“William Kunstler: Disturbing the Universe” (criticWIRE rating: B-), the profile of the controversial lawyer who made a career out of high-profile unpopular clients, kicks off POV’s summer series tonight, June 22 on PBS. The film’s directors, Kunstler’s daughters, Emily and Sarah, told iW‘s Eugene Hernandez, “We wanted to make a film about what we learned from him. But it also was that we were both approaching 30. When you get to be 30 you start to think about legacy, about what you want to take from your parents and what you want to pass onto your children.”
In her generally positive take on the film, PopMatters‘ Cynthia Fuchs says, “Mostly, the film presents the sisters’ struggles with their dad’s seeming loss of principle, premised on his loss of faith in the legal system, and his use of courtrooms as dramatic stages to “stand up” to oppression. Their emotional complications remain unresolved, which makes the film more compellingly messy than the usual biography.” Also hitting the televisual waves is HBO’s “Kevorkian,” which premieres next Monday, June 28. The film follows the so-called “Dr. Death” as he embarks on a quest to become a congressman after spending eight years in prison.
The Criterion Collection offers two from cinema’s greatest auteurs this week: Abbas Kiorastami’s “Close-Up” and Antonioni’s “Red Desert” both get deluxe releases. “Close-Up,” in its characteristic documentary style, depicts a print maker who convinces a family that he is filmmaker Mohsen Makhmalbaf and then shows the consequences of this ruse. The 2-disc set features several featurettes focusing on Kiorastami and the film’s lead actor Hossein Sabzian. In his DVD Talk review of the Criterion edition of “Red Desert,” Jamie S. Rich says of the film, “Michelangelo Antonioni’s 1964 portrait of neuroses and malaise offers no explanations, it just plants the viewer down in the sticky mental muck and lets him or her untangle from the web.” The film, a portrait of a working class family in a Italian town plagued with a worker’s strike and a dearth of available workers, is restored impeccably, according to Rich, and is joined in the new edition by a booklet and featurette interviews with the director and the film’s star.
Oscilloscope is releasing two-time Sundance award-winning and Golden Globe-nominated “The Maid” (crticWIRE rating: B+) today. The film, the first from Chilean director Sebastián Silva has garnered star Catalina Saavedra effusive and wholly deserved praise for her role as the disgruntled but caring maid in Silva’s absurdly charming film. Commenting on the film’s importance for him and for the culture he grew up in, Silva said in an interview with iW‘s Brian Brooks, “Being a maid in Chile – they’re not Mary Poppins. They tend to come from a poor educational background. They take care of you, feed you, dress you, but they don’t teach you. ‘The Maid’ is not just a movie that my family can relate to, but it’s a familiar story for people of similar backgrounds.”
“Le Combat dans l’ile” (English title: “Fire and Ice”), an early (1962) film from acclaimed director Alain Cavalier, gets a release today from Zeitgeist. According to the DVD Verdict review from James A. Stewart, “Zeitgeist is giving viewers the chance to see the early work of a now-acclaimed director with the release of this modest 1962 black-and-white thriller…In ‘Le Combat,’ right-wing extremist Clément (Jean-Louis Trintignant) believes he and his friend Serge have assassinated politician Louis Terrasse, but soon learns that their target is alive—and that someone warned him in advance of the attempt.” He continues, “‘Le Combat Dans L’Ile’ has a decidedly French New Wave atmosphere, with touches like Paul stopping for a smoke in a neon-soaked street after being beaten up by thugs. It also takes in the ’60s political situation in France. What it turns out to be, though, is a noirish B-movie.”
French director Catherine Breillat’s (“Fat Girl”) mythic “Bluebeard” (criticWIRE rating: B+) also comes to home theaters today. Roger Corman’s Cult Classics, through Shout! Factory, is releasing a special edition of “Death Race 2000,” a film which holds a special place in our own Anne Thompson‘s heart. On the extra features, Anne says, “lo and behold, along with Leonard Maltin’s interview with Corman (Bartel, alas, died some years ago), is my old chum Jane Ruhm, who got her start as a costume designer on the 1975 film. Her story of how David Carradine reduced her to tears and then apologized is priceless.” A duo of contemplative LGBT film fest hits, “Raging Sun, Raging Sky” and “Soundless Wind Chime” also get DVD releases today. The surreal romance that is “TiMER” also hits the streets today. Also available is 2009 Sundance audience winner “Fuel.” Finally, this week’s best new release title: “Getting High in the Barrio.”
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.