This week we begin in Nantes:
The Essential Jacques Demy: Lola, Bay of Angels, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, The Young Girls of Rochefort and Donkey Skin
The Criterion Collection has selected six recently remastered films from French writer-director Jacques Demy for a handsome boxed set.
The half-dozen films of The Essential Jacques Demy represents the best of Demy, an unclassifiable talent who began with the New Wave but went on to make a variety of films before dying at 59. In an enclosed essay, film critic Ginette Vincende describes Demy as a “key part of the New Wave and a singular film auteur, with a coherent fictional universe.”
His first film, Lola (1961) follows the title character (Anouk Aimée) around Demy’s hometown, Nantes. She’s a free spirit who meets old boyfriends, cares for her son, and eventually reunites with her father’s son, a cowboy-hatted American who drives around the entire movie in a Cadillac convertible looking for her.
Not rated, 90 minutes.
Jeanne Moreau turns in a magnetic performance in Bay of Angels (1963) playing an addicted gambler who beguiles a young man (Claude Mann) as they tour the Riviera winning and losing their money. Demy chronicles the couple as their obsession engulfs them.
Not rated, 90 minutes.
The other films are musicals, including Demy’s masterpiece The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, released in 1964. Catherine Deneuve stars as a young woman in the coastal port Cherbourg. Her mother encourages her to dump her boyfriend and marry advantageously. The boyfriend departs to fight in the Algerian war, leaving her pregnant.
Not rated, 91 minutes.
The Young Girls of Rochefort (1967) pays homage to Hollywood musicals and was a musical followup to Umbrellas. It fails to measure up to that film, even though it starred Deneuve, her ill-fated sister Francoise Dorleac, and had Gene Kelly in a small role.
Rated G, 125 minutes.
Based on a fairy tale by Charles Perrault (Cinderella), the delightful, colorful Donkey Skin (1970) also stars Deneuve in a strange but beguiling story involving incest.
Not rated, 90 minutes.
The operatic Une Chambre takes place again in Nantes in 1955 during a workers’ strike. A metalworker (Richard Berry) falls for the married daughter (Dominique Sanda) of his landlady (Danielle Darrieux) while avoiding the police and his girlfriend. Michel Legrand composed the musical scores for all the films except Une Chambre.
The set comes in dual format, with each folder containing both Blu-ray and DVD.
Chambre offers two documentaries — The World of Jacques Demy, (1995, 92 minutes) and The Young Girls Turn 25 (1993, 67 minutes) — from Demy’s widow, Agnes Varda. Both include ample interviews and clips.
Many other supplements have been added to individual discs, such as interviews, “making of” featurettes, four short films from Demy, excerpts from French TV shows, a 68-page booklet with seven essays on the films and Demy, and much, much more.
Woodstock: Three Days of Peace and Music, 40th Anniversary Revisited (*****) Let’s just be honest about this Oscar-winning 1970 treasure: it’s the greatest documentary ever.
Few documentaries had the impact of this jewel on audiences, on society, on its filmmakers and on film technique in general. In addition, it is simply fun, with its endless musical performances complemented by the roaming film crews (including Martin Scorsese) that captured the seminal event outside Woodstock, New York.
This new Blu-ray edition holds an amazing bundle of new extras along with all previously related extras on three discs. One of them features never-seen concert footage from such acts as Joan Baez, The Who, Jefferson Airplane, Santana and many others.
Other new concert footage also features many of the main acts. Officially, the named inclusions are: the director’s cut of Woodstock (rated R, 225 minutes), “Woodstock: Untold Stories” (with 18 performances) and “Woodstock: From Festival to Feature,” containing numerous interviews of the musicians, crew, promoters, along with additional performance footage.
Need for Speed (***1/2) The action is, appropriately, fast and furious in this manic thriller based on a bestselling video game series. A scowling Aaron Paul stars as underground car driver Tobey Marshall. After leaving prison on a false charge, he enters a cross-country race, which gives director Scott Waugh a free hand to deliver the film’s impressive nonstop racing sequences.
Rated PG-13, 130 minutes.
DVD extras: commentary, four deleted scenes, outtakes, a 10-minute “making of” featurette, a 12-minute featurette on “Ties that Bind,” 11 minutes on “The Circus is in Town” and a nine-minute segment on the film’s sound. Plus: B-roll footage of the crashes.
Cuban Fury (**1/2) Nick Frost stars in this moderately entertaining comedy as a salsa-dancing child star 25 years after his heyday.
Bruce (Frost) now works in a dead-end job with an obnoxious co-worker (Chris O’Dowd). When his new and enticing boss Julia (Rashida Jones) shows her interest in salsa-dancing, Bruce again hits the dance-floor, finding his old teacher (Ian McShane) for emergency lessons.
Like most movies with dance themes, this one leads to the big ending competition when Bruce may or may not win the competition — or Julia.
Rated R, 98 minutes.
DVD extras: four “behind-the-scenes” featurettes, a nine-minute interview with Nick Frost and several amusing dance segments with various participants.
The French Minister (***) Maybe not coincidentally, this French political satire greatly resembles 2009’s inspired In the Loop.
Arthur (Raphael Personnaz) lands a plum job writing speeches for Foreign Affairs Minister Alexandre (Thierry Lhermitte). The minister drives Arthur, and everyone, crazy, flying through offices, making unreasonable demands and seemingly heading for a mental crackup.
Marquee director Bertrand Tavernier keeps his film rapidly moving along.
Not rated, 114 minutes.
DVD extras: five brief “making of” featurettes.
The Other Woman (**1/2) Cameron Diaz may be the billed star of this comedy, but Leslie Mann, as Kate, dominates the screen with her manic, often hilarious portrayal of a wife who discovers her husband, Mark (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), has been cheating on her with another woman, Carly (Diaz).
The catch comes when the two women bond and then discover that Mark has found yet another girlfriend, Amber (Kate Upton). Amber joins forces with them, and the trio extracts revenge on Mark. Comedy ensues.
Directed by Nick Cassavetes from Melissa Stack’s script.
Rated PG-13, 109 minutes.
DVD extras: a four-minute gag reel, a five-minute “Giggle Fit” with some of the cast, a photo gallery and 10 minutes of deleted scenes.
The Wind Will Carry Us: 15th Anniversary Edition Iranian writer-director Abbas Kiarostami’s 1999 film has been remastered for a DVD release and Blu-ray debut.
The head of a TV crew (Behzad Bourani) poses as a city engineer and travels to a small mountain village. His dubious motives change while there, resulting in unexpected consequences.
Not rated, 118 minutes.
DVD extras: commentary, a 92-minute filmed interview with Kiarostami and a 12-page booklet with essay by Peter Tonguette.
Also available Tuesday on DVD: Anna, Divergent and Oculus.