One of the best films of 2014 hits DVD (not Blu-Ray) this week. “Listen Up Philip” is one of the most caustic comedies to come along in some time, and one of the best, a look at male arrogance and misanthropy that never lets Jason Schwartzman’s Philip or his equally toxic mentor Ike (Jonathan Pryce) off the hook for how they hurt the people who care about them (Elisabeth Moss, Krysten Ritter). Writer/director Alex Ross Perry doesn’t much like the DVD cover, though, so watch it through Amazon Prime if that’s going to bug you.
There’s only a few other titles to be excited about in the new releases, including Alain Resnais’ final film “Life of Riley,” the twisty-turny “R100” and the health-care in practice documentary “Remote Area Medical.” More notable are the various anniversary releases this week, for the 50th anniversary of “The Sound of Music” (really quite charming) and the 30th of “The Breakfast Club” (full of stereotypes, but they’re well-acted stereotypes). Twilight Time has a nice selection of titles, including “The Bounty,” the Mel Gibson/Anthony Hopkins take on “Mutiny on the Bounty” featuring an early role from an alarmingly young Daniel Day-Lewis; the King Vidor epic “Solomon and Sheba,” the sci-fi classics “Journey to the Center of the Earth” and “First Men on the Moon,” and Oliver Stone’s underrated, scuzzy thriller “U Turn.” And Criterion has a great new release this week with Francois Truffaut’s fourth film “The Soft Skin,” overlooked at the time after the three-masterpiece run of “The 400 Blows,” “Shoot the Piano Player” and “Jules and Jim,” but it’s a vivid Hitchcockian melodrama that shows a great director trying his hand in thriller territory for the first time.
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Glenn Kenny, RogerEbert.com
So there’s no shortage of stimulating and maybe even confounding formal playfulness here. And it’s not there to leaven the subject matter; it’s integrally folded in, to suggest that matters of both life and death are best approached with a light touch. It’s an encouraging perspective from a filmmaker whose work has never lacked for seriousness (his first feature film was “Hiroshima Mon Amour”) and whose late-career cosmic games are distinguished by a joy that’s never glib (see “Wild Grass”). Read more.
Sam Fragoso, Film School Rejects
Shot on 16mm and employing the type of intimate handheld camerawork seen in Husbands and Wives, Perry, at age 30, presents a level of relational and emotional maturity unfounded in contemporary cinema. With the narrator (Eric Bogosian) giving the film an audiobook texture, Listen Up Philip explores the terrifying and familiar concept of giving yourself to someone else. And for a brief moment in time, Philip does just that. Read more.
Criticwire Average: B
Noel Murray, The Dissolve
As with Matsumoto’s previous films, “Big Man Japan” and “Symbol,” “R100” exists in a genre netherworld, perched somewhere between slapstick comedy, raw pulp, and experimental art-film. The humor wears thin, because there’s only so many times that watching an ordinary schmoe get the crap kicked out of him is funny. And given the opening warning, “R100” isn’t as sensationalistic as it seems like it ought to be. Read more.
Nick Schager, The A.V. Club
“Remote Area Medical” makes plain that the enormous cost of insurance is the root cause of many health problems, which include teeth rotten beyond repair, eyes that have never been corrected by glasses, and 60-year-old bodies that haven’t been looked upon by professionals since their teens. Yet alongside those monetary concerns, the film also lays out—through more than one patient’s comments—the role upbringing plays in rural Americans not receiving proper care. A key impediment is a culture predicated on a go-it-alone, do-it-yourself attitude; problems, personal or otherwise, are to be fixed by oneself, not through the help of others (much less strangers). Read more.