Cinema Paradiso, Buster Keaton, and a Slow-Burning Ixcanul | Fast Scans: Top Foreign & Indie Picks

cinemaparadisio.jpg3317Cinema Paradiso. 2 discs. color. 174+ min. In Italian w/English subtitles. Arrow Video, dist. by MVDvisual. 1988. Blu-ray UPC 760137976981. $39.95. Rated: R.
Screenwriter/director Giuseppe Tornatore’s semiautobiographical homage to the cinema—a beloved classic—finally debuts on Blu-ray in restored “director’s cut” form. Fifty minutes longer, this extended version shows the middle-aged Salvatore (Jacques Perrin) rekindling an adolescent romance thwarted by his film-projectionist mentor Alfredo (Philippe Noiret), whose funeral has brought the native-son-made-good back to his cherished hometown. Enhanced by a telling filmmaker interview, plus the 124-minute original cut, the open question is which version is ­preferable.

Fatima. color. 78+ min. In French & Arabic w/English subtitles. Kino Lorber. 2015. DVD UPC 738329211837. $29.99.

An Algerian-born divorced mother (­Soria Zeroual) living in France works hard as a cleaning lady to provide a better life for her teen daughters—the eldest relatively respectful and going into medical school, the youngest insolent and floundering in class. Director Philippe Faucon delves into the frustrations of a disenfranchised immigrant by favoring quiet moments of revelation instead of the usual histrionics. Winner of the César (France’s equivalent of the Oscar) for best picture, this topical “slice of life” drama errs on the side of underplaying but is unexpectedly ­poignant.

The General/Three Ages. 2 discs. 143+ min. 1926/1923. DVD UPC 738329211615. $24.95; Blu-ray UPC 738329211622. $29.95.

Steamboat Bill, Jr./College. 2 discs. 134+ min. 1928/1927. DVD UPC 738329212094. $24.95; Blu-ray UPC 738329212100. $29.95.

ea. vol: 2 discs. b/w. Lobster Films, dist. by Kino Lorber.

A pair of Buster Keaton double features debut in newly remastered editions. The top-billed four-star General finds the silent-era comic genius codirecting himself as a train engineer who “loves his engine and his girl.” During a series of hilarious misadventures, he loses, then regains, both. Steamboat shows the Great Stone Face close to the top of his game in this tale of an old ferryboat pushed aside by a newer one, presaging Keaton’s career as a silent filmmaker in the emerging era of talkies. The lesser but worthy cofeatures are icing on the cake of these delectable releases.

Ixcanul (“Volcano”). color. 91+ min. In Spanish & Kaqchikel w/English subtitles. Kino Lorber. 2015. DVD UPC 738329211806. $29.95; Blu-ray UPC 738329211813. $34.95.

A 17-year-old Guatemalan coffee plantation worker (María Mercedes Coroy) with hopes of a better life gets pushed into an engagement to an estate manager, but her awkward romantic liaison with another field laborer who shares her dreams leads to pregnancy. When superstition in the mystical power of a nearby volcano fails to provide a solution to her predicament, the young woman resorts to more desperate measures. First-time filmmaker Jayro Bustamante’s slow-­burning drama unfolds at a measured pace, incrementally gathering force toward an unforeseen conclusion.

The Tree of Wooden Clogs. 2 discs. 186+ min. In Bergamasque w/English subtitles. Criterion Collection. 1978. DVD ISBN 9781681432199. $29.95; 1-disc Blu-ray ISBN 9781681432182. $39.95.

Over the course of a year, several tenant farming families in fin de siècle Italy work, eat, play, procreate—but mostly work—in Ermanno Olmi’s paean to the peasant life, in which the lion’s share of the harvest goes to the landowners. Fittingly told in an unflashy style without professional actors, the largely plotless story details rituals from pig slaughter to courtship in leisurely fashion that paradoxically proves involving while taxing patience. Restored to immaculate condition, this lauded film generally earns its considerable status. [See Trailers, LJ 9/1/16]

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