This week in classic home video brings one of the greatest musicals of all time with Criterion’s release of Bob Fosse’s “All That Jazz.” In a towering Oscar-nominated performance, Roy Scheider plays Fosse-surrogate Joe Gideon, a brilliant director and choreographer popping pills, chain-smoking and screwing his way to an early grave. One of the most self-lacerating self-portraits to ever hit the screen, the film’s dreamy climax of a Gideon undergoing life-determining open-heart surgery shows Fosse dealing with his demons, his regrets, his fantasies and the very real possibility that he was on his way out (he died eight years later at 60). Patrice Chereau’s “Queen Margot” also gets another chance at life after having been butchered by Miramax on its initial 1994 release. This story of romance and betrayal amidst the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre deserves to be seen in its original epic scope.
Other classic films hitting Blu-Ray and DVD include “What’s New Pussycat?,” Woody Allen’s first film as a writer and actor, though his personality is watered down amidst all the 60s wackiness and Peter Sellers’ ego and the film is best remembered for Tom Jones’s insanely catchy title song. Those looking for something a bit creepier would do well to check out “The Legend of Hell House,” a terrific haunted house movie starring Roddy MacDowell and scripted by Richard Matheson from his novel. The complete “Welcome Back, Kotter” makes its way to Blu-Ray, as does Stanley Kramer’s nuclear war social problem film “On the Beach,” so anyone who wanted to marathon young John Travolta and company with a hearty dose of moral righteousness, you have a weird fantasy, but here you go.
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Newer releases are headlined by “The Double,” a film that’s a bit too in debt to its influences (Terry Gilliam was cited but Kafka and Polanski are there as well) but nonetheless a striking second feature from Richard Ayoade. Last night’s Emmy winner for Outstanding TV Movie (and surprisingly nothing else), “The Normal Heart,” is also out on Blu-Ray. The film has divided critics between those who appreciate its rescue of a forgotten time and those who feel it marginalizes certain LGBT groups or plays as sex-negative, but it’s worth seeing for debate alone. The Mads Mikkelson-starring historical drama “Age of Uprising: The Legend of Michael Kohlhaas” also hits Blu-Ray, while Francois Ozon’s “Young & Beautiful” makes its way to DVD. Finally, anyone eager to see what 20+ years of absence from the big screen did for Alejandro Jodorowsky creatively can check out his autobiographical return to directing, “The Dance of Reality.”
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The film is suffused with almost constant sounds – amped up ambient noise, everyday aural backgrounds made deafeningly loud (especially footsteps, clocks, telephones, typewriters, and trains), and a purposely-overwrought score that is continuously cut obviously short for maximum amusement. “The Double” is so exuberantly theatrical and oddly energetic that it’s easy to imagine that, in the hands of another director and a less game leading man, it would only read as messy, mismanaged fluff. Read more.
Kenneth R. Morefield, Christianity Today
François Ozon’s “Young & Beautiful,” by contrast, takes a familiar, almost clichéd story, and manages to make it seem new. After a listless first sexual experience, Isabelle (Marine Vacth) begins earning money by turning tricks. Meant in part as a bracing reminder of the constant inducements young women face to capitalize on their sexuality, it never glorifies sexual license. In fact, the film is a bracing reminder that whatever its surface allures, sex has deep emotional consequences that novices both underestimate and are ill equipped to deal with. Read more.
Mike D’Angelo, The A.V. Club
Its distributor, Music Box Films, has since retitled it “Age of Uprising: The Legend of Michael Kohlhaas,” which seems like a fairly transparent attempt to appeal to “Game of Thrones” fans. While this 16th-century quasi-revenge tale has a superficially similar medieval bleakness, it lacks the juicy, salacious elements — incest! black magic! main characters brutally slaughtered at whim! — that make that show so compulsively watchable. This is a much drier, more reserved affair, though it can be quite powerful on the rare occasions when it allows raw emotion to make its way to the surface. Read more.
Eric Kohn, Indiewire
Some bits hold together better than others, but Jodorowsky’s investment in the material imbues the drama with emotional consistency. Equal parts autobiographical nostalgia trip and flamboyant B-movie, “The Dance of Reality” overcomes occasionally weak production values with the filmmaker’s clear-cut passion. More than a return to form, “The Dance of Reality” deepens its possibilities without sacrificing the macabre freakishness coursing through the director’s work — and that’s the prime reason for celebrating its continuation. Read more.