New releases 2/1/22

New Blu-Ray & 4K Ultra HD
The Piano (4K & Blu-Ray, 1993, drama/romance dir. by Jane Campion, Criterion Collection, Holly Hunter. Rotten Tomatoes: 91%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 89, Must See. From Vincent Canby’s 1993 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “‘The Piano’ is much like its remarkable heroine, Ada [Holly Hunter], a mute [but not deaf], young unmarried Scots woman who, with her 9-year-old daughter, travels to the New Zealand bush to marry a man she has never met. Ada’s husband-to-be calls her “stunted.” The film looks deceptively small, but in character it’s big and strong and complex. Here’s a severely beautiful, mysterious movie that, as if by magic, liberates the romantic imagination. ‘The Piano’ could be the movie sensation of the year.” Read more…)

New Foreign DVDs
The Year of the Everlasting Storm (international, short film anthology. Rotten Tomatoes: 94%. Metacritic: 72. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “You can’t blame filmmakers for keeping busy during lockdown. The omnibus film ‘The Year of the Everlasting Storm’ assembles pandemic-made shorts from around the globe. But with just two decent segments out of seven, this anthology uncannily replicates the sensation of feeling trapped.” Read more…)

Little Girl (France, gender identity, LGBTQ. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 80. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Beatrice Loayza’s Times review: “‘Little Girl,’ the French filmmaker Sébastien Lifshitz’s disarmingly sensitive documentary about a 7-year-old transgender girl, understands the power of close-ups. The camera often lingers on the face of our fledgling protagonist, Sasha, not to gawk at her appearance, but to challenge whatever moralizing preconceptions one might have with emotion laid devastatingly bare. One could easily mistake ‘Little Girl’ for a fictional drama that tends toward observation and realism.” Read more…)

New American Back Catalog DVDs (post-1960)
What Happened Was… (1994, comedy, Tom Noonan. Rotten Tomatoes: 91%. Metacritic: 71%. From Janet Maslin’s 1994 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “In his small, edgy two-character film, ‘What Happened Was . . .,’ Tom Noonan aims for something universal. Charting an uneasy evening spent by two slightly acquainted people on a first date, Mr. Noonan reaches into the depths of their loneliness, letting them reveal themselves gradually over the course of an awkward dinner. As the writer, director and leading man of this rueful drama, Mr. Noonan makes it clear that “What Happened Was . . .” is a labor of love.” Read more…)

New TV
The Killing: Season 3 (US version, crime, Mireille Enos. Rotten Tomatoes: 67%. Metacritic: 69.)

New Documentaries
Woodlands Dark And Days Bewitched: A History Of Folk Horror (folk culture, horror, cinema history. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 80. From Leslie Felperin’s Guardian review: “Writer-director Kier-La Janisse, founder of the Miskatonic Institute of Horror Studies, clearly knows the subject inside out, and finds the best authors, scholars and authorities to talk about the subject. But what’s really admirable is the way it is organised into digestible chapters that flow silkily from one subject to another, eased along by a spontaneous and colloquial voiceover from the director herself. As a film essay, the methodology is exemplary; if you want an education in an aspect of film over the winter and have finished watching all of Mark Cousins’ “Story of Film” docs, this offers an excellent next component.” Read more…)

Prisms And Portraits: The Films Of Rosine Mbakam—The Two Faces of a Bamileke Woman, Chez Jolie Coiffure, Delphine’s Prayers, Prism (Cameroon/Belgium, documentaries, migrant experience of women, colonialism. Mbakam’s films “The Two Faces of a Bamileke Woman” and “Chez Jolie Coiffure” were both New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Teo Bugbee’s Times review: “With a view that is at once intimate and distant, Mbakam shows the duality of diasporic identity; she is never totally at home, and never totally without it. In both of her short films, Mbakam demonstrates a mastery of perspective, a rare ability to include the camera in community. Her films do not give voice to her subjects — rather, she shares with women the chance to speak for themselves.” Read more…)

Dick Johnson Is Dead (family, mental health, cycle of life, personality. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 89, Must See. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Manohla Dargis’ Times review: “Critics like to pigeonhole movies using familiar categories — fiction, nonfiction, happy, sad — but one of the charms of “Dick Johnson Is Dead” is how slippery it is. Pitched artfully between the celebratory and the elegiac, it is an inarguably serious documentary with light, surrealistic flourishes that, at times, veer into exuberant goofiness. Even at its silliest, the movie retains an undertow of melancholia because [as the title announces] it’s a death notice. It is also a love letter from a daughter to a father who, for the viewer, becomes fully human even as he fades away.” Read more…)

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