You don’t need to know anything about Formula 1 racing to enjoy this documentary portrait of the late World Champion Ayrton Senna: The movie is a snapshot in time of an imperfect, interrupted life more than a gateway drug to racing enthusiasm. Filmmaker Asif Kapadia delivers an incomplete – and, one could argue, one-sided – look at Senna’s drive to win and controversial crashes, but it’s riveting nonetheless. The racing scenes, especially those using the onboard video cameras from Senna’s car, are enthralling, and the speed at which he flies around the course is mesmerizing. (available now)
Special Features: Audio commentary, featurettes, interviews
Pedro Almodóvar’s latest film is a work of aesthetic beauty so delightful to look at that, once things take a turn for the truly twisted, one finds appreciating the disquieting costuming (by Jean-Paul Gaultier in collaboration with Paco Delgado) and Antxon Gomez’s intimidatingly sterile production design become needful distractions from the horror unspooling on screen. Even the significant beauty of the two leads, Antonio Banderas and Elena Anaya, are misleads – their desirability acts as nothing but a window into each other’s vanity and victimhood. Anaya plays Vera, a patient of ethically challenged plastic surgeon Dr. Robert Ledgard (Banderas), who keeps Vera locked in a room, almost entirely covered with a protective body stocking. Her only means of communication come via the housemaid, Marilia (Marisa Paredes), whose motivation soon becomes as murky as the good doctor’s. Almodóvar’s exploration of Gothic, science-gone-mad pulp is a relatively new direction for the storied auteur and a rewarding one. But beware: The conclusion isn’t pretty. (available now)
Special Features: Director Q&A, featurettes
When Irish musician Glen Hansard and his Czech muse Markéta Irglová starred in the micro-budgeted musical Once in 2006 – an overwhelming piece of filmmaking that follows the couple’s fictional, kinda-sorta love affair – they were rewarded with an Oscar and instant fame. The problem is, they actually fell in love and kept making music together under the nom de plume the Swell Season. This hauntingly photographed documentary traces their romance as an exhausting tour regimen and the pressures of living up to their fairy-tale origins – scenes of fans, already near tears, imploring Hansard and Irglová to stay together forever to keep the story unspoiled in their minds illustrates decisively how unlikely that is to happen – as Irglová chafes against fan-requested photographs and Hansard indulges in half-sincere self-pitying with his mother, who wants no part of it. Irglová and her increasingly futile efforts to hold on to the duo’s magic – and it is pure magic – seem to get the raw deal out of the pairing, but Hansard’s inner busker/entertainer is simply insurmountable, and the knowledge that it will certainly lead to his loneliness eats at him. The shared melancholy is infectious: The Swell Season is a weeper for all. (available March 13)
Special Features: Deleted scenes, extended concert footage
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