Top Foreign & Indie Picks
Champion. b/w. 99 min. Olive Films. 1949. DVD UPC 887090060509. $19.95; Blu-ray UPC 887090060608. $29.95.
Not the big-studio star vehicle for Kirk Douglas it appears, independent producer Stanley Kramer’s (The Men) boxing picture for United Artists follows the rise of a hotheaded fighter who alienates those people closest to him—manager (Paul Stewart), brother (Arthur Kennedy), and wife (Ruth Roman)—in his self-destructive pursuit of the brass ring. Mark Robson (The Harder They Fall) ably shoots a Carl Foreman (High Noon) script that also takes a swing at sports corruption. For fight fans.
The Earrings of Madame de…. b/w. 100+ min. In French w/English subtitles. Criterion Collection. 1953. Blu-ray ISBN 9781604657593. $39.95.
Celebrated for his avant-garde narrative style, intricate camera moves, and playful approach to sophisticated subject matter, Max Ophuls (La ronde) peaked with this tragic tale of an aristocratic woman (Danielle Darrieux) who sells a pair of earrings given to her by her husband (Charles Boyer) to settle accumulating debts. A circular reaction ensues, with the jewelry changing hands, finally returning as a gift to the unnamed Madame from one of her suitors. Adorned with nice extras, this Blu-ray debut is like a Tiffany display case.
The Ice Storm. color. 113+ min. Criterion Collection. 1997. Blu-ray ISBN 9781604657449. $39.95.
Director Ang Lee (Brokeback Mountain; Life of Pi) scrupulously navigates Cheever and Updike territory in this coolly antiseptic dissection of upper-middle-class ennui in early 1970s New England suburbia. Sigourney Weaver, Joan Allen, Kevin Kline, Tobey Maguire, Elijah Wood, and Christina Ricci make up the top-notch cast portraying sympathetic characters confused by cultural changes and numb to real emotion until tragedy strikes. Now in hi-def, the bracing imagery is as sharp as the observations. For fans of angst.
Nanook of the North. 2 discs. b/w. 281+ min. Flicker Alley. 1922. Blu-ray ISBN 9781893967809. $44.95.
The everyday life of Eskimos is the subject of Robert Flaherty’s seminal (albeit partly staged) documentary, which captures an Inuit chief, his two wives, and their children as they hunt seals, trade pelts, build igloos, and just play in the bleak Arctic environs. Restored to a respectable state, this National Registry of Films entry should appeal to anthropology buffs as well as early-film fans. Among the six (!) bonus films included, Nanook Revisited (1988) returns to the filming site and Nanook’s happy ancestors.
Repo Man. 2 discs. color. 92+ min. Criterion Collection. 1984. DVD ISBN 9781604657159. $29.95; Blu-ray ISBN 9781604657142. $39.95.
Alex Cox’s precursor to his Sid and Nancy stars the ever-endearing Harry Dean Stanton as a jaded veteran of the car repo biz breaking in a new kid (Emilio Estevez) amid heated competition to find an old Chevy Malibu with an otherworldly force in its trunk. While entertaining as a comedy-drama with sf overtones, Repo also offers a trenchant political allegory of 1980s-era consumerism. Featuring a punk music sound track that informs its gonzo sensibility, this refurbished cult classic enjoys a fan base. [See Trailers, LJ 3/1/13.]