Top Film Picks on DVD/Blu-ray: A Paranoid ’70s-Era Political Thriller & a Neo-Noir Crime Drama

LJ’s film columnist picks the month’s top indie, foreign, and classic films, now available on DVD and Blu-ray.

The Parallax View. 102+ min. Criterion Collection. 1974. DVD UPC 715515255011. $29.95; Blu-ray UPC 715515254915. $39.95. Rated: R.
After learning that witnesses to the assassination of a presidential candidate have died under questionable circumstances, an investigative reporter (Warren Beatty) allows himself to be recruited by an organization using psychological profiling to identify potential assassins. Tapping into ’70s-era political paranoia, Alan J. Pakula (Klute; All the President’s Men) uses all the canny tricks of his cinematic trade to create an atmosphere of anxiety and suspicion where an elaborate conspiracy can play out to its ironic conclusion. Restored in 4K, this “View” defines its zeitgeist.
Song without a Name (“Canción sin nombre”). b/w. 97+ min. In Quechua & Spanish w/English subtitles. Film Movement. 2019. DVD UPC 850021115005. $24.95.
After giving birth at a hole-in-the-wall “health clinic” in downtown Lima, a poor Peruvian mother (Pamela Mendoza) has her newborn spirited away on the pretext of medical care. Rebuffed by an apathetic legal system, the fraught woman seeks out a newspaper reporter (Tommy Párraga) who uncovers systemic kidnappings. Based on real events, Melina León’s emotionally wrenching feature debut takes place in 1988 but appears timeless due to its square-frame, monochromatic style. Neorealism blends with expressionism in this film-festival circuit prize winner.
Sputnik. 101+ min. In Russian w/English subtitles. Shout Factory. 2020. DVD UPC 826663215267. $19.98; Blu-ray UPC 826663215274. $22.98.
A Russian cosmonaut (Pyotr Fyodorov) returns from space with a dead comrade and a “passenger” in his body à la Alien, except this slimy creature doesn’t burst out of his chest; rather, it oozes from his mouth every night like clockwork. The unorthodox doctor (Oksana Akinshina) trying to determine whether the invasive bond is parasitical or symbiotic gets personally involved with her patient in first-time director Egor Abramenko’s sci-fi horror show—a bombastically scored and typically gory but otherwise more thoughtful genre entry with a twist at the end.
Tesla. 102+ min. Shout Factory. 2020. DVD UPC 826663214871. $19.98; Blu-ray UPC 826663214888. $22.98. Rated: PG-13.
Overshadowed by fellow inventor Thomas Edison (Kyle MacLachlan), a visionary Nikola Tesla (Ethan Hawke) prevails in their duel for electricity dominance with his alternating form of current before pursuing a pioneering method for wireless energy. Covering history previously dramatized by the conventional The Current War (2017), Michael Almereyda (Cymbeline; Experimenter) proves inventive in his own right by embracing a postmodernist approach to storytelling—employing an occasional anachronism, breaking the Fourth Wall, etc.—for a refreshing jolt.
The Underneath. 99+ min. Kino Lorber. 1995. Blu-ray UPC 738329251345. $24.95. Rated: R.
Returning to his hometown, a recuperating gambling addict (Peter Gallagher) tries to put his life back together by taking a job working for an armored truck company and reconciling with his ex-wife (Alison Elliott). But the opportunity to steal a large payroll he is transporting proves too tempting. Stylishly reworking 1949’s vintage film noir Criss Cross, Steven Soderbergh puts his wide frame to expansive use in a twisty, neo-noir story of duplicity with collateral damage. Its HD debut serves as an introduction to the director’s later (and even better) crime dramas Out of Sight and The Limey.
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