. Rhythm. It is an austere, near-silent meditation...."
In its favour, that description is accurate. If you liked Kundun, you'll like Into Great Silence - unless you like Kundun because of the Philip Glass music.
There's no denying the virtues of Into Great Silence. It achieves exactly what it sets out to do over its almost-three-hour running time. It is beautifully shot, patient, attentive to detail. And it drove me straight up the wall. The Salon reviewer claimed it was necessary to "battle boredom" to reach the film's greatness. Hell, no. I already have to battle boredom in films where it's not part of an aesthetic strategy.
EXTRAS None. French/Latin audio. English, French subtitles.
Coming Tuesday, April 10
Jonestown: The Life And Death Of The People's Temple
Stanley Nelson's striking documentary originally aired as part of PBS's American Experience documentary series.
The Gigli of its day, this Madonna-Sean Penn romantic comedy has been so seldom screened since first run that people ask, "Is it really that bad?" Well, it's not that bad, but it ain't good. Given that neither actor has a discernible sense of humour, that's probably not surprising.
Le Petit Lieutenant
French film veteran Nathalie Baye (she played the script girl in Truffaut's Day For Night) grabbed her fourth Cesar (nine nominations) for her performance as a veteran Parisian cop in this film.
Sleeping Dogs Lie
Bobcat Goldthwait directs this comedy about a woman who really needs to keep her secret - or at least date a guy who respects her boundaries. Somewhere the Farrelly Brothers are smacking themselves on the forehead, muttering, "Why didn't we think of that?"