Fast Scans: Top Foreign & Indie Picks, November 15, 2011

American Grindhouse. color & b/w. 82+ min. Lorber Films. 2010. DVD UPC 738329069926. $19.95.
In a bygone era, rundown cinemas in the shadier parts of American cities featured women’s prison pictures, biker flicks, nudie films, educational documentaries trading in titillation, and other exploitative fare. Predating the Production Code but thriving under it, grindhouse cinema eventually became drive-in fodder. Incorporating lots of clips and chats with the genre’s participants (directors, actors, et al.), director and co writer Elijah Drenner’s film pays homage to a disreputable genus geared for Quentin Tarantino types.

Le beau Serge. 94+ min. 1958. DVD ISBN 9781604654783. $29.95; Blu-ray ISBN 9781604654776. $39.95.
Les cousins.112+ min. 1959. DVD ISBN 9781604654806. $29.95; Blu-ray ISBN 9781604654790. $39.95.ea. vol: b/w. In French w/English subtitles. Criterion Collection.
Dubbed the French Hitchcock because of his yen for thrillers, film critic‚ cum‚ prolific director Claude Chabrol (1930‚ 2010) debuted with Le beau Serge, which was inspired by Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt. A young man returns to his home village only to find he no longer identifies with his roots. Les cousins pre sents the flip side, with a provincial chap going to live in Paris. In his signature style, Chabrol keeps his scenarios and characters at a cool remove, which makes his movies an acquired taste. For serious film buffs.

Carlos. 4 discs. color. 339+ min. In Arabic, English, French, German, Hungarian, Japanese, Russian, & Spanish w/English subtitles. Criterion Collection. 2010. DVD ISBN 9781604654844; 2-disc Blu-ray ISBN 9781604654837. $49.95.
For 20 years before his capture in 1994, Venezuelan revolutionary Ilyich Ramírez Sanchez (nicknamed Carlos the Jackal) was a terrorist for hire, carrying
out kidnappings, hijackings, bombings, and murders throughout Europe and the Middle East. Initially shown as a TV miniseries, Olivier Assayas’s ( Summer Hours; Irma Vep) riveting drama looks and feels more like an epic feature film, anchored by a ferocious performance from √âdgar Ramírez as the cocky, charismatic Carlos. For real-life drama fans.

Cracks. color. 104+ min. IFC Films, dist. by MPI. 2009. DVD ISBN 9780788610950. $24.98.
Reminiscent of the superior The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1969), this still-intriguing feature debut by Jordan Scott (daughter of director Ridley, who serves as coproducer) similarly deals with an eccentric teacher at an all-girls British boarding school. Miss G (a sultry Eva Green) rhapsodizes about the need for desire by her budding charges, whose admiration she successfully cultivates until the arrival of an exotic transfer student spawns jealously. A widely appealing coming-of-age drama with sinister overtones.

Strike. b/w. 89+ min. silent w/English intertitles. Kino Classics. 1925. DVD UPC 738329075224. $29.95; Blu-ray UPC 7-38329-07832-4. $34.95.
A labor strike in a rural Soviet factory serves as the stark setting for Sergei Eisenstein’s auspicious first feature. While not quite up to his masterpiece, Battleship Potemkin, this paean to workers united against pitiless plant management established the director’s cutting-edge use of montage abetted by striking compositions and complemented by a riveting orchestral score. Presented in a restored version, Strike doesn’t feature perfect picture quality, but it easily exceeds previous releases. A silent classic with broader than usual appeal.

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