Mysteries to Microcosmos | Fast Scans: Top Foreign and Indie Picks

Apprentice. 96+ min. In Malay w/English subtitles. Film Movement. 2016. DVD UPC 859686006123. $24.99.
A 28-year-old corrections officer, Aiman (Firdaus Rahman) reluctantly accepts a position as trainee to the seasoned executioner (Wan Hanafi Su) who long ago put his convicted father to death. Having falsified his background, Aiman remains just a step ahead of being discovered as he learns the ropes, forced by circumstance to administer a hanging before he may be ready. Writer-director Boo Junfeng’s tense drama defies expectations, except for its heavy use of irony, in revealing character motivation where a seeming need for retribution gives way to a complicated drive.

Blow-Up. 2 discs. 111+ min. Criterion Collection. 1966. DVD ISBN 9781681432670. $29.95; 1-disc Blu-ray ISBN 9781681432663. $39.95.
A swinging-’60s London fashion photographer (David Hemmings) unwittingly captures an apparent murder while furtively shooting a young woman (Vanessa Redgrave) and an older man cavorting in a park. In his English-language movie debut, Michelangelo Antonioni (L’avventura) offers his most approachable work despite dangling a mystery with a philosophical answer rather than conventional genre solution. Sporting a flawless restoration and impressive extras—interviews, documentary, booklet, etc.—this full package brings a “mod” classic into focus. [Trailers, LJ 2/1/17]

Microcosmos. 75+ min. Kino Lorber. 1996. DVD UPC 738329208813. $29.99; Blu-ray UPC 738329208820. $34.99. Rated: G.
A day in the life of insects in a French meadow, this unusual nature documentary by Claude Nuridsany and Marie Perennou (Genesis, the Field of Enchantment) raises the mundane to the dramatically eventful. A beetle determinedly pushes a dung ball uphill; two snails tenderly and slowly flirt; raindrops pummel ants like bursting water balloons; pincer-headed bugs battle to the death. Intense close-ups and enhanced sound effects, together with a thrilling score and lyrical narration, create an immersive deep dive into the natural world sans sentimental messages.

Tampopo. 2 discs. 114+ min. In Japanese w/English subtitles. Criterion Collection. 1985. DVD ISBN 9781681432861. $29.95; 1-disc Blu-ray ISBN 9781681432861. $39.95.
Down-at-the-heels restaurant owner Tampopo (Nobuko Miyamoto) pursues the perfect ramen, thanks to tutelage from a noodle soup–loving trucker (Tsutomu Yamazaki) who takes a shine to the pixie-coiffed single mother serving up the classic Japanese dish. The entrée amidst several side dish story lines—mainly a recurring one featuring a gangster’s use of food as an aphrodisiac—earns Juzi Itami’s (A Taxing Woman) delectable comedy a place at the table of memorable culinary flicks (Babette’s Feast; Big Night; Chocolat; et al.) worth feasting on. [Trailers, LJ 3/1/17]

Things to Come. 102+ min. In French w/English subtitles. IFC Films. 2016. DVD UPC 030306948492. $24.98; Blu-ray UPC 030306199290. $29.98. Rated: PG-13.
Recently Oscar-nominated for her gutsy portrayal of an atypical rape victim who seeks her own vengeance in the provocative Elle, Isabelle Huppert also scores a double hit with her decidedly less showy role as a philosophy professor dealing with a midlife crisis in Mia Hansen-Løve’s contemplative drama. Coping with a dissolving marriage, an ailing mother, and a professional spurn, Huppert’s often stoic character finds her mettle tested, taking solace from her friendship with a former student whose lightness of being helps enable her acceptance of change.

By Jeff T. Dick, Davenport, IA

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