Films about the Irish, Germans, British, Chinese, Japanese, French, Sicilians, Americans and Dutch.

Films about the Irish, Germans, British, Chinese, Japanese, French, Sicilians, Americans and Dutch.

Robert Tanitch reviews the latest DVDs

JIMMY’S HALL (Entertainment One). I do hope this lyrical film, set in rural Ireland in 1932, is not Ken Loach’s last. Jimmy Gralton, a gentle political activist, no firebrand, decides to re-open a condemned hall so that the local community can have somewhere to go for a bit of education and recreation. The local gentry, the Catholic Church and the police gang up to get him deported because he is a communist. Jim Norton is excellent as the priest who condemns the hall and names names in his sermon.  Gralton (Barry Ward) has a finely written speech in the confessional when he tells the priest what he thinks of him and the Church.

THE CABINET OF DR CALIGARI (Eureka) is extraordinary; once seen never forgotten. It’s a key work of the silent era  and it’s as amazing now as it was in 1919. If you are at all interested in the history of cinema and German expressionism you will want to see Robert Weine’s film. The fantastic, theatrical, paper maché decor, with its distorted angles, is a Cubist surreal nightmare. Werner Kraus is the demented asylum director. Conrad Veidt is his protégé, a somnambulist.

LILTING (Artificial Eye). A young man (Ben Whishaw), whose boy friend dies in an accident, makes contact with his lover’s mother. There are problems. The mother (Cheng Pei Pei) is Cambodian-Chinese and does not speak English. She also did know her son was gay. He hires a translator. This deft, heartfelt, gentle, low-budget film, directed by Hong Khaou and faultlessly acted by a grief-stricken Whishaw, is perfect for the small screen. The actual translating makes it all the more moving.

THE WIND RISES (StudioCanal). The wind is rising. We must try to live. Hayao Miiazaki is one of the great animators and his visually stunning cartoon biography, aimed at grown-ups, not children, is a tribute to engineer Jiro Horikoshi, the airplane designer. Airplanes are his dreams and all he wants to do is to make something beautiful. He is seemingly blind to the fact that they will be used in war. His airplanes bombed Pearl Harbour. A fictional story is added: the girl, he loves, is dying; he first met her during the earthquake in 1923. The art work is superb throughout.

BED AND BOARD (Artificial Eye). Francois Truffaut is reunited with Jean-Pierre Leaud, his alter ego, Antoine Doinel. The marriage of a florist and a violin teacher goes through a bumpy patch. He has an affair with a Japanese girl. This gentle French comedy of bourgeois domesticity, released in 1970, relies on the chemistry of Leaud and Claude Jude, who are totally at ease with each other. Jacques Tati makes a surprise appearance.

LOVE ON THE RUN (Artificial Eye). The last of the Francois Truffaut films (1980) in which Jean-Pierre Leaud plays his alter ego, an emotional time for both Truffaut and Leaud. The cycle is unique in the way it uses the same actors over the years .Antoine Doinel is now in his late 30s and it’s time for amicable divorce. There are endless, far too many, flashbacks to the five earlier films and Antoine’s adolescence and the different stages of his life. Do you want a recap or would you prefer to see the originals movies?

SALVO (Peccadillo) is directed by Fablo Grassadonia and Antonio Piazza. A hit-man (taciturn Saleh Bakri), working for the Mafia in Palermo, reneges. He falls to kill a blind girl. “What do you want from me?” she asks. He clearly wants salvation. He puts his hands on her forehead and miraculously she gets her sight back. Can he save her? Can he save himself? This Italian thriller, after an exciting opening sequence, may prove to be just a bit too slow for many viewers.

FADING GIGOLO (Curzon), written and directed by John Turturro, feels like a bad Woody Allen comedy. Turturro plays a florist who becomes an expensive male prostitute servicing rich Jewish women. His clients include Sharon Stone. Woody Allen is cast as his pimp taking 40% of his earnings. You may feel, as I did, that Woody Allen has been making some good films recently and that there is no real need to see a pastiche bad one.

GOLTZIUS AND THE PELICAN COMPANY (Axiom) must be high on the list for Bore of the Year. Goltzius was a 16th century Dutch engraver, printer and pornographer, who liked playing games with anatomy. He offers dramatisations of sexual taboos based on paintings advertising the erotic. The subject matter is drawn from biblical stories. The result is self-indulgent exhibitionism, licensed voyeurism, lots of nudity, and lots of bad acting with foreign accents. There was a time when Peter Greenaway made films you wanted to see; but that was a long time ago.

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