This week on DVD/Blu-ray: "Bombay Beach" from music video director Ama Har'el; the last epic from Chilean filmmaker Raul Ruiz; George Clooney's political thriller "The Ides of March"; "Belle de Jour" starring Catherine Deneuve; and the Blu-ray debut of "Traffic."
#1. Critic's Pick: "Bombay Beach" (DVD)
Music video director Alma Har'el's first foray into feature filmmaking, the documentary hybrid "Bombay Beach" (winner of the Best Documentary Feature award at the 2011 Tribeca Film Festival), was one of the most impressive debuts of last year. The documentary tracks the lives of a diverse group of people living in Bombay Beach, one of the poorest communities in southern California on the shores of the Salton Sea.
Indiewire critic Eric Kohn gave the film an A. In his review, he writes, "'Bombay Beach' erupts into an experimental treatise on the power of fantasizing as an expression of hope. The movie's existing poster boasts an enthusiastic quote from Terry Gilliam, which is about right; Har'el's work contains an otherworldly dimension not unlike Gilliam's oeuvre - both dreamlike and intimately familiar."
Extras: In case you're not famiiar with Har'el's music video work, get caught up by watching the three included here, totalling in 12-minutes and all of them for the band Beirut. Also included are four deleted scenes (9-minutes total); three "Where Are They Now?" featurettes (17-minutes); four selected scenes with audio commentary by Har'el, editor Joe Lindquist and choreographer Paula Present; and the theatrical trailer.
#2. "Mysteries of Lisbon" (DVD/Blu-ray)
Acclaimed Chilean filmmaker Raul Ruiz, who died last year, ended his legacy (he made over a 100 films!) in 2011 with his sprawling epic "Mysteries of Lisbon." The four-and-a-half hour period piece is based on three stories by 19th century Portuguese scribe Camilo Castelo Branco.
Extras: The film's so long it's been split up on 2 discs. On the third disc you'll find a load of extras including a 40-minute interview with Ruiz; a brief interview with screenwriter Carlos Saboga; a 30-minute radio interview with Ruiz; a 15-minute critics' roundtable discussion of the film; the film's trailer; a 10-page booklet featuring an essay on Ruiz by critic Jonathan Rosenbaum; and a 15-minute segment on the novels of "Mysteries of Lisbon" author Camilo Castelo Branco. (Go here for Indiewire's review.)
#3. "Belle de Jour" (DVD/Blu-ray)
French legend Catherine Deneuve (this year's recipient of the Film Society of Lincoln Center's Chaplin award) gives one of her most iconic performances as a bored, sexually repressed housewife in this scorching classic from master provacateur Luis Buñuel.
Extras: Criterion's gone all out for this one. Included: audio commentary by Michael Wood, author of the book "Belle de Jour"; a new video piece featuring writer and sexual-politics activist Susie Bright and film scholar Linda Williams; a new video interview with screenwriter Jean-Claude Carriere; a segment from the French TV program "Cinema," featuring interviews with Carriere and Deneuve; original and rerelease trailers; plus a gorgeous booklet featuring an essay by critic Melissa Anderson and a 1970s interview with Bunuel.
#4. "Traffic" (Blu-ray)
The film that won Steven Soderbergh the Oscar for Best Director in 2000 remains one of his best films to date (and that's saying a lot considering his fantastic output since). It finally gets the Blu-ray treatment courtesy of The Criterion Collection in this souped up release.
Extras: All of the the extras from the original Criterion DVD release have made their way over. These include three audio commentaries from Soderbergh, writer Stephen Gaghan, producers Edward Zwick, Marshal Herskovitz and Laura Bickford; a whopping 25 (!) deleted scenes with accompanying commentary; theatrical trailers and TV commercials; and a number of meaty featurettes that delve into aspects of the production.
#5. "The Ides of March" (DVD/Blu-ray)
George Clooney made critics forget his last directorial misfie "Leatherheads," with this scathing and acclaimed political thriller that boasts one of the best ensembles of the year (Ryan Gosling, Clooney, Paul Giamatti, Marisa Thomei and Evan Rachel Wood round out the cast). (Go here for Indiewire's review.)
Extras: The best extra here is the audio commentary by Clooney and co-writer/producer Grant Heslov. Additional goodies include a 7-minute featurette that delves into the origing of the film; "Believe: George Clooney," a 6-minute love letter to the star; and some other pretty disposable featurettes.