Monday , December 4 2023
Under scrutiny this week: documentaries, dramas, and an imported kiddie flick.

Everything From Foreign Flicks to Hippie Chicks

Once again, it’s time to stroll through the aisles of the video store and see what kind of cinematic mayhem awaits me. As always, it’s never a challenge to find something “unusual” or “different” that many folks have probably passed up. For this chapter of Catching Up At The Video Store, I settled my sights (OK, so I closed my eyes and grabbed a couple of DVDs!) and chose a couple of foreign films, a drama or two, and one downright weird and psychedelic trip that would make even Timothy Leary wonder what the hell he was on.

The Maid (La Nana) (2009) (Oscilloscope) – *Not to be confused with the horror film of the same name.* With two wins at the Sundance Film Festival under its belt, Sebastian Silva’s The Maid (La Nana) brings us the gripping dramatic tale of a loyal maid (Catalina Saavedra). After being employed by the same Chilean family for twenty years, Raquel (Saavedra) knows no other life. Unfortunately, as anyone who has ever had an aging domestic servant knows, they tend to get old real quick: in both their age and their personality. When the family’s matriarch decides to hire on some new help to “assist” Raquel, Raquel decides to put her foot down — and fuck with new girls as much as possible. Hey, you go, girl!

Burma VJ: Reporting From A Closed Country (Burma VJ: Reporter I Et Lukket Land) (2008) (Oscilloscope) – *Not to be confused with the much-anticipated biopic of MTV’s first Burmese video jockey.* Journalism is a fascinating thing. In America, it’s more of a farce than anything: a borderline, biased epidemic that can topple celebrities, impeach presidents, and promote idiots like Glenn Beck as gods. In Burma, however, journalism is considered to be downright illegal by its militaristic government. Comprised mostly of smuggled journalism footage, Burma VJ: Reporting From A Closed Country (Burma VJ: Reporter I Et Lukket Land) gives us the account of a doomed 2007 uprising, wherein thousands of Buddhist monks protested against the government.

The Messenger (2009) (Oscilloscope) – *Not to be confused with the Joan of Arc biopic by Luc Besson.* After returning home from Iraq, Staff Sergeant Will Montgomery (Ben Foster) is assigned to the unenviable department of Casualty Notification (the guys that tell happily married women that they are now widows and that their pension funding will be cut off immediately owing to the fact that said now-dead fellow was secretly a terrorist). Forming a rocky relationship with his more experienced co-worker, Sgt. Tony Stone (Woody Harrelson), Will soon feels the pressure of his new job when he A) starts to experience emotions, and B) makes that uncomfortable attempt to comfort a recent widow (Samantha Morton) by getting into a relationship with her. Poor, deluded sod. I guess that’s life in the Army for you, though. Also available on Blu-ray.

Creation (2009) (Lionsgate) – *Not to be confused as a prequel to the Planet Of The Apes films.* Based on the life (or part of it, at least) of Charles Darwin, Creation brings us the tale of the still-controversial scientist (played here by Paul Bettany) as he attempts to bring his Theory of Evolution to the world. But, instead of receiving that pat on the back we all strive for in life (or at least a Nobel), Darwin is accused of “killing that God fellow,” and his work with monkeys (which must always be pronounced “min-keys” à la Inspector Clouseau) draws much fire from his fellow scientists, the religious community, and his own wife (Jennifer Connelly). Sadly, much of the film has very little to do with Darwin’s work; focusing instead on the personal strife he goes through as a result of saying, “Hey, look: these minkeys have thumbs, too! Suppose we weren’t created by an unseen deity figure?”

The Missing Lynx (El Lince Perdido) (2008) (Phase 4 Films) – *Not to be confused with the Shrek series, although you really have to wonder if the marketing gurus behind this one were aiming for just that.* Co-produced and presented in the U.S. by Antonio Banderas, The Missing Lynx (El Lince Perdido) is an animated Spanish import about a clumsy lynx who winds up in an animal shelter, where he becomes pals with several other critters. Things start to look grim as an aging millionaire and big-game hunter decide to kidnap a lot of the shelter’s inhabitants. There may be a bit too much eco-friendliness for some viewers here (read: those of you who were upset by my remark about Glenn Beck earlier), but this is still a hell of a lot better than the animated kiddie films we get in the States! Also available as a Blu-ray/DVD Combo.

Gold: Before Woodstock. Beyond Reality (1972) (MVD Visual) – *Not to be confused with the actual Woodstock film — or any of the umpteen million other movies called Gold, for that matter.* And, finally, after having explored such sensitive subjects as religion, oppression, the Army, and foreigners, it’s time to look at those bloody hippies. And, in Gold: Before Woodstock. Beyond Reality, you get to look at a lot of hippies — many of whom are completely naked. A commune of flower people set up camp in a rural, old-west community, causing the local lawman (Garry Goodrow) to become very upset — as these long-haired freaks are threatening to enlighten his perfect backwoods world. Or something like that. To be honest, I think the drugs they used to make this film actually managed to get into my system with this one — thirty-eight years after the fact.

Oh, well. I’m just gonna enjoy this trip, then. So, that’s all from me.

Happy viewing, kids!

About Luigi Bastardo

Luigi Bastardo is the alter-ego of a feller who loves an eclectic variety of classic (and sometimes not-so-classic) film and television. He currently lives in Northern California with four cats named Groucho, Harpo, Chico, and Margaret. Seriously.

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