Fast Scans | November 15, 2012

Elles. color. 99+ min. In French w/English subtitles. Kino Lorber. 2012. DVD UPC 738329087029. $29.95; Blu-ray UPC 738329102524. $34.95.

Discontentedly married with kids, a magazine journalist (Juliette Binoche) writing about coeds turning tricks as a means of upward mobility ends up drawn to her subjects, fantasizing about their sexual liaisons to compensate for her own bourgeois life. Polish filmmaker Malgoska Szumowska doesn’t delve deeply into her theme of female empowerment, but her artful direction coupled with Binoche’s raw performance makes this highly watchable. Frankly explicit but not pornographic, this title is for the more adventurous viewer.

The Lady. color. 128+ min. In English & Burmese w/English subtitles Entertainment One. 2012. DVD UPC 741952731191. $24.98; Blu-ray UPC 741952731993. $34.98. Rated: R.

They Call It Myanmar: Lifting the Curtain. color. 83+ min. In English & Burmese w/English subtitles. New Yorker Video. 2012. DVD UPC 884501704106. $295. Public performance; home version. New Video. DVD UPC 767685278499. $29.95.

Action-thriller director Luc Besson (La Femme Nikita) seems an odd choice for The Lady, a slick biopic about Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi (Michelle Yeoh) emphasizing her enduring love with husband Michael (David Thewlis). In Myanmar, Robert H. Lieberman talks with the real lady, documenting the serenely dignified democratic activist who endured 15 years of house arrest under Burma’s military regime, plus offers edifying context. Two tacks for two distinct audiences.

The Organizer. b/w. 130+ min. In Italian w/English subtitles. Criterion Collection. 1963. DVD ISBN 9781604655858. $19.95; Blu-ray ISBN 9781604655834. $29.95.

Silver-screen heartthrob Marcello Mastroianni aptly mutes his twinkle-eyed charm in the titular role of a late 19th-century union leader who foments a strike at a Turin textile mill where workers put in 14-hour days and too often lose limbs. Filmmaker Mario Monicelli (Big Deal on Madonna Street) vividly captures the desperation of laborers at the mercy of management. A 2006 interview with the director (now deceased) puts his downbeat yet often funny melodrama in “commedia all’italiana” perspective. For all foreign-film fans.

Take This Waltz. color. 116+ min. Magnolia Home Entertainment. DVD UPC 876964004954. $26.98; Blu-ray UPC 876964004978. $29.98. Rated: R.

Six years after her unexpectedly impressive directorial debut with Away from Her, actress-cum-filmmaker Sarah Polley returns with a “dramedy” offering unforced humor and keen insight. Michelle Williams is her usual unaffected self as a young woman whose five-year marriage to a boringly nice cookbook author (Seth Rogen) is a little stale, leaving her susceptible to the charms of a neighbor (Luke Kirby). A refreshingly well-­observed if sometimes overly precious piece of work with an unconventional appeal.

To Whom It May Concern: Ka Shen’s Journey. color & b/w. 108+ min. Virgil Films. 2010. DVD UPC 829567086025. $19.99.

Born in 1940, Eurasian actress Nancy Kwan broke ethnic casting barriers in Hollywood with her smashing debut in The World of Suzie Wong (1960) and solidified her reputation with Flower Drum Song (1961), hits that would never be repeated. Brian Jamieson documents the Hong Kong native’s long but spotty career and less than idyllic personal life, which includes the death of her only child. Joan Chen, Vivian Wu, France Nuyen, et al., weigh in on a talented beauty still going strong at 67. For movie-bio fans of a certain age.