This week, we begin in Santiago, Chile:
Not rated, 109 minutes.
Available Tuesday on DVD.
In Chile’s Academy Award entry for Best Foreign Language Film, Paulina Garcia turned in a universally praised performance in the title role. This probing, often painful character study is directed and co-written by Sebastian Lelio.
Gloria centers on a woman prone to making wrong decisions. Gloria, long divorced and with two adult children who seem to avoid her, lives in Santiago, likes to dance and listen to music.
On a night out, she meets Rodolfo (Sergio Hernandez), an older man who tells her he has long been separated and is on the verge of a divorce. They spend time together, some of it intimate, until finally she feels secure with him even if he seems too occupied with his estranged wife and two grown daughters.
Lelio paints Gloria as increasingly secure in the relationship. But the drama turns into a queasy viewing experience when Rodolfo ends up acting the creep. And poor Gloria regrets ever being involved.
Touching and moving in her role, Garcia registers a range of emotions, doing more to draw a viewer toward her than the story or direction.
DVD extras: A brief musical montage from the film.
The Strange Woman (3 stars) This overwrought but still compelling 1946 melodrama has now been digitally remastered onto Blu-ray from the original 35 mm film print.
Hedy Lamarr vamps it up as Jenny Hager, the prettiest and most dangerous woman in 1840 Bangor, Maine. She marries the town’s richest, and probably oldest, man (Gene Lockhart), tempts his Oedipally-unhinged son (Louis Hayward), and then steals the boyfriend (George Sanders) of her best friend (Hillary Brooke).
Famed B-list director Edgar L. Ulmer (Detour) wisely keeps his camera on Lamarr as she chews up the scenery as fast as the men, letting her Austrian accent pop up just enough to be noticeable.
Today, the movie gives exposure to Lamarr, once known as the most beautiful woman in Hollywood, but also one of its most fascinating. In the 1930s, she left her native Austria for the U.S. after a huge scandal over a movie (Ecstasy) in which she appeared nude. At MGM, she stumbled her way through a variety of parts, all bent to capitalize on her exotic beauty.
Later in life, after she had married and divorced six times, she was acknowledged for being the co-inventor during World War II of a radio guiding system, a technology used today in cellphones. She died in 2000 at 85. (Did we mention how pretty she was?)
Not rated, 99 minutes.
The Warner Archive Collection releases two dramatic films with an emphasis on women. Or, more specifically, girls — a 16-year-old and a 19-year-old. Both suffer because each trusts the wrong man.
Lady Jane (3 stars) Followers of the recent novel and TV series The White Queen, and the upcoming The Red Queen, will find familiar names and events in Lady Jane (1986).
Jane Grey (Helena Bonham Carter) becomes Queen of England for nine days in 1553 when John Dudley (John Wood), Duke of Northumberland, arranges a marriage between the serious, studious Jane (daughter of Duke of Suffolk Henry Grey, played by Patrick Stewart) and Northumberland’s libertine son Guilford (Cary Elwes).
The scheming Northumberland convinces fatally sick 16-year-old King Edward VI (Warren Saire) to name Jane his successor. The intricate plan initially works but quickly falters in the onslaught of followers of Jane’s cousin and future queen, “Bloody Mary” (Jane Lapotaire).
Trevor Nunn directs with due respect and seriousness for his material and his characters.
Rated PG-13, 142 minutes
Caged (3 1/2 stars) In the other Warner release, 1949’s Caged, Eleanor Parker nabbed the first of her three Best Actress Oscar nominations as 19-year-old Marie Allen.
Allen is one of the women locked up in a women’s prison. She must serve a one- to 10-year sentence for being an accessory, albeit an unwitting one, to a crime committed by her husband of six months.
The film captures the constant ordeal she faces, one that turns her from a mild-mannered naif into one of the prison’s hardened inmates. Hope Emerson as the hulking, intimidating matron Evelyn and Virginia Kellogg’s screenplay also garnered Oscar nominations. Directed by once blacklisted John Cromwell, father of actor James Cromwell.
Not rated, 96 minutes.
Gimme Shelter (2 stars) In this true story, manipulatively twisted into a ripe cautionary tale, pregnant teen runaway Apple (Vanessa Hudgens) finds the father (Brendan Fraser) who abandoned her at birth.
Abrasive and rude, unfriendly and combative, Apple fights everyone throughout, softening only at the contrived end when she lands at a teen mothers’ home. Writer-director Ron Krauss delivers some contradictory messages while never missing an opportunity to pluck the heartstrings.
Rosario Dawson shrieks her way through her role as Apple’s negligent mother, and James Earl Jones appears as a stereotypically kindly priest.
Rated PG-13, 104 minutes.
Also available Tuesday on DVD: Devil’s Due, Labor Day and These Birds Walk.