Fast Scans: Top Foreign and Indie Picks, July 2012

¬°Alambrista! color. 96+ min. In English & Spanish w/English subtitles. Criterion Collection. 1977. DVD ISBN 9781604653144. $29.95; Blu-ray ISBN 9781604655827. $39.95.

A Mexican farmworker desperate for extra cash to raise his growing family jumps the border fence, which leads to systematic exploitation by employers while toiling under the constant threat of deportation. Only the kindness of a lonely waitress offers some much-needed saving grace in Robert M. Young’s scrappily realistic depiction of undocumented migrant labor in which dignity is in short supply. With its similar humanist bent, this little-seen movie should appeal to audiences who enjoyed Gregory Nava’s El Norte.

Being John Malkovich. 2 discs. color. 113+ min. Criterion Collection. 1999. DVD ISBN 9781604655872. $29.95; 1-disc Blu-ray ISBN 9781604655865. $39.95.

From the unbridled imagination of screenwriter Charlie Kaufman (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) and music video‚ cum‚ feature filmmaker Spike Jonze (Where the Wild Things Are) comes this way-offbeat comedy. An under employed puppeteer (John Cusack) takes a job as a file clerk in an ultra-low-ceiling office with a hidden gateway into the mind of actor John Malkovich. To reveal more about this absurdist work on a kind of escapism would scarcely do it justice. A warped little gem not for middlebrow tastes.

Certified Copy. 2 discs. color. 106+ min. In English, French, & Italian w/English subtitles. Criterion Collection. 2010. DVD ISBN 9781604655766. $29.95; 1-disc Blu-ray ISBN 9781604655759. $39.95.

An antiques shop owner (Juliette Binoche) meets an art scholar (opera singer William Shimell) at a lecture and takes him sightseeing around Tuscany, all the while engaging in conversation that segues from playful to contentious. Iranian filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami (Close-Up) can be enigmatic to the point of obscurantic in this thought-provoking exploration of reality vs. fakery in which the characters may in fact be long married. A year-end top-ten pick for many critics, this certifiable puzzler is for the intellectually leaning.

1900. 3 discs. color & b/w. 315+ min. In Italian w/English subtitles. Olive Films. 1977. DVD UPC 887090034401. $29.99; Blu-ray UPC 887090034500. $39.95.

Spanning 70 years of Italian socioeconomic history, Bernardo Bertolucci’s (The Conformist) intimate epic follows the lifelong friendship between a peasant (Gerard Depardieu) and a landowner (Robert De Niro) born on the same day. Caricatured villains and heavy-handed polemics mar but do not undermine this allegorical magnum opus that defines the term sweeping. Offered in its original, uncut version (and making its passable-looking Blu-ray debut), this flawed but fascinating classic is a must for foreign-film fans.

We Need To Talk About Kevin. color. 112+ min. Oscilloscope Laboratories. 2011. DVD UPC 896602002432. $29.99; Blu-ray/DVD UPC 896602002777. $34.99. Rated: R.

Tilda Swinton delivers another outstanding performance as Eva, the guilt-ridden mother of a troubled teenaged son who carries out a Columbine-like massacre. Based on Lionel Shriver’s 2003 novel, offbeat Scottish director Lynne Ramsay’s (Ratcatcher; Morvern Callar) disquieting adaptation sticks to Eva’s point of view as she fails to establish a maternal bond. John C. Reilly costars as the easygoing dad who doesn’t recognize the depravity in his midst. A provocative film for viewers open to ambiguity in lieu of simple answers.