With Christmas imminent, you may be wondering what to buy for your loved ones (or even, let’s face it, for yourself). Movies on DVD or BluRay can be useful, and there have been a fair few very fine films released over the last year. I’m not one of those people particularly bothered about masses of extras; the film itself is what matters – along with the quality of the presentation, hence my focus on a number of reliable labels that tend to take care in making sure a movie looks and sounds as it should. What follows is a mixture of recent films and revivals, listed in alphabetical order and intentionally very varied (though I make no apology for the absence of blockbuster action movies). I hope something here proves useful in making your present-buying that little bit easier.
Certain Women Kelly Reichardt, 2016, USA (Criterion) A lovely low-key account of everyday lives in today’s America, with Kristen Stewart, Michelle Williams, Laura Dern and a remarkable Lily Gladstone.
The Chase Arthur Penn, 1966, USA (Powerhouse) A powerhouse melodrama about corruption and violence in the South, with a to-die-for cast: Brando, Fonda, Redford, Fox, Duvall, Dickinson, Marshall, Rule… and many more.
Fat City John Huston, 1972, USA (Powerhouse) One of Huston’s finest movies, a grittily authentic foray into the lower echelons of the boxing world, with Stacy Keach and Jeff Bridges.
The General / Sherlock, Jr / Steamboat Bill, Jr Buster Keaton, 1924-8, USA (Eureka) Three of the greatest comedies ever made, by one of cinema’s greatest artists, now beautifully restored.
In a Lonely Place Nicholas Ray, 1950, USA (Criterion) Bogart and Gloria Grahame in Nicholas Ray’s superb blend of noir suspense and adult love-story; the lonely place is Hollywood.
A Journey Through French Cinema Bertrand Tavernier, 2016, France (StudioCanal) A profoundly personal, enormously illuminating, witty, erudite and finally very moving survey of cinematic treasures.
The Love of a Woman Jean Grémillon, 1953, France (Arrow) A late (proto-feminist) gem from one of France’s finest – and, outside of France, most underrated – filmmakers; there’s a terrific lead performance from Micheline Presle.
Lubitsch in Berlin Ernst Lubitsch, 1918-21, Germany (Eureka) A selection of six early rarities from the actor-writer-director-producer later known in Hollywood for his mastery of the light comic touch.
Manila in the Claws of Light / Insiang Lino Brocka, 1975/76, Philippines (BFI) Two raw slices of righteously angry realism from the late, great Filipino auteur.
The Other Side of Hope Aki Kaurismäki, 2017, Finland (Curzon-Artificial Eye) Another beautifully compassionate, deceptively simple fable about today’s injustices from the Finnish maestro.
Paterson Jim Jarmusch, 2015, USA (Thunderbird) Adam Driver fits the bill perfectly as a bus-driver-poet, whose week-in-the-life allows Jarmusch to ruminate on the role of art in the everyday, and vice-versa.
Le Plaisir Max Ophuls, 1952, France (Arrow) A deeply moving triptych adapted from Maupassant, about love, age, happiness and the transience of everything. Gabin and Dannielle Darrieux shine.
A Quiet Passion Terence Davies, 2016, UK (Thunderbird) Davies’ elegant, ambitious and very affecting account of the life and decline of Emily Dickinson, with a wonderful performance by Cynthia Dixon.
Toni Erdmann (Maren Ade, 2016, Germany (Thunderbird) Not, whatever some might have claimed, a comedy as such, but a spot-on study of the ethics and aesthetics of today’s corporate world, with some hilariously subversive set-pieces.
The Wages of Fear Henri-Georges Clouzot, 1953, France (BFI) One of the great suspense movies, beadily misanthropic as only Clouzot could be, and with memorably fine turns from Charles Vanel and Yves Montand.
And if you are feeling generous, you can splash out on The Eric Rohmer Collection (Arrow), which has all six films in the Comédies et proverbes series, including the magnificent The Green Ray, plus four relatively unfamiliar rarities: The Marquise d’O…, Perceval le gallois, The Four Adventures of Reinette and Mirabelle, and The Tree, the Mayor and the Mediatheque. All of these four titles are quite superb and – this will come as no surprise to anyone who knows my taste in cinema – very warmly recommended indeed; having BluRay versions of the visually resplendent Marquise and Perceval, in particular, is most welcome.