“Down Down the Deep River” (2014, Kino) Strange and bittersweet short film by Will Sheff of Okkervil River about two young boys using their imaginations to navigate and in many ways, brighten their often confusing lives in 1980s-era New Hampshire. Based on the song of the same name from the band’s 2013 album “The Silver Gymnasium,” “Deep River” unfolds largely without dialogue or liner plot, which serves its half-in-dream aesthetic well; Sheff also does well with period detail and style that never tips into nostalgia. The DVD includes commentary by Sheff and liner notes that detail the story as a sort of read-along children’s book.
“Where the Buffalo Roam” (1980, Shout) Shambolic comedy culled from various writings by Hunter S. Thompson, with Bill Murray as the anarchic journalist encapsulating his relationship with lawyer Oscar Acosta, played con brio by Peter Boyle. Few enjoyed producer-turned-director Art Linson’s take on Thompson’s chemically-charged exploits; Murray and Boyle do their best, and Neil Young provides the score, but the film’s attempt at translating the finely calibrated abandon of Thompson’s work plays as manic and unfunny. Shout’s Collector’s Edition Blu-ray restores the original theatrical release soundtrack, which features songs by Jimi Hendrix and Bob Dylan, and includes an interview with screenwriter John Kaye, who discusses his exploits on set with Thompson, among other topics.
“Amnesia” (2015, Film Movement) German ex-pat Marthe Keller’s contemplative life on Ibiza is upended by the arrival of Jo (Max Riemelt), a younger fellow German and aspiring DJ hoping to tap into the island’s EDM scene. What blossoms is less of a May-December romance than mutual appreciation of each party’s independence, albeit tempered by Keller’s refusal to discuss her past, which is tarnished by trauma incurred during World War II. But the arrival of Max’s mother and grandfather (Bruno Ganz, “Wings of Desire”), who himself has a difficult past connected to the war, forces Keller to address her isolation. Director Barbet Schroeder (“Reversal of Fortune”) – returning to locations used in his 1969 film “More” – may confound some viewers by addressing such volatile issues as German national identity in such a leisurely and lyrical manner; others may appreciate his decision, noting that low heat can still produce fireworks. Film Movement’s DVD also includes the 2016 short “Your Mother and I,” based on the story by Dave Eggars about another conversation between generations, this time a father (Don McKellar) and his daughter (Julia Sarah Stone) about her late mother.
“The Gumball Rally” (1976, Warner Archives Collection) Candy manufacturer Michael Sarrazin announces a rule-free, cross-country road race from Manhattan to Long Beach, which attracts an array of speed freaks and eccentrics, all vying for little more than bragging rights. Inspired by real-life gonzo racing events, launched in protest of the 1973 National Speed Limit provision (and which continue today), “Gumball Rally” (along with the Roger Corman-produced “Cannonball”) is a transitional point in the Wacky Race subgenre, merging the crowded cast and slapstick elements of “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World” with the motorhead wet dream aesthetic of boss cars engaged in vehicular mayhem that defined wreck epics like the original “Gone in 60 Seconds.” All of this begat the “Cannonball Run” franchise, which echoed the physical comedy of “Gumball Rally,” but lacked the breezy, goofy humor of Leon (“Down and Out in Beverly Hills”) Capetanos‘ script (co-written with director and former stuntman Chuck Bail) and amusing turns by the late Tim McIntire (“American Hot Wax”), Raul Julia as a ego-puffed Italian driver and Gary Busey in bumptious hickoid mode. Vintage car fans will enjoy the plentiful muscle car eye candy on display (here’s a link that will tell you more about them than I ever could); WAC’s Blu-ray includes the original trailer.
“The Climber” (1975, Arrow Video) Warhol superstar Joe Dallesandro is top-billed in this Italian-made crime thriller, which follows a violent thug’s rapid ascent from a Neapolitan smuggling operation to valued lieutenant in the ranks of a crime family. Possessed with plenty of ambition but little common sense, Joe decides to skim from the profits and takes a beating from his employers, which spurs him to launch an even more ill-considered revenge plot with the help of some goons on motorbikes. Eurocrime fans and first-timers will find Pasquale Squitieri’s film an energetic if not particularly unique take on the Italian crime drama (poliziotteschi), with Little Joe’s cool and cruel presence and Franco Campanino’s velour disco score among its standout attributes; Arrow’s Blu-ray includes an interview by Elijah Drenner with a weathered but still sharp (and opinionated) Dallesandro, who recounts his acting escapades on the Continent with Serge Gainsbourg and Paul Morrissey, among others.