DVD RELEASES 2009/6/23

A very classy line-up of new releases is yours for the taking this week, as Criterion continues to impress with another barrage of cinema classics (seriously, have they been putting out at least two movies a week lately?). But equally as important—maybe more so, in fact—is the unveiling of one of the most creative, personal, and haunting war reflections of all time. Let’s get to it:

Waltz With Bashir (Sony Pictures Classics) — As ineffable as the concepts of memory and dreams can be, Ari Folman’s genre-shatterer is equally difficult to pin down. In order to more intricately explore his personal involvement in the horrific 1982 Sabra and Shatila massacres as an Israeli soldier, Folman turned to a traditionally fictional format: animation. Contrary to what one might expect, this potentially disorienting—not to mention distancing—technique enabled Folman to burrow deeper inside his own mind and deliver an immersive picture that captures war at its most nightmarish and unsettling. Folman fuses his striking visual approach with Max Richter’s propulsive, melancholic score, resulting in a wholly unique achievement. And while Folman ultimately determines that he was not directly responsible for any deaths, he nonetheless feels a tragic sense of guilt. In the process, he asks us to feel the same. Waltz With Bashir isn’t just one of the more creative anti-war pictures ever made. It is one of the best. Buy it on DVD and Blu-ray at Amazon. (Michael Tully)

Last Year at Marienbad: Criterion Collection (Criterion) — Alain Resnais was all the buzz at Cannes this year with his new film Wild Grass, so the timing seems perfect to revisit Resnais’ Last Year At Marienbad, which is being re-released by Criterion on both DVD and Blu-ray (the HD transfer having been approved by Resnais himself). Both versions are packed with extras, including interviews with Resnais and a new documentary about the making of the film, as well as two rare Resnais short films—Toute la mémoire du monde and Le chant du styrene—but nothing on either disc is likely to prepare the uninitiated for the crystal clear and achingly gorgeous transfer of Marienbad itself, a sort of romantic Rashomon between a pair of beautiful strangers. The film remains enigmatic, problematic and impossible to digest in a single viewing, which makes the richness of Criterion’s transfer and packaging all the more important. This is what DVD (and Blu-ray in particular) were made for. (Tom Hall)

My Dinner With Andre: Criterion Collection (Criterion) — One of the great miracles of independent film, Louis Malle’s My Dinner With Andre remains as unlikely a movie as it must have seemed to audiences at the old New Yorker Theater in Manhattan, where the film played for months on end in 1981. Essentially a brilliantly written, delicately crafted dinner conversation between theater director Andre Gregory and the actor/playwright Wallace Shawn, My Dinner With Andre is a thrilling study in character, conversation and the movie camera; the dynamics of Malle’s glacial zooms, lingering reaction shots and close-ups work in perfect sympathy with Gregory’s tales of artistic exploration and Shawn’s astonished scrutiny. Criterion has given the film the deluxe treatment, with a splendid transfer and engaging bonus materials, including a fascinating interview between Shawn and Malle filmed for the BBC in 1982, and recent interviews with the film’s protagonists conducted by Noah Baumbach. Buy the DVD at Amazon. (Note: Roger Ebert’s rave on Sneak Previews is widely credited, along with audience word of mouth, with making the film a hit. His original review of the film can be found online here.) (Tom Hall)

Our City Dreams (First Run Features) — Director Chiara Clemente’s documentary portrait of five very unique female artists working in New York City is an inspiration on many different levels. Read the HTN review here, then buy it at Amazon. (MT)

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