Blame SXSW for getting in the way of last week’s Home Video Picks post. To make up for this terrible tragedy, we are combining forces this week to include last week’s notable releases. There, terrible tragedy fixed. Hallelujah.
Pick of the Week(s)
House of Pleasures (MPI Home Video) — House of Pleasures is lush and languid to the point of creating something like an opium-induced dream state from which neither it nor the viewer ever fully awakens, but it’s also quite remarkable for the way it manages to alarm without resorting to hyperbole. What is perhaps strangest, most unexpected, and, thanks to a brief but unnecessary coda, essentially inarguable is that all this is in effect a scented love letter to the brothel. Though far from ideal, the women’s shared lot is just that: something of their own, something that unites them. That this comes at the expense of their connection to the outside world and potentially their health is a price all involved seem willing to pay. The only male characters are clients ranging from the oddly benign to the startlingly malicious. They exist not just as foils to their more levelheaded female counterparts but also as a sign of what awaits these women should they ever graduate from L’Apollonide and work on their own: the same danger that makes its way inside, sans the camaraderie. C’est la vie. Read Michael Nordine’s full HTN review. Available on DVD.
The Dish & The Spoon (Screen Media Films) — Starring Greta Gerwig and Olly Alexander, Alison Bagnall’s The Dish & The Spoon is a fine example of intimate storytelling done right, balancing the rawness of the actors’ performances with a delicateness that accentuates all of their smiles, tears, cringes and screams. We are rewarded for Bagnall’s efforts with a sense of being physically inside this world, up close to the characters, in all their distastefulness and charm. Read Vinay Singh’s full HTN review. Available on DVD.
Jess + Moss (Strand Releasing) — While there are many pressing existential questions, to my mind, this is one of the most significant: can one make a truly effective film about aimlessness and boredom without that film becoming excruciatingly aimless and boring in its own right? At first glance, Clay Jeter’s Jess + Moss might seem to confront that issue head on, and if you aren’t in the right frame of mood, your opinion might be a less than favorable one. But if you go into it understanding that this is sensory-based—as opposed to plot-driven—cinema, you’ll immediately recognize that Jess + Moss is about something completely different. It’s about the memory of aimlessness and boredom. In a larger way, it concerns the ineffable, mysterious power of memory itself, how it can cause us to feel so deeply when we aren’t even able to pinpoint what it is that’s making us feel so lonely and sad. Read Michael Tully’s full HTN review. Available on DVD.
Melancholia (Magnolia) — Melancholia is arrestingly rendered from first frame to last, nowhere more so than in its opening montage. Here the end of the world is personal first, planetary second, and seamlessly woven together in breathtaking fashion. What happens after that doesn’t always sustain the same visual and thematic concision (how could it?) and may be viewed in one of two ways: as von Trier shrinking a cosmic event down to the size of one woman’s depression or as him ballooning that depression into a cosmic event of its own. (Or is it both?) As a portrait of self-destructive despondency and the inability—or perhaps even unwillingness—to help oneself, it’s pitch-perfect. Kirsten Dunst is distant, often unlikeable, and rarely dependent on more than her hauntingly expressive face in mournfully conveying Justine’s permeating grief. (Von Trier’s own struggles with depression are fairly well-known at this point and I won’t attempt to psychoanalyze the Danish auteur, but it seems reasonable to assume that the Dunst character is at least based in part on his own life.) Her emotions, which she likens to vines and roots dragging her to the ground as she tries to free herself in vain, are felt all the more heavily in light of the fact that we’re given no sense of the outside world’s reaction: Melancholia is a closed system, solely concerned with how its literally earth-shattering events affect its small cast of central characters. Read Michael Nordine’s full HTN review. Available on DVD, Blu-ray, and at Amazon Instant.
General Orders No. 9 (Passion River) — *This was released in various formats last month but we wanted to remind you that it is officially now available through the aforementioned distributor on DVD and Blu-ray.
New/Old to DVD/Blu-ray
Have Not Seen Yet But Really/Kinda/Sorta/Maybe Wanna
The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (Sony) — Available on DVD and 3-Disc Combo Blu-ray / DVD + UltraViolet Digital Copy.
The Muppets (Walt Disney) — Available on DVD, 2-Disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo, 3-Disc Blu-ray/DVD/Digital Copy + Soundtrack Download Card, and at Amazon Instant.
The Adventures of Tintin (Paramount) — Available on DVD, 2-Disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo + Digital Copy, 3-Disc Combo: Blu-ray 3D / Blu-ray / DVD / Digital Copy, and at Amazon Instant.