Robert Tanitch reviews the latest DVDs
On the Basis of Sex (Entertainment One). Ruth Bader Ginsburg, now in her mid-eighties, is a Supreme Court Justice in the USA. This biopic is about her early struggles to get started as a lawyer in a male orientated world. At Law School she was asked “Why are you occupying a place at Harvard that could have gone to a man?” Even after she had graduated top of her class, she was still ignored and patronised. Jobless, she initially had to teach. It was her groundbreaking success in a tax case in which a man was refused a tax return merely because he was a man that launched her career. Mimi Leder directs this tribute, which is timely propaganda for the #MeToo movement. The film is worthy rather than exciting and the screenplay resorts to clichés. Surprisingly an English actress Felicity Jones has been cast as Ginsburg. Armie Hammer is cast as her husband and he has little to do other than to look tall and handsome.
A Case for a Rookie Hangman (Second Run) is a Czech Kafkaesque nightmare and director/screenwriter Pavel Jurácek takes his inspiration from Jonathan Swift and makes a brief reference to Lewis Carroll. A modern Gulliver travels to weird imagined lands with strange rules (no speaking!) where he is chased, beaten up, gagged, arrested, and forced to confess. He ends up in a queue for ceremonial execution. The film, surreal and often inexplicable, had a severely restricted release in Czechoslovakia on its release in 1970. The communists didn’t like its political satire and Juracek (1935 -1989) never worked again. (Today, he is highly revered in his own country.) The political satire may be lost on non-Czech audiences but the grand architecture, the empty streets and the panicking crowds, photographed by Jan Kalis, will have a strong enough impact to keep cinephiles watching.