FastScans | April 15, 2013

Top Foreign & Indie Picks

The Kid with a Bike. 2 discs. color. 87+ min. In French w/English subtitles. Criterion Collection. 2011. DVD ISBN 9781604656909. $29.95; 1-disc Blu-ray ISBN 9781604656893. $39.95.

Abandoned by an irresponsible father, 12-year-old Cyril (Thomas Doret, making a naturalistic screen debut) refuses to admit rejection even as his obstinacy threatens the growing bond between him and a patient woman (Cécile de France) whose compassion offers his only hope. Persuaded to commit a crime by a manipulative young hoodlum, Cyril looks like he’s about to throw his life away. Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne (La Promesse) offer their most accessible neorealist tale without getting too sentimental. [Trailers, LJ 1/13.]

The Man Who Knew Too Much. b/w. 75+ min. Criterion Collection. 1934. DVD ISBN 9781604656800. $29.95; Blu-ray ISBN 9781604656794. $39.95.

Everyday folks who find themselves in extraordinary circumstances started an Alfred Hitchcock trend with his 17th feature film, a thriller the director remade in 1956 after coming to Hollywood. Peter Lorre stars as the scar-faced baddie who kidnaps a couple’s daughter to keep them from revealing assassination plans for a foreign dignitary. Culminating in a shootout worthy of an action picture, Man exemplifies Hitch’s foreshadowing and droll humor while remaining way too emotionally cool. For the filmmaker’s many fans. [Trailers, LJ 12/12.]

A Royal Affair. color. 137+ min. In Danish, German, & French w/English subtitles. Magnolia Home Entertainment. 2012. DVD UPC 876964005357. $26.98; Blu-ray UPC 876964005364. $29.98. Rated: R.

Starving for a real man instead of a crazy boy-king, Queen Caroline (Alicia Vikander) of Denmark falls for her husband’s doctor-cum-confidant (Mads Mikkelsen), an 18th-century Freethinker whose benevolent manipulation of his charge spurred Enlightenment reforms before he literally lost his head at the hands of the royal council. Academy Award nominated for best foreign-language film, Nikolaj Arcel’s sturdily dramatic and handsome period piece offers academic cachet spiked with romance and intrigue for wider interest.

Side by Side. color. 99+ min. Tribeca Films, dist. by New Video. 2012. DVD UPC 767685283455. $26.95; Blu-ray UPC 767685283967. $29.95.

The Story of Film: An Odyssey. 5 discs. color & b/w. 916+ min. Music Box Films. 2011. DVD UPC 741360538108. $69.95.

Smartly produced and hosted by Keanu Reeves, Side traces the evolution of digital cinema in shooting, editing, exhibiting, and other basic phases of the moviemaking process in a fascinating primer on the cutting-edge topic. Martin Scorsese, George Lucas, James Cameron, David Fincher, and Steven Soderbergh are among the directors who compare digital capture with celluloid, addressing cost, freedom, and aesthetics while graphics render the technical stuff palatable for laypersons. In an ideal complement, Story covers the history of film from its late 19th-century inception to the present. Originally shown on British cable TV, this 15-part series is exhaustive but not exhausting when divided into hourlong episodes. International filmmakers, including Bernardo Bertolucci, Jane Campion, Stanley Donen, Gus Van Sant, Wim Wenders, and many more weigh in on the medium, with hundreds of film clips illustrating their points. Only the Ulster-inflected narration by Irish film historian and series producer Mark Cousins takes some getting used to in this film-course-in-a-boxed-set that patrons can view at their own pace.