Tragicomic Romance, Lifesaving Kindertransport, and Voyeuristic Obsession | Fast Scans

This month’s top indie and foreign films feature lonely singles navigating love, unfolding courtroom drama, and “the British Schindler.”

Anatomy of a Fall. 152 min. In English & French w/English subtitles. Criterion Collection. 2023. DVD UPC 715515296410. $29.99; Blu-ray UPC 715515296311. $39.99. Rated: R. DRAMA

A writer of autobiographical fiction, Sandra Voyter (Sandra Hüller) is put on trial for murder after her husband’s body is found on the snowy ground outside of their Swiss chalet. Did she push him out of an attic window? Or might she have precipitated his suicide with a violent argument about the state of their relationship (overheard by their legally blind young son)? Unfolding in a courtroom filled with riveting testimony, cowriter-director Justine Triet’s exploration of truth retains ambiguity. VERDICT The Oscar winner for original screenplay makes a good case for acquisition by libraries.

Fallen Leaves. 82 min. In Finnish w/English subtitles. Mubi. 2023. DVD UPC 860009138476. $29.99; Blu-ray UPC 860009138483. $34.99. ROM-COM

Two lonely singles, grocery-store worker Ansa (Alma Pöysti) and construction-site laborer Holappa (Jussi Vatanen), make eye contact at a Helsinki karaoke bar. After a minor tragicomic misunderstanding, the pair eventually go on an uneventful date, before Holappa’s drinking problem seems to nip any relationship in the bud. Then a real tragedy occurs, but love eventually finds its way. Winner of the Cannes Film Festival Jury Prize, plus other festival and critics’ awards, writer-director Aki Kaurismäki’s droll romance elicits its share of wry smiles. VERDICT A bit of an acquired taste.

Monster. 126 min. In Japanese w/English subtitles or English-dubbed. Well Go USA. 2023. Blu-ray UPC 810348036681. $29.99. Rated: PG-13. DRAMA

Fifth-grader Minato (Sôya Kurokawa) exhibits behavioral problems that his single mom blames on her son’s teacher, who struck the boy. Pressing the school to take disciplinary action against the teacher sets in motion the incremental revelation of Minato’s distress: a friendship with another student who’s being harassed. Told from the viewpoints of mother, teacher, and child, this humanistic story from Hirokazo Kore-eda (Broker; Shoplifters) evokes but is not in a league with Akira Kurosawa’s Rashomon, where the “facts” are not as they first appear. VERDICT For viewers up for a challenge.

One Life. 109 min. Decal Releasing. 2023. DVD UPC 843501042410. $20.99; Blu-ray UPC 843501042427. $26.99. Rated: PG. BIO-PIC

After visiting Prague in 1938 and witnessing the dire conditions of Jews who fled Nazi Germany, 29-year-old London stockbroker Nicholas Winton (Johnny Flynn) organizes a heroic effort to find adoptive British families for 669 refugee children whose parents fear for their lives. A half-century later, an unassuming Winton (Anthony Hopkins) gets the public recognition he never sought for his lifesaving kindertransport. Veteran BBC director James Hawes offers a moving account of “the British Schindler.” VERDICT A tearjerker that elicits its reaction honestly.

Peeping Tom. 101 min. Criterion Collection. 1960. Blu-ray UPC 715515296212. $39.99. HORROR

Photographer and filmmaker Mark Lewis (Carl Boehm) lures unsuspecting women to their deaths by using his camera tripod’s hidden stiletto, capturing the fear on his victims’ faces. Revered British director Michael Powell (Black Narcissus; Stairway to Heaven; The Red Shoes) nearly ruined his career with this once controversial but later lauded look at voyeuristic obsession. While the film’s premise retains shock value, the violence is tame by modern slasher standards—likely no more than PG level. VERDICT Not quite the masterpiece revisionists have deemed it, but still a must-see.

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