Polanski’s First-Class Tess, Pop Icon Marvin Hamlisch, Ping Pong on Four Continents, & More | Video Reviews

redstarTess. 3 discs. color. 172+ min. Roman Polanksi, dist. by Criterion Collection, www.criterion.com. 2014. DVD/Blu-ray ISBN 9781604658279. $39.95. SDH subtitles. F

Thomas Hardy’s classic Tess of the D’Urber­villes (1891) has tess040814been oft-adapted going back to silent film, but Polanski’s 1979 theatrical version outshines both its big-screen predecessors and small-screen successors. Anchored by Nastassja Kinski’s breakout performance as the tragic heroine who suffers mightily for trying to rise above her poor circumstances, this sumptuously mounted period drama also owes much to Peter Firth (Equus) as Angel, the young man Tess falls in love with, only to be cruelly jilted by once he learns of her stolen virtue. Nominated for six Oscars—including score, director, and picture—Tess won for cinematography, art direction, and costume design. VERDICT Criterion’s extras-laden issue of this digitally restored masterwork blows away Columbia-TriStar’s 2004 DVD release, which should be cast from library shelves for its dated transfer marred by minor yet distracting print damage. This meticulously crafted and faithful rendering of the novel deserves the first-class treatment it’s finally getting.—Jeff T. Dick, Davenport, IA

redstarMarvin Hamlisch: What He Did for Love. color & b/w. 84+ min. Dori Berinstein, Dramatic Forces & American Masters, dist. by PBS, shoppbs.org. 2014. DVD ISBN 9781608830329. $24.99. SDH subtitles. MUSIC

Marvin HamlischMarvin Hamlisch (1944–2012) was one of those rare pop musical icons who was respected for his musical chops and prowess across all styles and genuinely liked as a person. So it is no surprise that a musical tribute following his untimely death includes the heavyweights from varied corners of the music industry. Along with his family members, interviews and memories come from the likes of Barbra Streisand, Carly Simon, Tim Rice, Woody Allen, and Idina Menzel, all of whom considered Hamlisch a colleague and friend. His Jewish heritage was important to who he was and what he was to become. He was declared a child prodigy and before age seven went off to Juilliard to be trained as a classical concert pianist. But a funny thing happened on the way to the hall: pop and Broadway beckoned. He was smart enough to know the training he was getting would ultimately help him write and perform the music he really loved. Interspersed with the many remembrances are Hamlisch’s own brilliant and very watchable interviews. And, of course, there are numerous performances of his gorgeous compositions (e.g., “The Way We Were,” “Nobody Does It Better,” and “I Finally Found Someone”). Hamlisch later returned to his roots conducting philharmonic and symphony orchestras in hugely successful concerts worldwide. ­Verdict This documentary is every bit as entertaining and warmhearted as the man it portrays.—Gerald A. Notaro, emeritus, Univ. of South Florida Lib., St. Petersburg

redstarPing Pong. color. 76 min. Anson & Hugh Hartford, Banyak Films & Britdoc, dist. Cinedigm c/o Docurama, docurama.com. 2013. DVD UPC 767685293164. $29.95. Closed-captioned. Ping PongSPORTS/recreation

This very fine, offbeat film will inspire aging viewers and provide food for thought (and chuckles) for the rest of us. Subject to the restrictions that aging puts on their senses, flexibility, mobility, and balance, eight seniors, ranging from 81 to 100 years of age, from six countries vie for singles and doubles table tennis gold in Outer Mongolia…for real, and, yes, that Outer Mongolia. Filmed on four continents, in outdoor and indoor locations, including the huge championship arena in Mongolia, the documentary features superb cinematography and sound quality. Considering the subject and potential audience, English SDH subtitles would have been a welcome addition. ­VERDICT Very highly recommended for general collections; viewers will appreciate the effort of these octogenarian-plus competitors.—Cliff Glaviano, formerly with Bowling Green State Univ. Libs., OH

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Underdogs. color. 102 min. Doug Dearth , Freestyle Releasing, dist. by Amazon.com. 2013. DVD UPC 850153003454. $19.99. Rated: PG. F/SPORTS


To Tell the Truth: The Strategy of Truth; Documentary Goes to War (1933–1945). David Van Taylor.

To Tell the Truth: Working for Change; Documenting Hard Times (1929–1941). Calvin Skaggs.

ea. vol: color & b/w. 56 min. Icarus Films, 800-876-1710; www.icarusfilms.com. 2013. DVD $348. Public performance; closed-captioned. FILM/HIST

The Great Gatsby: Midnight in Manhattan. color. 49+ min. Nicky Pattison, BBC, www.bbcamerica.com. 2013. DVD UPC 883929332472. $14.98. SDH subtitles. LIT

Men at Lunch: The Untold Story of a City’s Legend. color & b/w. 67+ min. Sean Ó Cualáin , dist. by First Run Features, 800-229-8575; www.firstrunfeatures.com. 3013. DVD UPC 720229915779. $24.95. PHOTOG/HIST

African Christianity Rising. 2 discs. color. 150 min. James Ault, James Ault Prods., www.jamesault.com. 2013. DVD UPC 727985015194. $50; acad. libs. $175; Complete Educational Edition. 4 discs. 150+ min. $85; acad. libs. $240. Public performance. REL/int affairs

Band of Sisters: The Remarkable Journey of Catholic Nuns in the United States. color. 88 min. Mary Fishman, dist. by Band of Sisters Ltd., bandofsistersmovie.com. 2013. DVD ISBN 9780615971315. $95; acad. libs. $295; w/digital streaming $495. Public performance. REL


An Encounter with Simone Weil. color. 85 min. In English & French w/English subtitles. Julia Haslett, Line Street Prods., dist. by Passion River, 732-321-0711; orders@passionriver.com. 2014. DVD UPC 091037723826. $24.95. BIOG

The Ultimate Guide to Passing Your Law Enforcement Oral Board for the Entry Level Applicant in Any State. color. 60 min. Justin Campbell, 40 Cal. Prods. , www. lawenforcementinterviews.com; also available from Midwest Tape, 800-875-2785; www.midwesttapes.com. 2013. DVD ISBN 9780988818804. $39.95. CRIMINOLOGY/CAREERS

Last Chance (Une Derniere Chance). color. 84 min. In English/French w/subtitles. Paul Emile d’Entremont, Natl. Film Bd. of Canada, nfb.ca/USeducation. 2012. DVD UPC 698193283067. $195. Public performance. GENDER STUDIES


A Year in Burgundy: A Film About Wine. color. 88 min. In English & French w/English subtitles. David Kennard, Inca Films, dist. by Kino Lorber, www.kinolorberedu.com. 2013. DVD UPC 738329121723. $29.95. BEVERAGES

Musicwood. color. 80 min. Maxine Trump, dist. by Cinema Guild, www.cinemaguild.com. 2013. DVD ISBN 9780781514606. $99.95; acad. libs. $350. Public performance. ENVIRONMENT/Music

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