Robert Tanitch reviews the latest DVDs
Being Frank: The Chris Sievey Story (Altitude). There are many stories of puppets taking on a life of their own. I particularly remember Michael Redgrave and his dummy in Dead of Night. What is unusual is the ventriloquist becoming the puppet in real life. Steve Sullivan’s documentary pays tribute to Chris Sievey, musician, singer, comedian, comic book artist and alcoholic, who created Frank Sidebottom (a chap with a big paper mache head) who took over his life to such an extent that it was impossible to know where Sidebottom began and Sievey ended. His mates described him as “a man on a mission of rank insanity“. Sievey (1953-2010) died a pauper. Grassroots raised £6,500 in hours to pay for his funeral.
Private Life (Netflix). Infertility is no joke. Neither is fertility treatment in clinical detail. A couple in their late forties are desperate to have a child. They have a choice: adoption or assisted reproduction with their niece, a drop-out student, who will provide the eggs he will inseminate and his wife will carry. The performances of Paul Giamatti and Kathryn Hahn are so perfect that many couples in a similar situation will be identifying with them. The script, written and directed by Tamara Jenkins, is funny and sad and cringe-making embarrassing at the same time. There is a scene-stealing cameo by Denis O’Hare as an IVF doctor.
Reversing Roe (Netflix). Abortion has become politicized. On 22 July 1973 The US Supreme Court affirmed the legality of a woman’s right to have an abortion. Ricki Stern and Anne Sundberg’s documentary documents the opposition’s fight to make abortion illegal again. The closure of abortion clinics continues across the United States. The Pro-Life Movement targets abortionists and doctors have been killed. The big question is who should get to make the decision about abortion? Is it the woman? Or is it the government?