Grief, Secrets, and Exploitative Employment | Fast Scans

This month’s can't-miss top indie and foreign films include a gothic tale with ghosts aplenty, undercover journalism, and the emotional toll of living a double life. 

 Between Two Worlds (“Ouistreham”). 106 min. In French & German w/English subtitles. Cohen Media Group. 2021. DVD UPC 738329263881. $19.99; Blu-ray UPC 738329263898. $29.99. DRAMA

Recalling journalist Barbara Ehrenreich, who embedded in the working-class labor force for her exposé Nickel and Dimed, Juliette Binoche stars as writer Marianne Winckler, who goes undercover doing menial cleaning jobs to experience firsthand the exploitive employment conditions and job insecurity of low-level but essential workers. After bonding with her fellow laborers, Marianne must deal with their feelings of betrayal when they learn the truth about her deception in filmmaker Emmanuel Carrère’s surprisingly affecting finale. VERDICT Binoche fans will celebrate her.

 Blue Jean. 97 min. Magnolia. 2022. DVD UPC 876964017961. $26.99. DRAMA

A physical-education teacher at a secondary school in Newcastle in the late 1980s, Jean (Rosy McEwen) is a closeted lesbian who frequents a local gay bar with her girlfriend, the out-and-proud Viv (Kerrie Hayes). When new student Lois (Lucy Halliday) starts hanging out there, Jean’s secret is threatened at a time when anti-gay sentiment is finding its way into legislation. In her award-winning directorial debut, Georgia Oakley evokes the Thatcher era while keeping character-focused. VERDICT Timely, given current anti-LGBTQ+ politics.

 Don’t Look Now. 110 min. Criterion Collection. 1973. Blu-ray UPC 715515136716. $39.99. Rated: R. THRILLER

Venice in winter is a foreboding presence in Nicolas Roeg’s haunting drama based on Daphne du Maurier’s novelette about a grieving couple, Laura and John Baxter (Julie Christie and Donald Sutherland), still coping with their daughter’s accidental drowning. Laura takes comfort from a blind psychic even as John refuses his own ominous premonitions. In a meticulously edited mosaic of past, present, and future, the ending offers a cryptic yet hopeful resolution. VERDICT Restored in 4K, this new edition earns a place in library collections holding the best of British cinema.

 Madeleine Collins. 107 min. In French w/English subtitles. Greenwich Entertainment. 2021. DVD UPC 738329263645. $19.95. DRAMA

Deception has its consequences when a woman (Virginie Efira) leads a double life as “Margot” in Switzerland, raising a little girl with partner Abdel while also (as “Judith”) coparenting two older boys with husband Melvil in France. Working as a translator explains her frequent travel between countries but does not put to rest all incredulity arising from maintaining such a complicated charade. The prolific Efira (Benedetta; Revoir Paris; Other People’s Children) conveys the emotional toll that lies exact in cowriter-director Antoine Berraud’s scenario. VERDICT A split decision.

 The Others. 104 min. Criterion Collection. 2001. Blu-ray UPC 715515288118. $39.99. Rated: PG-13. HORROR

In a manor house in the British Isles, circa 1945, Grace Stewart (Nicole Kidman) lives with her two young children, along with a housekeeper, a gardener, and a mute girl. So begins writer-director-composer Alejandro Amenábar’s gothic tale with ghosts aplenty, if not the sort draped in white sheets. Secrets are layered like onion skin in this throwback to an old-fashioned horror show, with jump scares to spare. VERDICT Tethered by a terrific turn from Kidman, this near-classic film offers an alternative for viewers put off by R-rated gorefests with sex on the side.

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