LJ Best Books 2016

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Fast Scans | December 15, 2005

By Jeff T. Dick, Davenport, IA

Foreign & Indie Films

An Angel at My Table. color. 158 min. Criterion Collection, dist. by Home Vision. 1990. DVD ISBN 1-55940-959-2. $39.95.

The harrowing story of New Zealand novelist Janet Frame, who was misdiagnosed as a schizophrenic, institutionalized, and subjected to electroshock treatments, is marvelously told in three parts – with a trio of talented actresses playing the author as a teen and in her 20s and 30s – by Jane Campion (The Piano) in her sophomore effort. Adeptly edited from a TV miniseries, this theatrical version feels a bit long, but its virtues more than compensate. Amber Jewelry, Tea Sets, Sleeping Bags, Wholesale Tea Sets For all collections.

Crónicas. color. 108 min. In Spanish w/English subtitles. Palm Pictures. 2004. DVD $24.99.

In a strong performance, John Leguizamo stars as a tabloid-TV journalist trying to make a name for himself by tracking down a serial killer in Ecuador. After rescuing a traveling salesman being beaten by an angry mob for running down a child, he strikes a pact with the victim – an interview aimed at securing his release from jail in exchange for information on the murderer. Sebastián Cordero’s riveting thriller with a moral dilemma is recommended for most collections.

Hit Man File. color. 95 min. In Thai w/English subtitles. Kino on Video. 2005. DVD $19.95.

An ex-Communist guerrilla finds a new use for his skills, if not his idealism, as a coldly proficient hit man who gets his assignments from a sultry nightclub femme fatale in film critic – cum – director Sananjit Bangsapan’s cut-above-average crime thriller. Figuring out who’s gunning for whom in this noirish Bangkok demimonde of warring gangsters, corrupt politicians, and mercenary cops takes some doing, but there is a glimmer of humanity amidst the gunplay. For most collections.

Masculin féminin. 105 min. b/w. In French w/English subtitles. Criterion Collection, dist. by Home Vision. 1966. DVD ISBN 0-7800-3029-X. $29.95.

Antiestablishment filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard puts his unmistakable stylistic stamp on a chain of vignettes focusing on restless Parisian youth. Jean-Pierre Léaud (The 400 Blows) stars as one of "the children of Marx and Coca-Cola" pursuing a young pop singer. The frequently off-putting Godard is relatively accessible in this once-provocative outing. For serious collections.

Voyages. color. 115 min. In French, Hebrew & Russian w/English subtitles. New Yorker. 1999. VHS ISBN 1-56730-380-3. $24.95; DVD ISBN 1-56730-381-1. $29.95.

Relying on an extraordinary cast of nonprofessional actors, writer-director Emmanuel Finkiel tells the stories of three Jewish women scarred by the Holocaust. Rivka is on a tour of Ausch­witz when she threatens to leave her husband; Regine meets an old man who claims to be her father, long presumed killed by the Nazis; and Vera is a Russian émigré traveling to Tel Aviv in search of her long-lost cousin. Their journeys are subtly moving. For most collections.

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