Directors Tornatore, Sorrentino, Kurosawa, & Offbeat Zizek | Fast Scans: Top Foreign & Indie Picks

The Best Offer. color. 131+ min. IFC Films, dist. by MPI. 2013. DVD ISBN 9780788617720. $24.98. Rated: R.The Best Offer

Obsessive-compulsive art appraiser and auctioneer Virgil Oldman (Geoffrey Rush) falls in love with a lovely, much younger, agoraphobic heiress (Sylvia Hoeks) who hires him to sell her valuable estate holdings. With the help of a friend gifted in the art of restoration, Virgil pursues a romance totally out of character with his controlled life. Giuseppe Tornatore (Cinema Paradiso) masterfully directs his own script, which relies on symbolism and sentiment in lieu of strict credulity. This affecting fool-for-love drama is not for cynics.

Bettie Page Reveals All. color & b/w. 101+ min. Music Box Films. 2012. DVD UPC 741360538412. $29.99; Blu-ray UPC 741360538429. $34.99. Rated: R.

Iconic Fifties-era pinup queen Bettie Page offered a wholesomely naughty persona during a time of sexual repression even as she ventured into nudity and playful bondage. In Mark Mori’s illuminating documentary, an elderly Page tells her own tumultuous story via archival audiotapes, augmented by interviews from longtime fans, photographers, and publishers, along with lots of clips celebrating the still-influential model who “retired” in 1957. A double bill with the dramatization The Notorious Bettie Page (2005) is a natural.

The Great Beauty. 3 discs. color. 141+ min. In Italian w/English subtitles. Criterion Collection. 2013. DVD/Blu-ray ISBN 9781604658095. $39.95.

Reminiscent of Federico Fellini’s classic La Dolce Vita, Paolo Sorrentino’s foreign-language Oscar winner finds its wandering protagonist hobnobbing among high society types in modern-day Rome. A famous journalist whose literary aspirations long ago resulted in a single acclaimed novel, Jep (Toni Servillo) is in a reflective mood at 65, surveying the nocturnal nuttiness he nightly indulges in while still finding beauty in nature, art, and the memory of a boyhood inamorata who got away. An achingly gorgeous look at angst.

The Hidden Fortress. 2 discs. 139+ min. 1958. DVD/Blu-ray ISBN 9781604658101.

Throne of Blood. 2 discs. 109+ min. 1957. DVD/Blu-ray ISBN 9781604658033.

ea. vol: b/w. In Japanese w/English subtitles. Criterion Collection. $39.95.

After escaping enemy abduction, a princess and her entourage hide out in a secret mountain stronghold in Fortress, the film that inspired Star Wars. Very loosely adapted from Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Blood relocates the tragic tale to feudal-era Japan, where an ambitious warrior ascends to power. Both Akira Kurosawa classics, starring regular collaborator Tishuro Mifune, get digital makeovers of decade-old disc-catalog titles showing signs of age. Fans of the renowned filmmaker have been given a reason to rewatch them.

The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology. color & b/w. 136+ min. Zeitgeist Films. 2013. DVD UPC 795975115933. $29.99.

Basically a lecture on the nature of ideology—political and otherwise—with films serving as illustration, documentarian Sophie Fiennes’s presentation of cultural theorist Slavoj Z˘iz˘ek’s thought-provoking ideas offers a reasonably successful attempt to make academic fodder palatable for a wider audience. Clips from Titanic, The Searchers, Cabaret, and the like prove points about racism, capitalism, fascism, and more. A follow-up to A Pervert’s Guide to Cinema (“A cigar is never just a cigar”), this is offbeat but hardly perverse.

This article was published in Library Journal's June 15, 2014 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.