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Small Screen | Jarmusch on Criterion, Doc Favs “Collapse,” “Burma VJ,” “Gasland” in the Living Room

Small Screen | Jarmusch on Criterion, Doc Favs "Collapse," "Burma VJ," "Gasland" in the Living Room

Writing in 1989, the New York TimesVincent Canby said of Jim Jarmusch’s then new film, “Mr. Jarmusch’s ‘Mystery Train,’ though photographed in bright, primary colors by Robby Muller, has the same kind of dour, discordant charm that characterized ‘Stranger Than Paradise.’ It’s the best thing Mr. Jarmusch has done to date…The curious thing about this Jarmusch film is that although he is not considered to be strong on plots, the narrative line of ”Mystery Train” is both brilliantly funny and subtle.” Today, the film gets a Criterion Collection release. Included in the Criterion package is a hearty excerpt from a doc about Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, who figures prominently in the film, the doc “Memphis Tour,” a Q&A with Jarmusch, and an essay by Dennis Lim that champions Jarmusch’s intertwining storytelling over that of “Crash” and “Babel.”

The director Chris Smith (“The Yes Men,” “American Movie”) says of his filmmaking motivations, “I’ve always been fascinated by outsiders, people who look at the world in an entirely different way than the rest of us.” In his new film, “Collapse” (criticWIRE rating: B), Smith profiles the conspiracy theorist Michael Ruppert. Jeff Reichert, writing for indieWIRE says, “Smith, a smart filmmaker who’s jumped across a variety of modes in his career, has skewed towards the cooly Errol Morris-like in “Collapse” (even down to a Phillip Glass-aping score). This formal elegance initially reads as a far cry from his previous, more ramshackle investigations of Americana, but this purposeful appropriation is less some kind of production solution or copycatting than a sly way to manipulate our expectations.” Another recent doc, Anders Østergaard’s “Burma VJ” also gets a release today. The director wrote about the film for “The Guardian,” saying ““Burma VJ” was supposed to be a modest little film: a half-hour, low-key yet intimate portrait of Joshua, a 26-year-old Burmese video journalist, or VJ…Instead, we ended up crashing right through the main gate. What we got was beyond my wildest imaginings. In the summer of 2007, a few protests grew into an uprising that swept the streets. Soon Joshua and his fellow activists-turned-VJs were feeding CNN, the BBC and the rest of the world’s media with stunning videos, showing the Burmese people’s fight for freedom and the brutality of the military regime. The VJs underwent a tremendous rite of passage, turning from young, spontaneous activists into war-torn veterans of a media revolution.”

Miguel Arteta’s “Youth in Revolt” (criticWIRE rating: B), the film that brings two roles out of Michael Cera, also hits the shelves today. iW‘s Eric Kohn has unenthused but kind words to say about the film, “‘Youth in Revolt’ stars Michael Cera as a hyper-intelligent 16-year-old virgin desperate to escape his bubble of a boring life. If that description sounds familiar, it’s because the ‘Arrested Development’ star has done this routine before. But he does it well, and this charming romantic comedy offers no exception. In fact, Miguel Arteta’s direction and the details of the role allow Cera to slightly expand his range. There are hints of a versatile actor here, but the framework sticks to a familiar pattern.”

The financial crisis doc “Floored” is available on iTunes Friday. Next Monday, June 21, HBO brings the Sundance favorite “Gasland” (criticWIRE rating: A-) to the nation’s TV screens. The film, which was criticWIRE’s top Sundance competition doc this past year was crafted by director Josh Fox as a one man crew. On making the film, Fox told iW, “It’s amazing what you can do these days on your own, with a not so super expensive camera and a decent editing system. Film right now is more accessible, as far as the tools of production, than most art forms. The story of ‘GASLAND’ is that of one guy traveling around the country talking to people about the largest Natural Gas Drilling campaign in history, which is now occupying 34 states and which is very underreported.”

Park Chan-wook’s Vengeance Trilogy gets a Blu-Ray box set release this week, which includes “Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance,” “Oldboy,” and “Sympathy for Lady Vengeance.” Also on DVD this week is Mitchell Lichtenstein’s (“Teeth) “Happy Tears” (criticWIRE rating: C-), Sundance 2009 opener “Mary & Max,” the doc “Sex Positive,” Pauly Shore’s take on celebrity adoption in Africa “Adopted,” and the week’s best title winner “Control Alt Delete.”

Bryce J. 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.

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