A Julie Christie Classic & a Soviet Cinema Landmark | May's Top Indie, Foreign, & Classic DVD/Blu-ray Picks

May's top indie, foreign, and classic DVD/Blu-ray picks include a British New Wave classic with a star turn by Julie Christie, the recent Sundance Grand Jury Prize winner, and a Soviet cinema landmark.

May's top indie, foreign, and classic DVD/Blu-ray picks include a British New Wave classic with a star turn by Julie Christie, the recent Sundance Grand Jury Prize winner, and a Soviet cinema landmark.

Army of Shadows. 145+ min. In French w/English subtitles. Criterion Collection. 1969. DVD UPC 715515244114. $29.99; Blu-ray UPC 715515244015. $39.99.
French Resistance fighters (Lino Ventura, Jean-Pierre Cassel, et al.) put up a heroic if doomed campaign against their Nazi occupiers in Jean-Pierre Melville’s leisurely paced but involving drama. Starkly photographed in chilly shades of blue and gray, this highly personal work from the acclaimed director (Bob le Flambeur, Le Cercle Rouge) strikes an authentic chord accented by the vulnerability of an inspirational underground leader (the incomparable Simone Signoret) worth taking up arms for.

 

Billy Liar. b/w. 108+ min. Kino Lorber. 1963. DVD UPC 738329245290. $19.99; Blu-ray UPC 738329245306. $29.99.
A twentysomething undertaker’s clerk, Billy Fisher (Tom Courtenay), earns his nickname for the exaggerations and out-right lies he tells his incredulous friends, coworkers, and parents. Balancing two fiancées while pursued by a free-spirited gal (Julie Christie), director John Schlesinger’s titular fantasist daydreams about ruling a fictional country as escapism from his humdrum life. Part of the British New Wave, this classic dramedy imaginatively fuses realism with make-believe.

Clemency. 112+ min. Universal. 2019. DVD UPC 191329125465. $22.99. Rated: R.
After a medically botched execution, a proficient prison warden (Alfre Woodard, in a marvelously nuanced performance) turns increasingly troubled about her job despite her stiff-lipped stoicism. Convicted of killing a cop but maybe only guilty of robbery, the next death-row inmate (Aldis Hodge) only increases the brewing self-doubt in writer-director Chinonye Chukwu’s thought-provoking drama with no pat answers. Winner of the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival.

The Cranes Are Flying. b/w. 95+ min. In Russian w/English subtitles. Criterion Collection. 1957. DVD UPC 715515243117. $29.99; Blu-ray UPC 715515243018. $39.99.
A smitten young Russian couple, Boris (Alexei Batalov) and Veronica (Tatiana Samoilova), are separated by war when Boris is sent to the front lines. With no word after one year, Veronica settles for a loveless marriage while holding out hope for her true love’s return. Mikhail Kalatozov’s (Letter Never Sent) fervent story is boldly told with stylized camerawork shown to advantage in this newly restored high-definition presentation of an extras-laden Soviet cinema landmark.

Piranhas. 112+ min. In Italian w/English subtitles. Music Box Films. 2019. DVD UPC 751778951383. $29.99; Blu-ray UPC 751778951383. $34.99.
Callous yet emotionally sensitive, 15-year-old Nicola (Francesco Di Napoli, in an arresting performance) leads a teen gang of Mafioso wannabes in a crime-infested Naples neighborhood. Graduating from vandalizing and burglary to more lucrative drug dealing, the young hoods flaunt their guns and influence as tickets to ride out of a menial existence. Director Claudio Giovannesi presents his “wise guys” minus judgment or glamorization—just scarily raw and matter of fact.

The Song of Names. 113+ min. Sony Pictures. 2019. DVD UPC 043396565470. $25.99; Blu-ray UPC 043396565807. $24.99. Rated: PG-13.
On the eve of World War II, a Polish boy named Dovidl is left by his father
in the custody of a London couple where he bonds with Martin, their young son.
A child prodigy with the violin, Dovidl is a no-show for his grand debut performance after the war. Thirty-five years later, Martin (Eric Roth) tracks down his adoptive brother (Clive Owen) and finds out the tragic reason for his disappearance. François Girard (The Red Violin) directs a poignant story of friendship, religion, and the power
of music.

 

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