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

Cameraman: The Life and Work of Jack Cardiff. color & b/w. 90+ min. Strand Releasing. 2010. DVD UPC 71226730142-3. $24.99; Blu-ray UPC 712267301430. $34.99.
Lauded British cinematographer Cardiff (1914‚ 2009) built his reputation with an innovative approach to shooting in color on A Matter of Life and Death, Black Narcissus, and his greatest achievement, The Red Shoes, before enjoying success as a director ( Sons and Lovers). Interviews with actors, directors, and other industry peers, dozens of film clips, and extras, including a primer on three-strip Technicolor, document the life’s work of a master. Director Craig McCall offers a tribute for more than film devotees.

Life During Wartime. color. 97+ min. Criterion Collection. 2010. DVD ISBN 9781604654547. $29.95; Blu-ray 9781604654530. $39.95.
In this sort-of-sequel to Happiness (1998), slyly subversive writer-director Todd Solondz ( Welcome to the Dollhouse) revisits his oddly sympathetic characters now played by a new cast (Allison Janney, Ciarán Hinds, Shirley Henderson, and Ally Sheedy). Whether dealing with serious psychological issues or merely neuroses, these damaged characters provide a surprising source of deadpan humor and pathos in their search for forgiveness. Given its eccentric tone, this typical Solondz outing is not for mainstream tastes. [See Trailers, LJ 6/1/11]

Lou. color. 86 min. Monarch Home Entertainment. 2010. DVD UPC 723952078544. $24.95.
Still hurting from abandonment by her dad, 11-year-old Lou initially rebels when her estranged grandfather (John Hurt) is forced to live with her family. They form an eventual bond despite his early-stage dementia, though it starts as a way for Lou to get back at her mom (Emily Barclay) before morphing into a relationship based on genuine feelings. Writer-director Belinda Chayko’s little-seen Aussie family drama, featuring an impressive lead performance by Lily Bell-Tindley, deserves a wider audience for its refreshingly naturalistic vibe.

Me Too (Yo, tambien). color. 103 min. In Spanish w/English subtitles. Olive Films. 2009. DVD UPC 887090027601. $29.95.
Just out of college despite being born with Down syndrome, Daniel (Pablo Pineda) quickly finds himself infatuated with Laura (Lola Dueñas), a normal coworker at his new social-agency office job. A bleach blonde troubled by an estranged family, Laura loses herself in partying and one-night stands even as she closely befriends, if not falls for, Daniel. Avoiding the pitfalls of a pity-fest, codirectors Álvaro Pastor and Antonio Naharro explore atypical unrequited love without getting gooey. Not only for love story aficionados.

Poetry. color. 139+ min. In Korean w/English subtitles. Kino Intl. 2010. DVD UPC 738329071028. $29.95; Blu-ray UPC 738329076122. $34.95.
Secret Sunshine. color. 142 min. In Korean w/English subtitles. Criterion Collection. 2007. DVD ISBN 9781604654622. $29.95; Blu-ray ISBN 9781604654615. $39.95. [See Trailers, LJ 7/11]
South Korean writer-director Lee Chang-dong eschews the melodramatic and maudlin for restrained yet persuasive sentiment in Poetry, where a woman (Yun Jung-hee) diagnosed with dementia finds poetic inspiration after learning her grandson was involved in a gang rape that resulted in a girl’s suicide. In Chang-dong’s Secret, a mother (Jeon Do-yeon, The Housemaid) turns to religion for false consolation after the murder of her young son. Understated emotional payoffs are worth the wait in this double feature.