Robert Tanitch reviews the latest DVDs
WE ARE WHAT WE ARE (Entertainment One). Tell Daddy, supper is ready. We are what we eat and drink. Cannibalism is an acquired taste. Jim Mickle’s slow-burn retelling of a Mexican film is a superior and serious horror story: a weird, despicable, religious family ritual, two centuries old at least, is acted out in rainy Gothic backwoods. I am not sure how many people will be able to stomach the gruesome climax, stomach being the operative word.
ALAN PARTRIDGE ALPHA PAPA (StudioCanal). Steve Coogan at last gets to play his most popular role on the big screen. A local radio station is bought up. One DJ, made redundant, holds the staff hostage. Partridge acts as negotiator with the police. Not all of the screenplay works and much of it feels like an extended TV episode but there are lots of funny moments, and more than enough to satisfy Coogan’s legion of fans.
AGE OF UPRISING: THE LEGEND OF MICHAEL KOHLHAAS (Curzon) is based on a novel by Heinrich von Kleist and is a 16th century story of injustice and revenge. Mads Mikkelsen, as dry and as rugged and as taciturn as the rocky landscape, is a brooding horse-trader whose horses are stolen and whose wife is murdered. He leads a peasant revolt. The film, directed by Arnaud Des Pelliireers, is heavy-going at times, but always interesting; and two key scenes – one with a Protestant pastor (Denis Lavant) and the other with a princess (Roxane Duras) – give the story a considerable lift.
LUBITSCH IN BERLIN (Eureka). Perhaps only admirers of Lubitsch’s Hollywood movies will want to see his very early silent work. Die Bergkatze is said to be his favourite. The high spot for me is The Oyster Princess with its memorable fox-trot epidemic. A Lubitsch film is instantly recognizable by the sheer hordes of extras available to him in any one shot and his witty (and wittily ridiculous) use of such vast numbers; he uses hordes so often it becomes a trademark. Anna Boleyn is almost worth seeing for the wrong reasons, its historical absurdity and the gross over-acting.
THE ENGLISH TEACHER (Kaleidoscope). A naive 45-year-old spinster, who lives her life through literature, has sex on her desk in the classroom with a former student, now a failed writer, whose strange play is being staged by the school. Nobody’s behaviour is believable, neither the teacher, the student, the student’s dad, nor the head teachers. Julianne Moore deserves a better script. Nathan Lane does a comic turn as a pompous director.