Fast Scans | Top Foreign & Indie Picks Not To Miss

Drama, dramedy, and comedy are in store for viewers this month with winning picks such as ExoticaThe Duke, and I’ve Heard the Mermaids Singing

The Duke. 95 min. Sony. 2020. DVD UPC 043396582224. $25.99; Blu-ray UPC 043396582248. $30.99. Rated: R. DRAMEDY

In this film based on a true story, Jim Broadbent stars as cranky Kempton Bunton, a 60-year-old London cabbie who in 1961 steals a Goya painting of the Duke of Ellington from the National Gallery. He ransoms the painting to get the UK government to improve the lives of aging people, which eventually leads to Bunton’s arrest and a novel “Robin Hood” defense from his barrister (Matthew Goode) at trial. Costarring Helen Mirren as the put-upon Mrs. Bunton, Roger Michell’s (Notting Hill) portrait of a man on a mission ends on a rousing note. VERDICT A crowd-pleaser, especially for Anglophiles.

Exotica. 103 min. Criterion Collection. 1994. DVD UPC 715515276917. $29.99; Bu-ray UPC 715515276818. $39.99. Rated: R. DRAMA

An anxious taxman (Bruce Greenwood) auditing the records of a pet-shop owner (Don McKellar) spends evenings with a young table-dancer (Mia Kirshner) at a Toronto strip club while the joint’s pregnant owner (Arsinee Khanjian) and bitter emcee (Elias Koteas) observe. Provocative Canadian filmmaker Atom Egoyan (The Sweet Hereafter) seductively weaves the time-shifting, enigmatic backstory of these interrelated characters where a grievous loss is the catalyst. VERDICT This slow-burn movie builds to an emotional revelation for patient audiences.

The Forgiven. 117 min. Vertical Entertainment. 2021. DVD UPC 843501039304. $17.99; Blu-ray UPC 843501039328. $19.99. Rated: R. DRAMA

Driving hurriedly to a friend’s party in the Moroccan desert, well-to-do Londoners David (Ralph Fiennes) and his wife Jo (Jessica Chastain) hit a local teen boy, then try to evade responsibility for his death. But the victim’s father has his own ideas about justice. Ratcheting up the tension, writer-director John Michael McDonagh plumbs the morally fraught culture clash between moneyed Western privilege and Moroccan tradition. Based on the extolled novel by Lawrence Osborne. VERDICT Viewers who prefer ethical complexity over clear-cut answers will be intrigued.

I’ve Heard the Mermaids Singing. 83 min. Kino Lorber. 1987. Blu-ray UPC 738329260187. $29.99. COMEDY

An aspiring photographer, ditzy Polly (Sheila McCarthy) lands a temp job at an art gallery curated by Gabrielle (Paule Baillargeon), a type-A personality who’s also a painter. Despite their differing temperaments, the pair work well together—at least until Gabrielle’s former girlfriend (Ann-Marie MacDonald) enters the picture. And then Polly finds out her boss isn’t quite who she seems to be. Although overdosing on whimsy, Patricia Rozema’s character-driven comedy is not without its charms. VERDICT Restored in HD, this film-fest winner will pair well with white wine.

Take Out. 88 min. In English & Chinese w/English subtitles. Criterion Collection. 2004. Blu-ray UPC 715515276719. $39.99. DRAMA

This hectic day-in-the-life of an undocumented Chinese immigrant delivering food to New York City customers serves up a helping of social realism that sticks to the ribs. Using ultra-low-budget, guerrilla-style filmmaking—shaky handheld camera work, stolen exterior shots, and no-name actors—codirectors Sean Baker and Shih-Ching Tsou track restaurant worker Ming Ding (Charles Jang, who’s trying to earn enough tips to pay off hammer-wielding loan sharks. The not-too-sentimentalized ending packs a wallop. Digitally restored in 4K. VERDICT A must for fans of cinema verité.

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