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August '23 Digital Week III

In-Theater Releases of the Week 
(Re-Emerging Films)
Acerbic, authentic and endlessly antagonistic, Bella Abzug was a thorn in the side of establishment politicians and a way forward for women in politics, and her always fascinating life—she served in the House but lost elections for the Senate and the Mayor of New York—is colorfully recounted in Jeff L. Lieberman’s flattering yet not fawning documentary.
Abzug’s influence and impact as a feminist leader is seen by the many successful women who agreed to sit down and discuss the woman they stood by, revered but maybe clashed with, from Hillary Clinton and Barbra Streisand to Shirley MacLaine and Gloria Steinem. The result is a gruff, tart biopic that mirrors the pugnacious personality of such a singular—and quintessentially New York—character.
(Bleecker Street)
Dramatizing a few tense weeks during the 1973 Yom Kippur War, Guy Nattiv’s biopic follows fearless Israeli leader Golda Meir during a vulnerable time for the nation—can it again defeat numerically superior Arab forces, as it did in 1967?—as well as for herself, since she was battling the cancer that would kill her five years later.
Nicholas Martin’s script is no-nonsense if rather routine, unfortunately. But Helen Mirren throws herself into the role of Golda with an aplomb that is contagious; and when she plays off the equally fine Live Schreiber as Henry Kissinger—he has the voice down pat without succumbing to caricature—it gives Golda a gravitas it often lacks.
The Owners 
(Big World Pictures)
In a Prague apartment building, co-op owners assemble for their monthly meeting, which quickly becomes chaotic as competing interests of the members come to a head while they attempt to finalize a seemingly routine sale. Director Jiří Havelka, who adapted his own play for the screen, sets his darkly satiric film almost exclusively in a single room; although the dialogue is alternately lacerating and humorous, nasty and snappy, it often bogs down in visual and verbal repetition.
It’s all enacted expressively by the cast, particularly the sneeringly by-the-books parliamentarian played by Klára Melíšková. Based on the box office returns in its home country, The Owners plays out as an inside joke which most foreign audiences will only “get” in the broadest sense.
Simone—Woman of the Century 
(Samuel Goldwyn)
The astonishingly rich and tragic life of Simone Veil—a French Holocaust survivor who became a politician and progressive activist that was too much for even supposedly liberal France—is dramatized with conviction if a bit schematically by director Olivier Dahan, who also did the same for chanteuse Edith Piaf in 2007’s La Vie en Rose, which earned Marion Cotillard an Oscar for her fiercely intelligent performance. Here Dahan has two such imposing portrayals of Veil: the magnificent Rebecca Marder (young Simone) and the slyly subtle Elsa Zylberstein (older Simone).
Together they give Veil the humanity she deserves, as does the brilliant and too little-seen Élodie Bouchez playing Simone’s beloved mother. It’s too bad, though, that Dahan’s predictable crosscutting to and from concentration-camp flashbacks nearly throws the film out of whack. 
Blu-ray Releases of the Week 
About My Father 
Standup Sebastian Maniscalco’s leading man debut doesn’t stretch him at all—he basically plays a fictionalized version of himself in this dopey but agreeable comedy about a man skittish about introducing his ethnic Italian working-class father to his gorgeous artist fiancée’s WASPy family—especially her parents, a U.S. senator and head of a hotel conglomerate.
Maniscalco doesn’t embarrass himself, but he’s outclassed by Leslie Bibb (fiancée), David Rasche (her dad), Kim Cattrall (her mom) and especially Robert DeNiro as his dad, who gives a garrulously funny performance that hints at a more complicated movie than Maniscalco and director Laura Terruso have made. The film looks good on Blu; extras are three making-of featurettes.
Káťa Kabanová 
Czech composer Leoš Janáček (1854-1928) wrote extremely realistic and compelling character studies without grandstanding arias or other showboating, which still hold the stage thanks to their subtlety and complexity. Among his greatest creations, Káťa examines relationships in a small village rocked by adultery and suicide with music that is restrained but many-shaded.
This 2022 Salzburg production is beautifully performed by by conductor Jakub Hrůša, the Vienna Philharmonic and Vienna State Opera Choir. Director Barrie Kosky’s smart staging is centered by American soprano Corinne Winters’s elegant and heartbreaking portrayal of one of Janáček’s most tragic heroines. There’s first-rate hi-def video and audio.

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