DVD Traffic Report: March 25, 2008

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480_bonnie-dvd.jpgBonnie and Clyde (Warner)

I wasn’t around for its release, so I don’t know what it felt like to see it contemporaneously, but Bonnie and Clyde has gained a deserved reputation as the first of a new type of Hollywood film — one that revels in the outlaw appeal of the sociopath and depicts brutal violence frankly and with some degree of relish. The generally wrong-headed Bosley Crowther attacked it at the time (“… Bonnie and Clyde does not impress me as a contribution to the thinking of our times or as wholesome entertainment”) and the Times was still harrumphing about its glamorization of violence as recently as last August, when A.O. Scott furrowed his brow in retrospect (“… in some ways that matter and that have become too easy to dismiss, Bosley Crowther was right”). Elaine Lennon’s piece for Senses of Cinema is an insanely anecdote-packed précis on the film, including a representative sample of critical reaction that hints at what really was at stake at the downtown movie house in the late 1960s. If you’ve missed it to date, or are ready to stage your own private revival, a new multiplicity of home-video versions is out today.

Buy it from Amazon.com: Bonnie and Clyde (Two-Disc Special Edition), Bonnie and Clyde – Ultimate Collector’s Edition, or Bonnie and Clyde [Blu-ray]


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480_lost-highway-dvd.jpgLost Highway (Focus)

I kind of hated Lost Highway on its release (along with my reviews of The Usual Suspects and especially Fargo,

my take on this one has generated a generous and reliable stream of hate

mail over the years), but I wouldn’t be surprised if David Lynch’s

nightmarish trip into a demented psycho-thriller landscape has aged

especially well — I was pretty down on Lynch after watching this, but I

decided that the follow-up, Mulholland Dr., was an out-and-out masterpiece. It’s been a long time since Lost Highway was readily available in a decent, letterboxed U.S. home-video version, so it’s ripe for re-evaluation.

Buy the DVD from Amazon.com: Lost Highway

480_strange-culture-dvd.jpgStrange Culture (Docurama)

Writer/director/editor Lynn Hershman Leeson (Teknolust)

has a novel approach to this documentary about Steve Kurtz, a Buffalo,

NY-based professor and artist detained as a suspected bioterrorist

after his wife’s unexpected death of heart failure — a medic responding

to his emergency call spotted some petri dishes in his house, which he

was collecting for an art installation dealing with the implications of

biologically modified food, and notified the authorities. The film

makes a plausible argument that the FBI pursued trumped-up

charges against Kurtz in a plainly cynical bid to gain legal inroads

into the worlds of art and academia; because Kurtz has been warned by

his lawyer not to speak publicly about certain aspects of the case,

Leeson has cast Thomas Jay Ryan to play him, and Tilda Swinton to play

his wife, in docudrama re-enactments that are interspersed with

standard talking-heads doc material. The results are somewhat effective but

occasionally maddeningly tangential — especially when Leeson

foregrounds Kurtz’s reaction to Ryan’s and Swinton’s performances, or goes out of her way to implicate Kurtz’s feckless students, too cowed to sign a petition in support of their professor.

And then Peter Coyote shows up about an hour in as a surrogate for Robert

Ferrell, a genetics professor implicated in the case, and he just

fucking brings it

— his introduction to Ferrell’s statement has a chilling gravity that

emphasizes how much is at stake in a hysterical post-9/11 legal

environment where habeas corpus itself has been suspended.

Unfortunately, after a minute or so, the director feels the need to

underscore Ferrell’s words on the potential danger of genetically modified

food supplies by showing us footage of a cute little girl standing in

front of an open refrigerator while the Residents noodle around eerily

on the soundtrack. That kind of propaganda-film tactic isn’t necessary;

Kurtz’s own story is chilling enough.

Buy it from Amazon.com: Strange Culture

480_wristcutters-dvd.jpgWristcutters: A Love Story (Lionsgate)

This refugee from

Sundance 2006 is the kind of outwardly charming trifle that makes me feel bad about giving it a middling review. Patrick Fugit and Shannyn

Sossamon star as a cute couple inhabiting an afterlife for suicides;

the idea has a lot of winning quirk but not so much energy, turning

tedious after a while. Worth a look — especially if you dig Tom Waits,

who has a smallish role, and/or Gogol Bordello, the band that clearly inspired the

film’s Eugene Hutz-derived ex-rocker character.

Buy it from Amazon.com: Wristcutters – A Love Story

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480_bad-meat-dvd.jpgBad Meat (Hart Sharp)

Sure, it sounds like a low-budget dark comedy co-written and directed by a former editor of The Onion

might be worth a look — maybe even a chuckle or two — but I’d advise

you to steer well clear of this unfunny, self-consciously lowbrow

misfire about a couple of hicks who plot to kidnap a Congressman (Chevy

Chase, in what amounts to little more than a cameo) but end up

accidentally turning him into sliced balogna. It makes Kevin Smith look like Jacques Tati. I admit that I didn’t

make it all the way through the DVD, but I spent some time with the

commentary track, which is more likable than the feature itself. Here’s

director Scott Dikkers in a candid moment, expressing sympathy for the rats in the

background of one scene:

“To motivate [the rats]

… the handler pinched their testicles …. They say [no animals were

harmed in the making of this movie], but of course we had the

animal-protection guy on the set when we had the animals, so it was all

legal, but the line they draw in movies for what harm means is kind of like the Bush Administration defining torture.

So, literally, you can beat animals nearly to death on a set and still

have that in there. It’s one of the scandals of making movies that

people don’t know about.”

Yes, it’s sad that Coppola took out a water buffalo to make Apocalypse Now, and disturbing that Michael Cimino blew up a horse on-screen for Heaven’s Gate. But the idea that even one rat got his nuts pinched so Scott Dikkers could make Bad Meat? That’s sick.

Buy it from Amazon.com: Bad Meat

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