Fast Scans: Top Foreign & Indie Picks, January 2012

Cave of Forgotten Dreams. color. 90+ min. MPI Home Video. 2011. DVD ISBN 9780788614156. $27.98; Blu-ray/3D combo ISBN 9780788614088. $34.98. Rated: G.
Wunderkind Werner Herzog, who made his mark during the 1970s/1980s-era German New Wave with dramas about eccentric visionaries (Aguirre: Wrath of God; Fitzcarraldo; et al.), has enjoyed late-career success with documentaries (Grizzly Man; Encounters at the End of the World). In a continuing trend, Herzog brings his infectious sense-of-wonder approach to recently discovered prehistoric paintings in a French cave. While it drags at times, Dreams finds the 69-year-old filmmaker still at the top of his game.

City of Life and Death. 2 discs. b/w. 135+ min. In Mandarin w/English subtitles. Kino Lorber. 2011. DVD UPC 738329072421. $29.95; Blu-ray UPC 738329072520. $39.95.
The pre‚ World War II Japanese massacre of 300,000 men, women, and children in China’s capital city of Nanking is indelibly dramatized in Lu Chuan’s epic film of this little-known holocaust. Focusing on a handful of characters‚ including a compassionate Chinese teacher, a sympathetic Nazi capitalist, and a sensitive Japanese soldier‚ the story humanizes both victims and victimizers in a manner reminiscent of Schindler’s List. Smartly shot in black and white, this tragic historical account deserves a wide viewership.

Point Blank. color. 90+ min. In French w/English subtitles. Magnolia Home Entertainment. 2010. DVD UPC 876964004336. $26.98; Blu-ray UPC 876964004343. $29.98.
In order to rescue his pregnant wife from kidnappers, a nurse intern (Gilles Lellouche, Tell No One) is forced to turn a patient over to gangsters who botched their hit job. Dirty cops, ruthless mobsters, and harassed innocents clash in director Fred Cavaye’s fast-paced thriller, which offers a textbook on how to avoid the genres usual credulity-stretching conventions: dispense with over-the-top shootouts, fights, chases, and tricked-up editing. Action-film junkies will get their fix without having to undergo lobotomies.

The Rules of the Game. 2 discs. b/w. 106+ min. In French w/English subtitles. Criterion Collection. 1939. DVD ISBN 9781604655209. $29.95; 1-disc Blu-ray ISBN 9781604655025. $39.95.
Set on the brink of World War II during a hunting party at a rural ch√¢teau, Jean Renoir’s biting critique of the French
class structure was booed when it opened by audiences who took offense at its unflattering portraiture. Highly regarded by critics, Rules seems overrated‚ particularly when compared with the director’s more accessible Grand Illusion‚ but this remastered edition affords open-minded viewers a better opportunity to appreciate the film because of its enhanced picture quality and extras. (See Trailers, LJ 10/1/11)

Sarah’s Key. color. 111 min. Anchor Bay Entertainment. 2011. DVD UPC 013132369297. $29.98; Blu-ray UPC 01313239792. $39.99. Rated: PG-13.
Based on the novel by Tatiana De Rosnay, director Gilles Paquet-Brenner’s riveting adaptation stars Kristin Scott Thomas as a contemporary journalist who discovers the fate of Sarah Starzynski, a ten-year-old girl who locked her younger brother in a closet to save him from Vichy police rounding up Jews in 1942. Separated by more than a half-century, their lives are tied in this flashback-dominated drama that plays like a mystery. Fans of the best seller should not be dis appointed, while newcomers may seek out the book. (See Trailers, LJ 10/1/11)