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October '23 Digital Week III

In-Theater Releases of the Week 
Killers of the Flower Moon 
Martin Scorsese has had a miraculous late artistic resurgence: in the past decade alone, he has made The Wolf of Wall Street, Silence, The Irishman and now Killers of the Flower Moon, all expansive, meaningful moral tales. Killers, the longest fiction film of his career at 206 minutes, absorbingly chronicles the tragic true story of the multiple murders of members of the wealthy Osage Nation in Oklahoma in the 1920s by white men wanting their oil money.
Unlike David Grann’s superbly immersive book, which recounts how the FBI solved the crimes, Scorsese and cowriter Eric Roth begin with the plotting and planning and meticulously work their way through every horrific moment of this painful and shameful chapter in our country’s history. Robert DeNiro and Leonardo DiCaprio are brutally effective as the Osages’ main antagonists—and there are equally striking performances by a large supporting cast led by Jesse Plemons, Jason Isbell, Tantoo Cardinal, John Lithgow and Cara Jade Myers—but it’s Lily Gladstone who, as next Osage woman on the killers’ hit list, is the heart and soul of this unforgettable but sorrowful epic.
Anatomy of a Fall 
In Justine Triet’s slow-burn of a thriller, German author Sandra (Sandra Hüller) is the chief suspect in the death of her French husband Samuel (Samuel Theis), who is found by their blind 11-year-old son Daniel (the formidable Milo Machado-Graner) outside their rural chalet one day—did Samuel fall or was he pushed?
Triet builds fascinating layers upon layers—the tantalizing use of French and English, scenes playing out as they occurred while being recounted at trial, Daniel’s precocious intelligence, Sandra’s friendly defense lawyer Vincent (Swann Arlaud) who may not believe in her innocence—and there memorable sequences, notably the couple’s final argument, in which Hüller provides the film’s most gripping moments. But, since it seems that neither Triet nor Hüller have a clue whether Sandra is innocent or guilty, their shaggy-dog story never reaches the tragic complexity it strives for.
4K/UHD Releases of the Week 
(Warner Bros)
Any movie that opens with a lumbering parody of 2001: A Space Odyssey can’t be trusted, and indeed, it’s no surprise director Greta Gerwig and her cowriter/husband Noah Baumbach have created an occasionally diverting but relentlessly one-note parody-cum-empowerment fable about the titular character leaving Barbieland for the Real World, where she discovers her unique femininity. Disappointingly, the movie is far less clever and insightful than it thinks; even the aggressively bright colors, cartoonish sets and garish costumes pall quickly. It ends up as a nearly two-hour mashup of lame SNL skits and ugly-looking music videos. (And why do Barbie Land and the Real World have such similarly awful music?)
Of course, any movie with Margot Robbie at its center is watchable—except Babylon—but eventually she too is defeated by Gerwig’s gimmickry. Although Ryan Gosling is initially fun as Ken, even he begins to glumly repeat himself; Will Farrell’s schtick wore thin years ago. The glittering colors pop all over the screen in UHD; extras include several making-of featurettes.
Meg 2—The Trench 
(Warner Bros)
After The Meg—in which a massive prehistoric shark mauls whomever gets in its way—how can a sequel become even more monstrous? Director Ben Wheatley goes in the direction of doubling down, introducing not one but three such creatures along with an enormous octopus terrorizing the populace, all while returning hero Jason Statham does what he can to save the day.
It’s all nonsensically goofy but it’s done with such singlemindedness that, when Statham on his jet ski goes up against the behemoths in the open water, it’s entirely possible you will root for him as a kind of second-rate Chief Brody from Jaws. The film looks spectacular in UHD; extras are two making-of featurettes.
Blu-ray Releases of the Week 
Tod Browning’s Sideshow Shockers 
(Criterion Collection)
Tod Browning might be best known for his 1931 Dracula that made Bela Lugosi famous, but his creepy classic Freaks (1932) is the centerpiece of this three-film set comprising Browning’s unsettling studies of those forgotten people on the margins. Along with Freaks—which retains its power to shock and make viewers uncomfortable nine decades later—there are 1927’s The Unknown, with Lon Chaney and a young Joan Crawford in a sordid story of an armless knife thrower infatuated with his attractive assistant, and the 1925 rarity The Mystic, another offbeat (and downbeat) melodrama.
All three films have been meticulously restored and—in the case of The Unknown—reconstructed; extras include audio commentaries, interviews and featurettes putting Browning’s films—which some might consider worth canceling—in their proper context.
My Father’s Glory/My Mother’s Castle 
(Film Movement Classics)
French director Yves Robert’s two lovely 1990 memory pieces, adapted from the great director and writer Marcel Pagnol’s autobiography, follow the young Marcel and his family—loving mom, hard-nosed dad and pushy older brother—in Marseille and Provence in the early 1900s.
With wonderfully lived-in performances by the entire cast—especially Julien Ciamaca, who’s spot-on as the young Marcel, and Nathalie Roussel, who’s heartbreaking as his doomed mom Augustine—Robert has made two humane films tinged with humor, drama, tragedy: life itself. There are superb new hi-def transfers; extras are two informative featurettes.
(Film Movement)
Japanese director Ryusuke Hamaguchi made his mark with the mammoth character study Happy Hour and last year’s international breakthrough—and Oscar-winning best international film—Drive My Car. That notoriety led to the release of his 2008 student film, in which the themes and directorial hallmarks of his later works are given rough, choppy form.
Unlike his mature features, where dialogue is meaningful and has its own kind of narrative propulsiveness, here the characters falling in and out of relationships don’t have much to say that’s memorable. Still, this is an interesting blueprint for what would be (mostly) perfected later. The film looks good on Blu; extras are a Hamaguchi introduction and a video essay, From Passion to Fortune.
CD Releases of the Week
Krzysztof Penderecki—Symphony No. 6, “Chinese Songs” 
Polish composer Krzysztof Penderecki began as an avant-garde destroyer whose atonal works of the ‘50s and ‘60s made his reputation, but he morphed into a modernist who also harkened back to older forms, and this disc collects three memorable titles from the last 15 years of his composing career (he died at age 86 in 2020).
The Trumpet Concertino (with soloist David Guerrier) and Concerto doppio (with cellist Hayoung Choi and violinist Aleksandra Kuls) are magnificent showcases for those instruments, while his Symphony No. 6, “Chinese Songs,” is one of Penderecki’s most luminous vocal works—it’s sad to realize the imposing soloist, Polish bass-baritone Jarosław Bręk, died two years ago at age 46. Antoni Wit ably leads the Norrkoping Symphony Orchestra in these energetic performances.
George Walker—Five Sinfonias 
Culminating his lengthy and impressive career, George Walker (1922-2018) wrote a series of sinfonias—short, compact works that are weighty without being ponderous—over the course of his final three-plus decades of composing.
The first three sinfonias each have two or three movements, but the last two are even more compressed, single-movement works; the shattering fifth, written after the murder of nine Black members of a Bible study group by a racist gunman in a Charleston church, is the only one with a vocal section. These five sinfonias make a remarkably coherent artistic statement, and these gripping performances by the National Symphony Orchestra, led by conductor Gianandrea Noseda, provide Walker with a wonderful musical epitaph.

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