Various soul food movies are new to dvd the past month or so, and well worth renting - if you can figure out how to do that. In Canada right now, we find ourselves in a sad no man's land between the decline of video stores and second-run movie cinemas and the rise of anything to replace them.
Streaming? The selection Netflix offers Canadians is a joke: indeed, not one of the titles I'm recommending for appears to be on offer. As far as I can tell, they don't offer a DVD by mail service to Canadians. Zip.ca is apparently the largest dvd-by-mail service in Canada - but they also bat .000 when I lob these titles over the plate. (You can, however, rent Battle: Los Angeles or Disney's Prom. So all is not lost.)
The sort-of-good news, soon to be the really bad news, is that Vancouver's beloved Videomatica is still in business, and stocks three of the four titles - only Bill Cunningham New York is unavailable. The spring rumours of its August death were greatly exaggerated. Well, slightly exaggerated: they're still advertising October acquisitions under their "Coming Soon" listings, but after that... Nothing. Nada. The void. This weekend I re-signed with Videomatica.ca (after letting my subscription lapse in the spring) in a desperate bid to see at least a few of the films that just don't seem to be anywhere else in our film-free land. Looks like October is Movie Month: not just VIFF, but cramming in as many Videomatica-only titles as I can on my home screen. Police Adjective, Ostrov, The Bang Bang Club, My Father My Lord, Vision, Noise, The Idiot (Kurosawa), Dante's Inferno, The Trap (Klopka)< Mary and Max, Sweetgrass, Choking Man... I'm only forgoing In A Better World, Leon Morin Priest, Bill Cunningham New York and Small Town Murder Songs because I either saw them in the theatre or own my own copy.
So have I got this right? That apparently the Canadian government is using its stricter copyright laws (as well as the barrier to US mailing created by our celebrated postal service) to protect the artists and craftspersons who make movies. And the best way to guard their interests is to ensure that no one can actually watch what they create. Have the federal Conservatives figured out that film is a form of art, and therefore feel obliged to shut it down? Or have they figured out some way to tax torrenting?
Enough. I hadn't intended to start off my week in so discouraging a fashion. I just wanted to tell people about these exciting new Soul Food movies now available on video. Only to realize that the "now available" part of that announcement is barely true - and apparently by the end of October or so, will be completely true. On with our originally scheduled post. For our American readers, stalwart Videomatica subscribers, and those of you willing to torrent...
In A Better World was directed by Susanne Bier and scripted by Anders Thomas Jensen, whose collaboration on After The Wedding was also brilliant. She's a Danish director, which accounts for the artistic sensibility, who studied arts at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, which may account for the Soul Food flavour.
Leon Morin, Priest was a Criterion release this summer, set in Occupied France, in which the widow of a French Jew, herself a Communist, struggles to keep her small children out of the concentration camps with the help of a "handsome, brave, vigorous and intellectual priest" (played by French New Wave star Jean-Paul Belmondo).
Small Town Murder Songs concerns a rage-filled cop in an Ontario Mennonite community struggling to leave behind his violent past. Crank up the volume - an overpowering score makes this movie.
Unfortunately, even the hawk-eyed movie predators in the Videomatica acquisitions department missed Bill Cunningham New York, a small, soft-spoken, but utterly beguiling study of the frugal, self-reliant street photographer whose weekly fashion collages are a fixture at the New York Times. Roger Ebert: "It doesn't matter if you care nothing at all about clothing, fashion or photography. Here is a good and joyous man who leads a life that is perfect for him, and how many people do we meet like that? This movie made me happy every moment I was watching it." Looks like I'll have to buy me a copy...