Fast Scans | Top Foreign & Indie Picks Feature New Wave and Roe v. Wade

Top foreign and indie picks this month include dramas from the Australian New Wave and German New Wave, plus a timely examination of women’s healthcare prior to Roe v. Wade.

Call Jane. 121 min. Lionsgate. 2022. DVD UPC 031398337409. $19.99; Blu-ray UPC 031398337423. $25.99. Rated: R. DRAMA

A suburban Chicago housewife and mother of two daughters, Joy (Elizabeth Banks) obtains an illegal abortion in 1968 when a panel of male doctors refuse to permit a “therapeutic termination” that could save her life. So begins Joy’s involvement in helping other pregnant women through a sisterhood of self-described “Janes” led by a women’s healthcare proponent (Sigourney Weaver), prior to the Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion in 1973. Director Phyllis Nagy aptly captures the era in this fact-inspired drama. VERDICT A very timely film.

Gallipoli. 112 min. Paramount. 1981. Blu-ray UPC 191329239490. $19.99. Rated: PG. DRAMA

Short-distance runners and best mates Archy (Mark Lee) and Frank (Mel Gibson) join the Australian armed forces to fight World War I German-allied Turkish forces on a peninsula where gung-ho Down-Under recruits engage in a suicidal mission. One of the preeminent films of the Australian New Wave, prolific Peter Weir’s (Picnic at Hanging Rock; The Year of Living Dangerously) beautifully photographed anti-war film benefits from a long-overdue domestic high-def release. VERDICT This recipient of eight Australian Film Institute Awards is a core-collection contender.

Hold Me Tight. 97 min. In French & German w/English subtitles. Kino Lorber. 2021. DVD UPC 738329260903. $19.99; Blu-ray UPC 738329260910. $29.99. DRAMA

Clarisse (Vicky Krieps), the mother of two young children, leaves them and her husband without warning one morning. Going solo for a while, Clarisse circles back, at least in her own mind, to “visit” her former family in actor-cum-director Mathieu Amalric’s (The Blue Room) time-bending mystery about coping with loss and grief. While ambiguity has its virtues, too much of it can strain the patience of viewers. Amalric treads a fine line in this unconventional treatment of an oft-seen theme. VERDICT For serious-minded film buffs game for nonlinear storytelling.

Knife in the Head. 108 min. In German w/English subtitles. Cohen Media Group. 1978. Blu-ray UPC 738329260163. $19.99. DRAMA

While trying to check on his estranged wife (Angela Winkler), scientist Hoffmann (Bruno Ganz) is shot in the head during the police raid of a reputed leftist activist hangout, leaving him in a coma. Charged with stabbing a cop and later questioned by authorities while recuperating in a hospital, Hoffman is unable to remember the fateful encounter, making him the victim of propaganda. Director Reinhard Hauff, in a too-little-known example of German New Wave cinema, finds uncertainty in his search for truth. VERDICT For film fans interested in an open-ended enquiry.

Peaceful (“De son vivant”). 123 min. In French w/English subtitles. Distrib Films, dist. by Icarus. 2021. DVD UPC 854565003941. $26.98. DRAMA

Diagnosed with stage-4 pancreatic cancer, middle-aged acting teacher Benjamin (Benoît Magimel) and his mother (Catherine Deneuve) resist the inevitability of death. A caring but frank doctor (Gabriel Sara) and a comforting nurse (Cécile de France) support Benjamin as he gets his affairs in order, including mending fences with his estranged teenage son. Director Emmanuelle Bercot provides a poignant primer on dying with dignity without getting too maudlin. VERDICT Tethered by Magimel’s César-winning performance, this film brings joie de vivre to the living.

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