Movies Till Dawn: Under the Radar 3 (Even More Rarely Seen, Forgotten or Hard to Find)

“High Life” (2018, Lionsgate Home Entertainment) A spaceship heads for a black hole, while on board, its crew of convicted criminals – including Robert Pattinson – are subjected to reproduction experiments by glam mad scientist Juliette Binoche. That’s a linear take on the plot of this sci-fi/arthouse hybrid from director Claire Denis, which unfolds in anything but linear fashion, and dovetails frequently into moments of grisly death or psychedelic/hypnotic excess. I found the whole thing almost obstinately impenetrable at times, but if you’re a fan of “Solaris” or “Moon,” you might find it fascinating; either way, Pattinson holds his own, Andre Benjamin shows up briefly, and Yorick Le Saux‘s cinematography makes the bleakest parts look beautiful. Lionsgate’s Blu-ray includes making-of featurettes.

Aniara” (2018, Magnolia Home Entertainment) Lost in Space, Part 2: societal norms break down when a interstellar cruiser bound for Mars is thrown off course, sending the passengers and crew into a slow spiral of physical, mental and spiritual abandon. The premise for this Swedish/Danish feature – which is drawn from an epic 1965 poem – is far more intriguing than anything that happens on screen, though as with “High Life,” there are many striking images to balance the flat tone and performances, most notably in scenes involving the Mima, a sort of VR room that allows users to sink deeply into their own memories. Fans of ’70s Soviet and ’60s-era Eastern European science fiction may appreciate “Aniara’s” arid futurescape; Magnolia’s DVD includes numerous making-of featurettes.

The Image Book” (2018, Kino Lorber) The near-nonagenarian French New Wave pioneer and stubborn iconoclast assembles a barrage of clips from films (including his own), literary quotes and classical music to muse on politics, film history, and the Middle East, among other matters. It doesn’t matter if you don’t grasp everything Godard is driving at (I certainly didn’t) – his AV collages are feisty, often funny and at times quite beautiful, and if their focus may lack opacity, his commitment to using them as a vehicle to call out various socio-political ills – and to making movies at all – is the sort of revolutionary act that’s needed at the moment. Kino’s Blu-ray includes interviews with producer/DP Fabrice Aragno and a glimpse of Godard’s Cannes press conference for the film, conducted entirely via FaceTime.

The Souvenir” (2018, Lionsgate Home Entertainment) Film student Honor Swinton Byrne, at odds with her (mostly male) instructors and other professionals, who use her moneyed background (her mother, played by Byrne’s real mom, Tilda Swinton, funds her schooling) to dissuade her creative efforts, but finds something like love in Tom Burke, whose worldly veneer hides a more troubling reality. Director Joanna Hogg, who draws on her own experiences for the story, shuttles between present and past to flesh out the complexities of Byrne and Burke’s relationship; she’s in no hurry to reach any Big Dramatic Moments, which is the chief strike against the film, but the performances and the fine-grain details of their lives (nice soundtrack of mostly ’80s-era UK hits) deliver emotional beats with greater impact than more eruptive acting displays. Lionsgate’s DVD includes Hogg’s commentary and a making-of doc.

The Reflecting Skin” (1990, Film Movement) Eight-year-old Jeremy Cooper believes that a new neighbor (Lindsay Duncan) is a vampire – which pales by comparison to the real-life horrors lurking at the edges of his small Idaho hometown. Though David Lynch and “Blue Velvet” feel like the obvious precedent for this unsettling indie, artist-turned-filmmaker’s Philip Ridley‘s feature directorial debut has its own unique approach to the Dark-Side-of-America trope, one that folds together pulp fantasy, painterly surrealism, and hints of religious mania and morbidity, all shot through with surprising dark humor. Notable for a supporting turn by a pre-fame Viggo Mortensen as Cooper’s WWII vet brother; Film Movement’s Blu-ray includes a making-of featurette and high-energy commentary by Ridley.

Charlie Says” (2018, Shout! Factory) Uneven but well-acted take on the Manson murders from director Mary Harron, who understands a thing or two about delusional personalities (“American Psycho”). The focus here is less on Manson – who, as played by Matt Smith, is more creep than mastermind – than his followers, and in particular, Leslie Van Houten (Hannah Murray, “Game of Thrones”), who comes to understand the abuse she’s suffered, and in turn, visited upon others, with the help of writer Karlene Faith (played by Merritt Wever). Both the Family flashbacks and rehabilitation scenes feel boiled down to essential actions and emotions in Guinevere Turner‘s script, but the female cast (which also includes Annabeth Gish, Sosie Bacon as Patricia Krenwinkel and Marianne Rendon as Susan Atkins) makes up for any shortcomings. Shout’s Blu-ray includes interviews with cast and crew.

Lust in the Dust” (1985, Vinegar Syndrome) Mountainous singer Divine teams up with serape-wearing gunslinger Tab Hunter to find a map to hidden treasure before a host of scurrilous types, including a volcanic Lainie Kazan and outlaws Henry Silva and Geoffrey Lewis, can lay their hands on it. Broad spoof of American and Italian Western movie tropes reunites Divine and Hunter, who teamed memorably four years earlier in John Waters’ “Polyester,” for director Paul Bartel (“Death Race 2000”); what probably played on paper as high camp heaven translates on screen as stale burlesque, but everyone involved – which includes Cesar Romero, Woody Strode and Courtney Gains – appears to be having a good time, and the outdoor vistas (shot in Santa Fe, New Mexico) look terrific in widescreen, so it’s hard to find fault with what was essentially eclectic friends playing dress-up. Vinegar Syndrome’s Blu-ray/DVD set presents “Lust” in both widescreen and anamorphic widescreen formats and ports over extras from the long-out-of-print Anchor Bay DVD, including a making-of featurette with Hunter, fellow producer (and partner) Allan Glaser and the cast, and adds a new making-of with both men (shot before Hunter’s death in 2018) and a lengthy and affectionate tribute to Bartel with Mary Woronov, Roger Corman, and others.

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About Paul Gaita

Paul Gaita lives in Sherman Oaks, California with his lovely wife and daughter. He has written for The Los Angeles Times, LA Weekly, Variety and The Fix, among many other publications, and was a home video reviewer for Amazon.com from 1998 to 2014. He has interviewed countless entertainment figures from both the A and Z lists, but his favorites remain Elmore Leonard, Ray Bradbury and George Newall, who created both Schoolhouse Rock and the Hai Karate aftershave commercials. He once shared a Thanksgiving dinner with celebrity astrologer Joyce Jillson, and regrettably, still owes the late character actor Charles Napier a dollar.
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