The Band’s Visit (Sony): A highly accomplished directorial debut from Israeli director by Eran Kolirin about an Egyptian band (the Alexandria Ceremonial Police Orchestra) who travel to Israel to play at an Arab cultural center, only to find themselves lost in the wrong town. Although tensions in the Middle East can lead to polemical or naive filmmaking, this beautifully crafted tale manages to avoid the usual pitfalls. The restrained humour, inventive visuals and strong but subtle performances put the conflict between Arabs and Israelis into a more involving and human perspective.
Vampyr (Eureka/Masters of Cinema): A welcome re-release for this classic vampire film which was directed in 1932 by Danish director Carl Theodor Dreyer. The story – partly inspired by Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla – involves as traveller (Julian West) who arrives at an inn in the countryside only to find something very strange going on with the inhabitants. Notable for its hypnotic mood, it also contains some indelible images, such as a character out of snyc with his own shadow, a memorable death in a flour mill, a funeral procession shot from inside the coffin and rooms that gets darker when the doors are opened. There are some wonderful extras on this disc including an 80-page booklet, deleted scenes, two documentaries and a highly informative commentary from director Guillermo Del Toro, who is a huge fan of the film.
Still Life (BFI): This 2006 Chinese film, directed by Jia Zhangke, surprisingly scooped the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival that year. Shot in the village of Fengjie, a small town on the Yangtze River, it tells the story of two people in search of their spouses in the shadow of the Three Gorges Dam. It contains some striking imagery, such as a building being fired into space and a tightrope walker attempting a mid-air crossing. A slowly paced but rewarding look at life in modern China, with renewed topicality given the recent Olympic Games in Beijing.
The Satyajit Ray Collection – Volume 1 (Artificial Eye): A welcome DVD release for Satyajit Ray – one of India’s greatest directors. This first collection contains three of his films: Mahanagar (The Big City) a 1963 film about a young woman who finds independence in her work, but is nonetheless constrained by traditional patriarchal attitudes; Charulata (The Lonely Wife) is his 1964 film (often regraded as his finest) about an upper-class Bengali couple in the late 19th century, who struggle to live up to their own lofty ideals. Nayak (The Hero), made in 1966, takes place almost entirely on a train and explores the entertainment industry, but also how society perceives the images it creates.
Asterix at the Olympic Games (Pathe): Another live-action version of the famous French cartoon character with Clovis Cornillac as the diminutive Gaul and Gerard Depardieu as his trusty friend Obelix. Here they travel to Greece and the Olympic Games, in aid of fellow Gaul Alafolix (Stephane Rousseau) who is trying to woo the Greek Princess Irina.
Awake (Icon): Hayden Christensen, Jessica Alba and Terence Howard star in this thriller about anaesthesia and corruption.
Buso Renkin – Volume 1 (Manga): Based on the popular manga series written and illustrated by Nobuhiro Watsuki (the man behind ‘Rurouni Kenshin’), Buso Renkin is an anime series mixing comedy, drama, fantasy and romance. Volume 1 is a 3-disc set which includes the first 13 episodes of the 26-episode series. Episodes feature Japanese and English 2.0 audio and optional English subtitles.
Doctor Who: The War Machines (2 Entertain): A four part Doctor Who adventure, originally screened in 1966 as part of the show’s third season, sees the First Doctor (William Hartnell) and companion Dodo (Jackie Lane) travel to Swinging Sixties London, where they do battle with supercomputer WOTAN and his army of robots.
Judex + Nuits Rouges – Two Films by Georges Franju (Eureka/Masters of Cinema): Eureka re-release this double bill of Georges Franju films as part of their Masters of Cinema Series. Franju was co-founder of the Cinémathèque Française and famous for directing Eyes Without A Face. Both of these films were homages to the silent serials of Louis Feuillade and were even co-written in collaboration with Feuillade’s grandson, Jacques Champreux.
La Belle et la bête (BFI): Jean Cocteau’s version of Beauty and the Beast – Mme Leprince de Beaumont’s eighteenth-century fairy tale – stars Josette Day as Beauty and Jean Marais as the Beast. Although previously re-released in 2001, this is a restored version of the original film for Studio Canal in association with Sky Arts.
Love in a Cold Climate (2 Entertain): A re-release for the BBC TV series based on the novels of Nancy Mitford, the story involves three upper-class young women and their quest for romance just before World War II. Starring Celia Imrie, Alan Bates, Sheila Gish, Anthony Andrews and Frances Barber.
Love is the Devil: Study for a Portrait of Francis Bacon (BFI): A re-release for this 1999 BBC film about the artist Francis Bacon (Derek Jacobi) and his strained relationship with lover muse and George Dyer (a pre-Bond Daniel Craig).
Naruto Unleashed: Series 4 – Part 1 (Manga): An anime series adapted from the best-selling manga created by Masashi Kishimoto, which follows the adventures of a ninja boy in training. This version is released uncut on DVD and spread across three-discs.
Nim’s Island (Universal): Based on the children’s novel by Wendy Orr and directed by the husband and wife team of Mark Levin and Jennifer Flackett, this family adventure film stars Abigail Breslin, Jodie Foster and Gerard Butler.
Origin: Spirits of the Past (Manga): Directed by Keiichi Sugiyama, this is the first full-length animated feature film made by Studio Gonzo – a futuristic sci-fi fairy tale that uses 3-D CGI and traditional 2-D animation styles.
Points and Aspects: The British Transport Films Collection Volume 8 (BFI): The latest volume of digitally re-mastered British Transport Films released by the BFI has 13 films (nearly five hours of footage) that explore a range of subjects that the BTF Unit covered from 1952 to 1974.
Supernatural – Season 3 (Warner Bros): The third season of the US TV series which follows two brothers (played by Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles), who travel across the country investigating paranormal events, many of them based on American urban legends and folklore.
The Chair (DNC Entertainment): A horror film from director Brett Sullivan (who made Ginger Snaps 2: Unleashed) stars Alanna Chisholm and Lauren Roy in a tale set in a haunted Victorian house.
The David Lynch Collection (Optimum): Optimum have collected together two of their previous David Lynch releases alongside their recent Special Edition release of The Elephant Man. This set also includes Inland Empire and Mulholland Drive, although they are only the previously available single disc editions.
Who Saw Her Die (Shameless): A giallo (i.e. an Italian slasher movie) film from 1971 directed by Aldo Lado which involves a couple (George Lazenby and Anita Strindberg) investigating the death of their young child.
X-Men – Series 1 (Liberation Entertainment): A DVD release for the popular animated series based on the Marvel comic, which has long been requested by fans of the show.
If you have any questions about this week’s DVD releases or any upcoming titles then just email me
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