Philip Roth Unmasked. color. 90+ min. William Karel & Livia Manera, Cinétévé & American Masters for Thirteen, dist. by PBS, shoppbs.org. 2013. DVD ISBN 9781608838691. $24.95. SDH subtitles. LIT
One of our great living authors opens up about his process and history in this exemplary episode of PBS’s series American Masters. Philip Roth (b. 1933) has famously fashioned his fictions around a kernel of truth, which is often autobiographical. Here, he disentangles his own story from that of characters Nathan Zuckerman and David Kepesh. He talks about the need for an author to have no shame and how that relates to Roth’s extensive writing on sexual topics. He recalls the charges of anti-Semitism triggered by a story in his first collection, Goodbye, Columbus, and the staggering success that was Portnoy’s Complaint. He cites The Counterlife as a turning point in his career, at which he began dealing with history and politics, leading to a late career resurgence. Throughout, Roth is as generous, erudite, and charming as one could hope. VERDICT The intimate insights Roth provides, his stature, and this documentary’s intrinsic merits make this an easy recommendation for all libraries.
Mel Brooks: Make a Noise. color & b/w. 90+ min. Robert Trachtenberg, Brooksfilms Ltd., American Masters for Thirteen, dist. by Shout! Factory, www.shoutfactory.com or Amazon.com. 2013. DVD UPC 826663140323. $19.97. PERFORMING ARTS
The PBS American Masters series has produced yet another must view/must add production with the DVD release of the recently broadcast Mel Brooks: Make a Noise. As with each episode in the series, the biographical portrayal here is well balanced with examples of great work, testimony from close friends and colleagues, and personal interviews, and in Brooks’s case, that is as zany as it gets. Brooks puts his whole life out there, all the ups, downs, successes, and failures. Throughout the rapid-fire delivery, he’s honest about his talents and weaknesses and claims to owe his achievements to knowing them all. His reminiscences about working in the Golden Age of television with Sid Caesar, Carl Reiner, Neil Simon, and a very young Woody Allen reinforce how truly wonderful those programs were. Graduating to film and stage unleashed his comic fury and genius and paved a path for present-day writers to expand their visions. When convinced to turn his earliest film triumph, The Producers, into a stage musical, Tony Award history was cemented. Shows like Spamalot and The Book of Mormon bounded through a door flung open by Mel Brooks. Verdict A loving yet realistic portrayal of a true American original.
G-Spotting: A Story of Pleasure and Promise. color. 57 min. Ségolène Hanotaux & Gilles Bovon, dist. by Cinema Guild, 800-723-5522; www.cinemaguild.com. 2012. DVD ISBN 9780781514101. $99; acad. libs. $295 (Rental: $95). Public performance. PSYCH/SOC SCI
The 1982 publication of The G-Spot and Other Recent Discoveries About Human Sexuality, by Alice Khan Ladas, Beverly Whipple, and John D. Perry, shook up sexual complacency by reintroducing the G-spot, a female erogenous zone written about decades prior. Stimulation of this area is reputed to produce intense orgasms, but as this remarkable documentary demonstrates, there’s still debate about whether or not it exists (in short, it’s complicated), and that’s just where the story begins. G-Spotting gives curious, open-minded viewers a concise yet comprehensive look at female anatomy, academic and medical research, and the culture and history of the G-spot, dispelling myths and revealing new frontiers for exploration with aplomb. It’s a handsome, well-made production, with international locations, lively interviews with experts and laypeople, and witty visual flourishes. VERDICT This overdue examination of the would-be Holy Grail of sexual satisfaction is frank, smart, enlightening, and absorbing, provoking thoughts instead of giggles. With profanity, nudity, and sexually explicit content, fully in context; suitable for adults and mature teens. Highly recommended for all collections; essential for those with a sexuality component.
Dead Man’s Burden. color. 93+ min. Jared Moshe, Illumnaria Prods. in assoc. with Stick! Pictures & Flatiron Film c/o New Video, 800-314-8822; www.newvideo.com. 2013. DVD UPC 767685290774. $26.95.
