When I settled in to take a look at Nimrod Nation, an eight-part documentary series that aired beginning in 2007 on the Sundance Channel, I expected to sit still for an episode or two before deciding when and whether to continue. To my not-inconsiderable surprise, I devoured the first four episodes in a single afternoon, took down two more in the evening, and finished out the package the following morning. Taken as a whole, Nimrod Nation is not a great documentary, but it’s a friendly and unassuming collection of days in the life that gets big points for compulsive watchability.
I haven’t seen many Bollywood movies. It’s quite possible that, were I more familiar with their form and conventions — if the exotic-to-western-eyes spell they can cast were less of a novelty — I’d have a lot less patience with Saawariya and the endless tiny complications that sustain its otherwise threadbare boy-chases-girl storyline over more than two hours of screen time. Then again, were I a Bollywood fanboy, I might be even more enchanted by everything that Saawariya gets right — enough that I’d be less cognizant of what misses.
The gimmick of this energetic Brit-com is that the action
switches, approximately halfway through, from comic crime drama to comic
splatter movie. The main problem, then, is that The Cottage, against the odds, makes a better caper movie than gore flick. The first half-hour or so is an
engaging and amusing farce about kidnappers David (Andy Serkis) and Peter
(Reece Shearsmith), who drive to a secluded house with their hostage, Tracey
(Jennifer Ellison) bound and gagged in the trunk. It’s not the best plan — the outrageously busty Tracey may be the daughter of a gangster, but she’s a terrible hostage, strong-willed and foul-mouthed. She knows David on sight. And their inside man, Tracey’s brother Andrew, is a dimwit who brings the whole scheme tumbling down on top of them. About the time the car pulls up outside with a couple of Chinese hit men out for blood, The Cottage has established itself as a credibly tense comedy.
Among the most important female directors* in film history, Agnes Varda may best be remembered for crashing the boys’ club that was the Nouvelle Vague with Cleo from 5 to 7, her 1962 study in real-time anxiousness — the title character hangs around in Paris, awaiting the results of a cancer biopsy. But she was already on the scene in 1956, when she made La Pointe Courte, a film-school standby and an important precursor to the French New Wave. This boxed set collects both of those high-water marks along with Le Bonheur (1965), the well-regarded Vagabond (1985) and a full load of extras. I haven’t seen it myself, but it’s on my list.
* No, there aren’t many of them. Another good reason to investigate the great ones.
How many times do you have to buy Life of Brian, anyway? If you already own a DVD version, this latest iteration — the “Immaculate Edition” — may be missable. But if you’re like me, you haven’t watched this since the Criterion laserdisc came out and need an upgrade. (You could also ask why you spent big money on a Criterion laserdisc that you would only play once, and why you would compound that fiscal error by sinking even more money into a DVD that you’re likely to only play once — but then you wouldn’t be like me.) My copy (Blu-ray) hasn’t arrived from Amazon.com yet, but it looks like this one contains the same five deleted scenes and the same twin commentary tracks as the Criterion version, which means I can thrill again to the sound of distinguished Python Terry Gilliam griping about how much better this film would have been if the group had let him direct. (He’s probably right, of course.) As Python goes, I honestly prefer the more madcap Holy Grail — but this one has the distinction of being perhaps the least offensive film ever to get a worldwide reputation for blasphemy. Here’s a recent interview with John Cleese on the subject.