Amélie (2001, Alliance/Atlantis) dir. Jean-Pierre Jeunet w/ Audrey Tautou, Mathieu Kassovitz. Rating: NNNN
Why is it that even cynical people fall for the inordinate charm of Amélie? I think it's because the director has avoided any sort of natural colour palette: the blues have been drained out of Amélie so it's dominated by ochres and a kind of bilious post-industrial green. By refusing to use candy colours, Jeunet keeps the film from becoming a marathon of whimsy, and relocates it closer to the dark fantasies of Delicatessen and Alien Resurrection. If you think too long about the principal character, perfectly played by Tautou, you realize she's an astonishingly annoying busybody, and in her romantic pre-relationship with Kassovitz, possibly insane.
This two-disc special edition DVD roughly duplicates the fully loaded French special edition (selected as one of the first 10 DVDs in the Cannes Collection this year). It also includes an English-language commentary track that is not a straight translation of the French commentary track, which is also included, though unsubtitled. Most interesting revelation in the commentary? The apartment interiors in this most French of films were shot on German sound stages. The beautiful wide-screen transfer does full justice to Jeunet's eccentric compositions and colour choices.
EXTRAS: Two director commentaries, director interview, making-of featurette, cinematographer interview, out-takes, screen tests, trailers, storyboards, filmographies, photo galleries.
top secret! (1984, Paramount) dir. David Zucker, Jim Abrahams and Jerry Zucker w/ Val Kilmer, Lucy Gutteridge. Rating: NNNN
This directing trio had large hits with Airplane! and Hot Shots! (they are very fond of exclamation points), but their funniest film, moment to moment, is this berserk amalgam of the Elvis musical with the second-world-war spy movie. There are some classic bits of cerebral humour: the bookstore routine is a jaw-dropper, and the subtitled East German national anthem, set to the tune of the directors' high school anthem, is fall-on-the-floor funny. The film also marks the debut of star Kilmer, who does his own singing. The directors sit with producer Jon Davison for a very interesting and funny commentary, wherein they spend much time mulling over why the film failed to connect with audiences.
EXTRAS: Directors/producer commentary, deleted scenes, storyboards, English and French versions, English titles.
our man flint (1965, 20th Century Fox) dir. Daniel Mann w/ James Coburn, Lee J. Cobb. And in like flint (1967, 20th Century Fox) dir. Gordon Douglas w/ James Coburn, Lee J. Cobb. Rating: Nn
Fox releases a four-pack of "shagadelic" 60s spy spoofs that may be of interest to connoisseurs of bizarre 60s pop culture, but I can't imagine who else. In addition to the Flint pictures, there's Modesty Blaise and Fathom. Modesty Blaise is the most remarkable mismatching of director (Joseph Losey) with material in a decade notable for many such mismatches, and Raquel Welch had one of her first starring roles in Fathom. The Flints remain watchable largely due to Coburn's inordinate charm as Derek Flint, expert fencer, martial artist, connoisseur of wine and exotic poisons and all-round insanely rich genius superspy. Glorious mono soundtracks, too.
EXTRAS: Trailers, English and French version, English, French and Spanish subtitles.
MEMENTO: SPECIAL EDITION
I've received a few e-mails regarding Memento: Special Edition, all of which boil down to "How the hell do you get through the menu of the second disc to access the supplemental materials?" Good question. I wrestled with the same problem till a friend pointed me to http://world.std.com/~trystero/Memento_LE.html. DVD fan Douglas Bailey actually worked his way through most of the menu, and has posted directions at this site.
Also this weekAlso this week
Piero Benjamin Bratt plays the ex-con junkie New York playwright.
Storytelling Another Todd Solondz journey into bourgeois hypocrisy. Excellent Paul Giamatti performance as a down-and-out filmmaker.
John Q Denzel Washington holds a hospital ER hostage to get medical attention for his son.
= Critics' Pick
NNNNN = excellent, maintains big screen impact
NNNN = very good
NNN = worth a peek
NN = Mediocre
N = Bomb
No rating indicates no screening copy