France’s ‘Well-Digger’s Daughter’ boasts lush setting, syrupy story
This week we begin en Provence:
The Well-Digger’s Daughter
Not rated, 107 minutes. Available now on DVD and Blu-ray.
Kino Lorber gives a Blu-ray debut to this lush 2011 melodrama, an obvious labor of love for French actor Daniel Auteuil, who directed and also wrote the screenplay from a novel by Marcel Pagnol.
The popular, and prolific, novelist Pagnol has long provided material for French filmmakers, and, in 1940, he even directed an earlier film version of The Well-Digger’s Daughter, set right before World War I. Here, Auteuil knows he has abundantly treacly material and milks it for its emotional effects.
He plays Pascal Amoretti, a Provence well-digger and widowed father to six girls. Eighteen-year-old Patricia (Astrid Berges-Frisbey) has just returned home from Paris to help at her father’s rustic home.
An entangled drama unfolds in which Pascal’s best friend, the older Felipe (Kad Merad), wants to marry Patricia. But she has been swept off her young, naive feet by Jacques (Nicolas Duvauchelle), the son of a local wealthy merchant. One night of passion leads to the obvious consequences, a result made more complicated by Jacques swiftly being taken off to war.
The eventual denouement qualifies for high soap opera drama. But Auteuil sagely lets Alexandre Desplat’s melodic music score and Jean-Francois Robin’s cinematography of the enchanting Provence area set the mood, which just might also capture a willing audience.
The disc includes the movie trailer.
Putin’s Kiss (***) Danish filmmaker Lise Birk Pedersen recognized a good story when setting out to document the life of Moscow student Masha Drokova.
The young Russian became celebrated in her country when, at 16, she publicly embraced Vladimir Putin, giving him a hug and kiss and vowing fealty to his administration. She eventually joins a political youth group known as Nashi. The group spouts ultra-nationalist views, rails against enemies of the state, and seems to combine the worst excesses of Hitler Youth and Stalinism.
Meanwhile, Masha remains friends with opposition journalist and blogger Oleg Kashin. But she slowly begins to change over the course of the film, a time period that represents a substantial part of the young woman’s life.
When masked thugs savagely beat Oleg, all caught on security camera footage, Masha finally leaves the movement. It’s a dynamic portrait that helps reveal a dark side of the Putin administration. Not rated, 85 minutes.
Cosmopolis (**) Reliably strange David Cronenberg directed and wrote the screenplay for this peripatetic allegory based on Don DeLillo’s novel. Robert Pattinson plays Eric Packer, a 20-something financier who rides around Manhattan in his limousine while conducting business, having sex and even undergoing intimate medical procedures.
Ostensibly, he’s on the way across town for a haircut from his father’s old barber. Along the way, several random and surprising acts of violence unfold while we gradually learn a little about him, but never enough to justify the inane journey in this obscure pseudo-drama.
With Juliette Binoche, Paul Giamatti, Samantha Morton, Kevin Durand and others. Rated R, 109 minutes. The DVD includes director commentary, the comprehensive 110-minute “making of” documentary “Citizens of Cosmopolis,” and 27 minutes of interviews with cast and crew.
The Trouble With Bliss (**) Michael C. Hall, the title star of TV’s popular serial-killer drama Dexter, plays Morris Bliss in this amiable but ultimately slight shaggy-dog story. Michael Knowles directed and co-wrote, from Douglas Light’s novel East Fifth Bliss.
Morris looks to be the ultimate underachiever: 35 years old, disheveled, unemployed, and more or less supported by his father (Peter Fonda).
Morris begins a tumultuous relationship with Stephanie (Brie Larson), the 18-year-old daughter of one of his ex-classmates from high school (Brad Henke). Another scatter-brained friend (Chris Messina) constantly spouts conspiracy theories along with a get-rich-quick scheme involving moving to Montana. And Morris also enjoys the sporadic attentions of an amorous but married neighbor (Lucy Liu).
All of this seems to build to something, or maybe should add up to something, but never does, leaving little of consequence.
Rated PG-13, 97 minutes. The DVD includes a 13-minute interview with Hall and seven minutes of deleted scenes.
Finally, as some TV shows approach their new seasons in January, their most recent series arrive on DVD:
Justified: The Complete Third Season As the fourth season of this increasingly popular show on cable channel FX returns, the 13 episodes of the third season now appear on three discs.
In season three, U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant) must deal with carpetbagging Detroit mobsters who come to Kentucky to capitalize on the burgeoning drug trade. The chief antagonist, Robert Quarles (Neal McDonough), is a blond-haired, blue-eyed psychopath with a penchant for torture as well as derringers up his sleeve.
During this season, Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins) and Ava Crowder (Joelle Carter) both present problems for Marshal Givens. And another part of the hollow opens up with a threat from the African-American community, led by Limehouse (Mykelti Williamson).
Not rated, 541 minutes. The collection, also on Blu-ray, includes nine separate cast and crew commentaries, three deleted scenes, three minutes of gag outtakes, a 19-minute “making of” featurette, a 13-minute set tour, and a 10-minute segment on the “Anatomy of a Stunt.” The Blu-ray also offers the featurette “In Conversation” with Olyphant and Goggins.
Being Human: The Complete Second Season This clever Syfy series has quickly developed a devoted following, with its story about three young people who pretend to be fully human while hiding their true identities. Werewolf Josh (Sam Huntington), vampire Aidan (Sam Witwer) and ghost Sally (Meaghan Rath) live together in a Boston apartment because only they can understand each other.
This season — 13 episodes, on four discs — sees such dilemmas as a loss of the blood supply as well as previous deeds coming back to haunt everyone. Plus, Josh even has a friend return from the dead, and Sally falls into a coma.
Not rated, 572 minutes. The collection, also on Blu-ray, holds generous supplements, including an exhaustive 61-minute “making of” documentary, 49 minutes with cast and crew on a panel at Comic-Con, and five minutes of interviews with cast and crew.
Also available Tuesday on DVD: Overtime, War of the Dead.