The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie
(Fox Studio Classics, 1969) D: Ronald Neame w/ Maggie Smith, Robert Stephens, Pamela Franklin. Rating: NNNN
The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie might be the only film about a memorably eccentric teacher in which the teacher isn't a kindly influence for good on hundreds of young students but a monster of manipulation who influences them for the worse. Of course, Muriel Spark, upon whose novel and play the film is based, has never gone for heartwarming.
Set in 30s Glasgow and bristling with sharp Scottish accents, the film is a vehicle for Oscar winner Maggie Smith, whose thespian weaknesses, particularly a tendency to turn arch and mannered, are actually strengths here. Miss Brodie is a character who is mostly surface pose covering inner insecurity, as the screenplay too often reminds us.
This is a good transfer, though the late-60s approach to colour dates the film very precisely, and the commentary comes from director Ronald Neame and actor Pamela Franklin. Given the standards set by the Fox Studio Classics label, this is a little light on extras.
EXTRAS Director/actor commentary, stills gallery, theatrical trailer. English, French, Spanish versions, English and Spanish subtitles.
(Video Services Corp, 1989) D: Bruce McDonald w/ Valerie Buhagiar, Don McKellar. Rating: NNNN
Has it really been 15 years since Bruce McDonald stood up at the Toronto Film Festival luncheon and announced that he was going to use the $25,000 he received with the best Canadian feature prize to buy a really big chunk of hash? Roadkill finally arrives on DVD with a sharp black-and-white transfer from the original negative. McDonald's, screenwriter Don McKellar's and producer Colin Brunton's first feature, it maintains its rude energy and comic nihilism and offers one of the great rock soundtracks. The Ramones' Howling At The Moon is as inextricably wedded to this movie as anything in Tarantino.
The DVD offers an informative and entertaining commentary by Brunton and McKellar, who tell some tales out of school and offer useful pointers to young filmmakers with no money. My favourite boils down to "Do what you need to do and then ask permission."
EXTRAS Writer/producer commentary; two Bruce McDonald short films, Elimination Dance and Fort Goof; photo gallery.
(Columbia/TriStar, 2003) D: François Dupeyron, w/ Omar Sharif, Pierre Boulanger. Rating: NNN
This is a sweet movie about friendship across cultures. Set in the early 60s in a fictional Paris, it's the story of a neglected Jewish boy who finds a surrogate father in an aged Muslim shopkeeper played by Omar Sharif. The main reason to see it is Sharif, who, like Mastroianni, has kept his spectacular star power into his 70s, and brings gravitas to a role well outside the range he's best known for.
The disc's one bonus is a full-length commentary by Sharif that's partly about the film and partly reminiscences about a career that now spans half a century.
While you're at it, watch for Isabelle Adjani's unannounced cameo as someone like Brigitte Bardot.
EXTRAS Star commentary. French w/ English, Portuguese, Spanish subtitles.
Easy Riders, Raging Bulls: How The Sex, Drugs And Rock 'N' Roll Generation Saved Hollywood
(Shout Factory/BBC, 2003) D: Kenneth Bowser, w/ Peter Bogdanovich, Dennis Hopper. Rating: NNN
Inspired by Peter Biskind's book on Hollywood in the 70s, about the rise and fall of the independent filmmaker in Hollywood, this film offers interviews with a number of participants to create a mosaic portrait of the period. It's oral history, but what becomes apparent very quickly is that the principal players have no desire to rake over the period. Peter Bogdanovich, Dennis Hopper and Margot Kidder go on record, but not Francis Coppola, Brian De Palma or, for that matter, Martin Scorsese, who probably wasn't that eager to discuss the cocaine habit that nearly killed him while he was in post-production on The Last Waltz.
That doesn't mean it's not interesting to hear Hopper discuss The Last Movie, or Polly Platt discuss the collapse of her marriage to Bogdanovich, just that the proceedings lack a certain weight.
This is a well-produced documentary, and the second disc contains almost as much material organized around other subjects, like Coppola's career, and some insights from Biskind on the reaction to his book.
EXTRAS Second disc of additional interview material.
Love & Pop
(Kino/Pixi, 1998) D: Hideaki Anno w/ Kirari, Hirono Kudo. Rating: NNN
The innocuous title and cheery pictures of Japanese teen girls are belied by Kino's salacious come-on: "Schoolgirls by day... call girls by night." But what sounds like a pic about Japanese schoolgirl hookers turns out to be an almost experimental film about the bizarre world of "compensated dating," where schoolgirls have dinner with older men or watch videos with them, for cash, but don't actually have sex with them. Love & Pop is the first live-action film from anime star Hideaki Anno, creator of the Neon Envangelion series, and it's visually peculiar - hand-held video shooting, a square frame, close-ups filmed with wide-angle lenses, a lot of up-from-the-ankle shots and a willingness to flirt with the tasteless without actually indulging in it much. Less interesting as a drama than as a sociological bulletin.
EXTRAS Trailers and TV spots, Love & Pop music video. Japanese w/ English subtitles.
Coming Tuesday, July 13
The Manchurian Candidate
(MGM, 1962) Major upgrade of the old MGM special edition, with a new, anamorphic wide-screen transfer, all the old extras and a new Angela Lansbury interview.
The Barbarian Invasions
(Alliance Atlantis, 2003) Denys Arcand's recent visit with the characters from Decline Of The American Empire.
The Decline Of The American Empire
(Seville, 1986) Another upgrade, with Arcand's masterpiece finally in wide-screen and finally in French, replacing the old pan-and-scan dubbed version.
(20th Century Fox, 2003) Bertolucci revisits the glory days of Paris in 68. There's a Bertolucci commentary track, so perhaps he'll explain what the hell he was thinking.
= Critics' Pick
NNNNN = excellent, maintains big screen impact
NNNN = very good
NNN = worth a peek
NN = Mediocre
N = Bomb