himalaya (1999, Mongrel), dir. Eric Valli w/ Thilen Lhondup, Gurgon Kyap. Rating: NNNN
Come for the drama, stay for the anthropology! Director Eric Valli and his crew spent months shooting in the Himalayas, with non-professional actors and no special effects. The astonishing visual spectacle at times threatens to overwhelm the story about an archetypal power struggle in a tiny Nepalese village.
Mongrel's DVD offers the sort of transfer that tempts you to drop a couple of grand on a wide-screen TV, and the commentary track by director Valli and his unit photographer, Debra Kellner, is a cut or two above the usual "We shot this at 3 in the morning, and everybody was really tired" style -- shooting at 15,000 feet, everyone's tired.
Valli is one of those Frenchmen with a deep admiration for indigenous cultures, and has spent enough time in the Himalayas and with the people in his film to offer some genuine insights into a culture as different from from the modern West as any.
EXTRAS: Director's commentary, electronic press kit, 26-minute making-of documentary, theatrical trailer. English subtitles.
Big-screen rating: Valli's love letter to a disappearing Tibetan way of life is set against stunning visuals. NNNN (IR)
jay and silent bob strike back (2001, Alliance Atlantis), dir. Kevin Smith w/ Smith, Jason Mewes. Rating: NN
A pendant to Smith's Red Bank Trilogy of Clerks, Mallrats and Chasing Amy, Jay And Silent Bob Strike Back is a monumental series of in-jokes; everyone who's ever been in a Smith film is here, some in multiple roles.
In essence, Jay and Silent Bob set out for California to stop the filming of a Bluntman And Chronic movie (see Chasing Amy for explanation), encounter jewel thieves disguised as eco-terrorists and wind up wandering the exceedingly fictional Miramax back lot, all the while pursued by the police.
It is fitfully amusing, depending on your tolerance for Mewes, Smith's foul-mouthed id figure, and very funny in the last 25 minutes or so, when the Miramax gags start to pile up: Ben Affleck and Matt Damon on the set of Good Will Hunting 2, Shannon Doherty on the set of Scream 4 and Brian O'Halloran (Dante from Clerks) wandering out of the premiere of Bluntman And Chronic muttering, "I can't believe they got Judi Dench to play me!"
EXTRAS: Five hours' worth. Smith, Mewes and producer Scott Mosier provide the commentary. Smith, sitting in his Red Hook, New Jersey, comic-book store, Jay And Silent Bob's Secret Stash, introduces every one of the 50(!) deleted scenes. That's over 90 minutes of stuff that Mewes describes as "the bullshit that wasn't good enough to get into a movie that wasn't good enough to get into theatres to begin with!" There's also a gag reel, trailers, TV spots, a making-of special from Comedy Central, music videos and a character guide to the View Askew Universe.
Big-screen rating: Fun, but only for hardcore Smith fans. NNN
Also this week
Cinderella 2: Dreams Come True