After topping indieWIRE‘s poll of 2009’s top films, Olivier Assayas’s “Summer Hours” (criticWIRE rating: A-), starring Juliette Binoche at the head of a troupe of actors well-respected in the French film industry) is getting its DVD release on the Criterion Collection. The 2-disc DVD includes a video interview with Assayas, a making-of documentary, and a featurette explaining the Musée d’Orsay’s link to the film’s production. Writing in indieWIRE, Chris Wisniewski characterizes the film as “elegant and elegiac.” He goes on to say of the family quibble drama, “In ‘Summer Hours’…every object, and every place, is weighed down by the past—indeed, the past gives these things their value, sentimental and otherwise.”
Also a top performer in iW’s top 2009 film list, Claire Denis’s “35 Shots of Rum” (criticWIRE rating: A-) also gets its release on DVD today. Michael Koresky‘s indieWIRE review of the film describes the film starting with a rice cooker: “The item, unlikely in its beauty, encased in appealingly lightweight red plastic, may seem peripheral to the lovingly meandering narrative of Denis’s film, but its significance to the film’s main characters — Lionel, a middle-aged train conductor (a handsome and commanding Alex Descas) and his college-student daughter Josephine (Mati Diop) —however understated, cannot be overstated. Lionel and Josephine live together in a nondescript apartment in Paris, their daily interactions imbued with easygoing familiarity and unspoken devotion, a rare harmonious onscreen familial relationship painted by Denis with the subtlest of strokes.”
First time director Scott Cooper’s indie underdog and Jeff-Bridges-Oscar-vehicle “Crazy Heart” (criticWIRE rating: B-) also gets its release on the home market today. Cooper confessed in an interview with indieWIRE, “I have no background in filmmaking (never having directed a short, attended film school or directed a music video or commercial) other than being a student of film. I was primarily an actor but wanted to further express myself creatively.” Emmanuel Levy says the following about the story of the fictitious country singer Bad Blake: “The movie draws a nice parallel between Blake and his odyssey and country music as a genre, summed up in the expression, ‘Country music is three chords and the truth.’ ‘Crazy Heart’ is like a popular and tender country song, laced with equal parts passion, humor, trouble, simplicity and repetition.”
This week also marks the release of two films that have caused our critics much consternation over the past few months, Peter Jackson’s “The Lovely Bones” (criticWIRE rating: C) and Lukas Moodysson’s “Mammoth” (criticWIRE rating: C-). PopMatters‘ Cynthia Fuchs characterizes “The Lovely Bones”: “Ah, foreshadowing. How neat and clever and constraining it can be. [The] start of Peter Jackson’s ‘The Lovely Bones’ is indicative of the troubles to come, as the film makes awkwardly literal the fantasy spun in Alice Sebold’s strange, provocative, and poetic novel.” “Mammoth,” which chronicles the complications of a hustle-and-bustle cosmopolitan New York couple (played by Michelle Williams and Gael García Bernal), is characterized by Gary M. Kramer at the Philadelphia City Paper as “[a] colossal waste…[an] overlong, underwhelming drama.”
Cinetic’s VOD distribution arm Film Buff has also announced an eclectic slate of VOD releases for April. Jonathan Hock’s ESPN Films’ baseball doc “The Lost Son of Havana” is available exclusively on Amazon VOD. Chris Smith’s conspiracy doc “Collapse” (criticWIRE rating: B) is available for iTunes download before its DVD release. Riding the current trend in quick turnarounds for small festival films, SXSW titles “Crying with Laughter” (Justin Molotnikov, writer/director) and “Erasing David” (David Bond & Melinda McDougall,directors) are currently available on cable VOD. “Crying with Laughter” chronicles the burgeoning career of a coke-snorting stand-up comic. In the doc “Erasing David,” Bond tries to disappear, pursued by two private investigators.
Also available on DVD this week: Malcolm Venville’s film about a man’s revenge against the French waiter with whom his wife had an affair, “44 Inch Chest” (criticWIRE rating: C+); PJ Raval’s doc about the sex change capital of the world, “Trinidad” (available to purchase on the film’s website); Michel Orion Scott’s doc about the pursuit of a cure for one child’s autism across Outer Mongolia, “The Horse Boy;” Peter Hanson’s screenwriting doc “Tales from the Script” (criticWIRE rating: C+); and my choice for this week’s best title for a direct-to-video release, “Fraternity Massacre at Hell Island.”
Bryce Renninger, an indieWIRE contributor in the New York office, is also the shorts programmer for Newfest and is pursuing a Ph.D. in Media Studies at Rutgers University. He can be reached via Twitter.