Five-and-a-half hours of Hamlet-infused Swedish drama? Yes, please. Ingmar Bergman’s Oscar-winning opus of childhood and family has finally come to Blu-ray. Fanny and Alexander follows the fate of the wealthy Ekdahl family in turn-of-the-century Sweden. The film centers on the lives of the eponymous youngsters as their lives of joy and privilege in the Ekdahl house are turned upside down by the sudden death of their father, and remarriage of their mother to the vicious town bishop, Vergerus. The film comes in two versions, the longer “television version,” which is cut up into several episodes, and the shorter theatrical edition, which truncates far too much of the richly wondrous, magically diverse story. Fanny comes off with the ease of reminiscence more than the usual meticulous, wrenching style; it is more a yarn than a tome, but a deep and powerful one any way you look at it; a cinematic masterpiece. (available now)
Special Features: Audio commentary, director interview, documentary, costume sketches
What a surprising gem! This neo-realistic look at life within the ruinous industrial nowhere of Baltimore is framed as a docudrama – emerging, exciting director Matt Porterfield, who comes from the area portrayed in the film, asks questions of his subjects in a self-consciously off-putting tone that evokes both Sex, Lies & Videotape and Jame “Buffalo Bill” Gumb – but it bears neither the preachy moralizing nor the anthropological leering that too often accompanies the genre. This is a portrait of life, particularly life in the wake of a young man’s death by overdose and the effect (or unsettling lack thereof) it has on those who vaguely knew him and those who knew him all too well. It culminates in a wake at a karaoke bar, but only structurally; the brilliance of Putty Hill is that nothing of any merit happens, and that’s kind of the point. This isn’t Kids – it’s just kids. (available now)
Special Features: Audio commentary, deleted scenes, documentary, director’s debut film Hamilton, essays
In 2009, French filmmaker Catherine Breillat scooped Hollywood’s next big trend by reinventing the fairy tale. With Bluebeard, Breillat snatched Charles Perrault’s tale of marital curiosity from the history books and claimed it thrillingly for her own modern-female purposes. Thankfully, she continues that trend with this year’s The Sleeping Beauty, a delightfully disobedient retelling of another Perrault classic in which an evil fairy curses a baby to die on her 16th birthday (read: sexual awakening, asserts Breillat). The spell is altered by sexy woodland nymphs so that instead she’ll fall into a 100-year sleep and then awaken. When she does so – in the present – she finds that happily ever after is just depressingly “after.” There’s a bizarre second act involving mannequins, midgets and ogres, all of which plays fancifully, but it’s Sleeping Beauty’s modern drift that feels so fresh – at least fresher than those new TV shows. (available now)
Special Features: None
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