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Small Screen | Spike Lee Goes Back to New Orleans, Two French Classics on Criterion & More

Small Screen | Spike Lee Goes Back to New Orleans, Two French Classics on Criterion & More

Four years after Spike Lee’s two-part documentary “When the Levees Broke:  A Requiem in Four Acts” debuted on HBO, Lee follows it up with “If God Is Willing And Da Creek Don’t Rise,” another look at the country’s gulf communities in and around New Orleans.  While the focus will be on the communities’ ability to rebuild and stick together years down the line from Hurricane Katrina, Lee has implied that the BP oil spill and its effect on the region will play a role.  Cinematical‘s Christopher Campbell reports, “Reportedly the doc, which premieres on HBO August 23rd and 24th, was supposed to conclude with the New Orleans Saints’ Super Bowl victory (back in January), but Lee’s crew has continued to make trips throughout the year and shot footage for the film as recent as two weeks ago.”  Lee’s production company has posted repeat air dates on its website.

Two other docs on the tube this week are Michael Angus and Murray Fredericks’s “Salt” (August 17 on PBS’s POV) and Kiran Deol’s “Woman Rebel” (August 18 on HBO2).  “Salt” is a video diary following Fredericks, an Australian photographer known for his expansive landscape shots, as he visits remote locations across the globe.  “Woman Rebel” recounts the journey of a Nepali woman who goes from fighting as a revolutionary guerrilla soldier to serving in Parliament.

Two packages from Criterion also hit the streets today: Maurice Pialat’s “L’Enfance Nue” and Marcel Camus’s “Black Orpheus.” On his Movie Crazy blog, Leonard Maltin praises the Criterion Collection for its latest releases, listing his reasons for loving this new edition of “Black Orpheus”: “First, we have a stunning color transfer of the sensuous and exotic film, which has never looked or sounded better…Then there are the extras, which fill a second disc. A feature-length documentary examines the impact of the film, revisits some of its locations in Rio de Janeiro, and reunites some of its cast members…In a separate video lecture, eloquent Brazilian film scholar Robert Stam explains why some Brazilians resented the film—and the very fact that so many people considered it a Brazilian movie when it fact it was made by ‘an outsider’ from France…Another video piece deals with the enormous worldwide impact of the movie’s score, especially in America, where it became a sensation quite apart from the film…Black & white filmed television interviews from the time of the film’s release with American-born leading lady Marpessa Dawn and director Camus are interesting, of course, and an essay in the accompanying booklet by Michael Atkinson adds further insight.”

Writing about “L’Enfance Nue” (1968), a film about a 10-year-old foster child’s trips from home to home, the Los Angeles TimesDennis Lim laments Pialat’s “diminished reputation in the United States” and calls “L’Enfance” “one of the most moving films about childhood ever made.” He continues, “Far from a didactic social-issue film, ‘L’enfance Nue’ declines to point fingers. The film doesn’t blame negligent authorities or foster parents. There are neither saints nor villains, people act out of both self-interest and generosity, and it is through this casual insistence on complexity that Pialat is able to create, often in just a handful of scenes, some remarkably vivid supporting characters.”

New releases on DVD this week include Ji-woon Kim’s “The Good The Bad The Weird” (criticWIRE rating:  B) and James Ivory’s “The City of Your Final Destination” (criticWIRE rating:  C+). Noting that Kim has classified “The Good The Bad The Weird” as an “Oriental Western,” Anne Thompson calls the film a must-see, saying it “boasts masterful high-speed action like you’ve never seen before: think ‘Stagecoach’ meets high-wire Jackie Chan meets ‘The Road Warrior.'” Contextualizing “The City of Your Final Destination”‘s history as a product of one half of the Merchant Ivory team, The New York TimesStephen Holden describes the film: “Anthony Hopkins, Laura Linney and Charlotte Gainsbourg, playing cultured, cosmopolitan residents of a remote estate in Uruguay, are among the actors who lend the film a classy imprimatur. As their characters philosophize and bicker, you bask in a refined sensibility shaped by Chekhov, Henry James and E.M. Forster, in which privileged people with time on their hands fret about money, endlessly chew over the past and allow their minds to eat themselves.”

Also on DVD (and in some cases, Blu-Ray) this week, Nicole Opper’s inspirational story of a young black athlete raised by two Jewish-American lesbians, “Off and Running” (criticWIRE rating:  A-); Cannes ’09 alum “Spring Fever” from director Ye Lou (criticWIRE rating:  C); “The Office” and “Extras” team Stephen Merchant and Ricky Gervais’s “Cemetery Junction”; “Temple Grandin,” the HBO film starring Claire Danes as a young Grandin, an autistic animal scientist; “Four Seasons Lodge,” Andrew Jacobs’s documentary about a community of Holocaust survivors who have retired to upstate New York; and this week’s title champ: “The Lost Skeleton Returns Again.”

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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