Classic film fans get a real treat today: for the first time ever, eight European classics, including a number of French and British New Wave film, are available On Demand, courtesy of Lionsgate Home Entertainment. From the Nouvelle Vague, viewers can choose from the lightest, most purely playful film of Jean-Luc Godard’s career (“A Woman Is a Woman”), Alain Resnais’s forbidding masterpiece “Last Year at Marienbad,” or Jean-Pierre Melville’s French Underground thriller “Army of Shadows.” They can also check out some Nouvelle Vague predecessors: a pair of Jacques Becker crime classics (“Touchez Pas au Grisbi” and “Le Trou”) and the Henri-Georges Clouzot’s police procedural “Quai des Orfevres.” Finally, British New Wave fans can revisit a pair of films from Angry Young Man John Schlesinger: 1963’s “Billy Liar” and 1965’s “Darling,” for which Julie Christie won an Oscar for Best Actress. With the exception of “Darling,” all films will also be available for DVD purchase via Amazon and on Digital HD via iTunes.
“Boyhood” might be Criticwire’s best-reviewed movie of the year so far by some margin, but this week’s new VOD titles includes “Ida,” the year’s second-best reviewed indie movie, and it’s hard to go wrong with that. Pawel Pawlikowski’s stirring drama follows a young woman who, having been raised in a convent as an orphan, learns that her parents were Jews murdered in the Holocaust. Shot in 4:3, it’s a film that reaches back to the European arthouse classics of yesteryear (Bresson, Bergman and Wajda have been cited) without feeling like a knockoff of its inspirations. Fans of Pawlikowski, who made a splash in 2004 with his superb coming-of-age film “My Summer of Love,” shouldn’t be disappointed.
The next biggest film hitting VOD is David Michod’s “Animal Kingdom” follow-up “The Rover,” a brutal post-apocalyptic tale of a drifter (Guy Pearce) who takes a simple-minded man (Robert Pattinson) across country to find the latter’s brother, who stole Pearce’s car. Critics were split between those who found its bleak world fascinating and those who found it monotonous (count this writer among the latter), but Michod’s a talent worth reckoning with, and it’s worth seeing to check out Pattinson in a far different role than in “Cosmopolis” or “Twilight.” Those looking for something a little less nihilistic can check out the race-focused period costume drama “Belle.” Documentary fans, meanwhile, might seek out Petra Costa’s dreamy “Elena,” in which Costa searches for answers regarding her sister’s suicide years earlier, or “Korengal,” a sequel to the superb 2010 War in Afghanistan documentary “Restrepo.”
By comparison, Netflix’s new titles are a bit less exciting, but viewers can check out the Gael Garcia Bernal-starring documentary “Who Is Dayani Cristal?,” about the search for the identity of a body found in the Arizona desert. On Thursday, meanwhile, viewers can check out James McAvoy as a bad cop in “Filth” or see Colin Firth’s Oscar-nominated turn as a gay professor who decides to end his life a year after the death of his lover in “A Single Man.”
More thoughts from the Criticwire Network:
Dan Schindel, Movie Mezzanine
“Belle” is an extraordinarily uncommon kind of movie. It not only stars, but is written and directed by black women. It’s edited and scored by women, as well. In fact, it has the most female-dominated above-the-line roster of any major movie in who knows how long. But don’t seek it out for that reason alone. Seek it out because it’s an involving romance, a rousing human rights drama, and an intelligent look at self-identity. In one heartwarming moment, Dido finally sees a portrait that depicts her in an affirming way. While watching “Belle,” many young women could find themselves in a similar circumstance. Read more.
Katie Walsh, The Playlist
The syntax and sentence order also reflects the overall storytelling structure of the film, which unfolds almost in a backwards, or circular fashion, starting with where she ended up before going back to tell the story from the beginning. It’s a choice that allows her to privilege mood and tone and her continued relationship with Elena over the hard and fast facts, because the lack of her reverberates throughout Costa’s life. Read more.
Greg Cwik, Indiewire
The black and white perception of religious orthodoxy is rendered in bleak gray scale, and the myriad static shots capture a world at once rife with proscribed change and devoid of progress, its people desperately sweeping the past under the rug. The heart-piercing realism is crafted with astute framing and a sort of hyper-realistic use of deep focus, which, in the almost-square 4:3, creates the disquieting sensation of experiencing a caroled, controlled version of everyday life, not unlike Bergman’s “God’s Silence” trilogy. But unlike those films, which can feel like a passive assault on one’s attention span, “Ida” laces the seriousness with wit, and something resembling charm manifests in one-liners alongside surprisingly irreverent humor. Read more.
William Goss, Film School Rejects
When held by those standards, this film doesn’t deliver the same kind of genre-rattling excitement as most similar efforts, but on its own, from scene to scene, moment to moment, it’s an enthralling watch, guided by implicit purpose and crafted with consistent personality. Cinematographer Natasha Braier does a fine job ensuring that the Outback seems like a suitably trying wasteland, and her stark imagery is well-matched by a score that sounds like tetanus, courtesy of composer Antony Partos. Read more.