Goodnight for Justice: Queen of Hearts. color. 87+ min. Martin Wood, GFJ 2 Prods. & Hallmark Movie Channel, dist. by Entertainment One c/o Amazon.com. 2013. DVD ISBN 9781417239825. $19.98. SDH subtitles. F/Western
Gibsonburg. color. 90 min. Bob Mahaffey & Jon Kimble, Xcelerate Media Prod., dist. by Monarch Home Entertainment c/o Amazon.com. 2013. DVD UPC 723952078889. $24.95. Closed-captioned. DOCUDRAMA/SPORTS
Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries: Series 1. 4 discs. color. 706+ min. Tony Tilse & others, Every Cloud Prods., dist. by Acorn Media, 888-870-8047; www.acornonline. 2013. DVD UPC 054961893492; 3-disc Blu-ray UPC 054961894598. $59.99. SDH subtitles. F
ARTS & HUMANITIES
Les Misérables. color. 3+ hrs. Josée Dayan, GMT Prods. & Taurus Film, Do Prods., dist. by Entertainment One c/o Amazon.com. 2013. DVD ISBN 9781417239177. $19.98. SDH subtitles.
Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables. color. 188+ min. In French w/English subtitles. Jean-Paul Le Chanois, dist. by Olive Films, www.olivefilms.com. 2013. DVD UPC 887090052900. $24.95; Blu-ray UPC 887090053006. $29.95. LIT
Escaramuza: Riding from the Heart. color. 89 min. In English & Spanish w/English subtitles. Bill Yahraus & Robin Rosenthal, Pony Highway Prods., www.ponyhighway.com. 2013. DVD UPC 799493586558. $250. Public performance; home version $24.95 + $3.99 s/h. SPORTS
The Life of Vesper Geer. color & b/w. 86 min. Michael Turner, GeerCrest Farm & Historical Soc., dist. by AV Café, 877-228-2233; www.theavcafe.com. 2012. DVD $15. BIOG
55 Socks. color. 9 min. Co Hoedeman, MusiVision & Coconino, dist. by Natl. Film Bd. of Canada, 800-542-2164; www.nfb.ca. 2012. DVD UPC 698193264296. $129. Public performance. HIST
Freedom Seekers: Stories from the Western Underground Railroad. 2 vols. color & b/w. ea. vol: 75 min. Gary Jenkins, dist. by Film Ideas, 800-475-3456; www.filmideas.com. 2013. DVD ISBN 9781605727165. ea. vol: $39.95. Public performance; closed-captioned. HIST
Shoah. 6 discs. color. 550+ min. Claude Lanzmann, IFC Films, dist. by Criterion Collection, www.criterion.com. 2013. DVD ISBN 9781604657197; 4-disc Blu-ray ISBN 9781604657203. $99.95. SDH subtitles. HIST
Happy People: A Year in the Taiga. color. 94+ min. In English, Russian, & German w/English subtitles. Werner Herzog & Dmitry Vasyukov, Studio Babelsberg, dist. by Music Box Films c/o Amazon.com. 2013. DVD UPC 741360538191. $29.95. SOC SCI
The Mothers’ Triangle. color. 66 min. Inbal Goldstein, Igway Prods., dist. by Fanlight Prods., www.fanlight.com. 2012. DVD ISBN 9781572958258. $229 (Rental: $60). Public performance. SOC SCI
The Mighty Mississippi. color. 140 min. Stuart Cabb, Plum Pictures, dist. by PBS, shoppbs.org. 2013. DVD ISBN 9781608838202. $24.99. SDH subtitles. TRAV
SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY
Wine, Women & Friends. color. 97 min. In French w/English subtitles. Fiona Cunningham-Reid, dist. by First Run Features; 800-229-8575; www.firstrunfeatures.com. 2013. DVD UPC 720229915557. $19.95. BEVERAGES/WOMEN’S STUDIES
Full Fitness Fusion: The 30 Minute Solution. color. 45 min. Stockyard Films, dist. by www.fullfitnessfusion.com. 2013. DVD UPC 091037508997. $16.99
Leslie Sansone Just Walk: Belly Blasting Walk. color. 53 min. Anchor Bay Entertainment, www.anchorbayentertainment.com. 2013. DVD UPC 013132597461. $14.98. EXERCISE