“Why must there always be a story?” asks a director (Jerzy Radziwilowicz) attempting to create a film of beautiful images, modeled on the masterpieces of western art, in Jean-Luc Godard’s Passion (1982). Of course he’s speaking for Godard, who returned from his self-imposed video exile with this lush production. Perhaps the most physically beautiful of all of Godard’s films, he uses cranes, dollies, an elaborate set, and a vivid palette of rich colors to suggest the styles of the great European directors. But there must be a story, so the fictional director flits between his rich lover (Hanna Schygulla) and a working class protester (Isabelle Huppert) while agonizing over his film. This framework seems like an afterthought, but perhaps that’s the point: who needs a story when you have these amazing images?
Passion makes its DVD debut in Lionsgate’s new Jean-Luc Godard: 3-Disc Collector’s Edition, reviewed here in my DVD column:
“Passion,” perhaps his most physically beautiful film to date, launched a whole new phase in his career, where he played with ideas of human relationships and cinematic representation with the tools and techniques of his video work. This new three-disc set features four films making their respective DVD debuts.
The other three features are First Name: Carmen (1983), Detective (1984), and Helas Pour Moi (aka Oh, Woe Is Me, 1993), and the disc features the half-hour documentary “Jean-Luc Godard: A Riddle Wrapped in an Enigma,” with film critics and historians Kent Jones, Winston Wheeler Dixon and David Sterritt.
Also new on DVD this week is a new collector’s edition of Billy Wilder’s The Apartment:
After striking screwball gold with “,” cast his eye toward the modern urban romance in a corporate culture, circa 1960, and came up with a sad and sweet story of adultery, opportunism and compromise. is the everyman who, struggling to break out of the pack of insurance adjusters, lends out his bachelor apartment to a group of cheating executives for extramarital trysts. He gets his promotion and trades the revolving door of sleazy execs running through his place for just one recurring tenant: big boss (who plays the biggest jerk of his career with cool hypocrisy).
And Sergei Paradjanov’s debut feature Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors (1964) makes its DVD debut this week, available as a single-disc special edition or in a box set with the director’s other three feature films.
The new release list this week is topped by The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford:
won the Best Actor award at Venice for his loose performance as Jesse James in this long, somber Western, a kind of visual folk song echoing with melancholy remembrance. But it’s , honored with an Oscar nomination for his performance as Robert Ford, who is the revelation in the film. Where Jesse is jaunty and seemingly easygoing (at least until paranoia kicks in and his grin becomes a threat that he flashes like a dare), Robert is wary, skittish, desperate for Jesse’s attention and maybe some of his reputation, which he’s learned from dime novels.
New TV on DVD this week:
The street cops, firemen and paramedics who work the “third watch,” the 3-11 p.m. shift, are the stars of this busy drama of blue-collar heroes on the streets of a fictional New York precinct. Created by John Wells (“ER”) and Edward Allen Bernero (“Criminal Minds”), it’s a modern mix of “Adam-12” and “Emergency!” with a “Hill Street Blues” attitude and an “ER” sensibility. The show opens with veteran beat-cop Sully (Skipp Sudduth) assigned a new police academy graduate (Coby Bell), who just happens to be the son of his old partner, and with respected paramedic “Doc” (Michael Beach) paired up with “the new guy” (Anthony Ruivivar) after his longtime partner is shot, giving the show plenty of give and take between the idealistic rookies and the experienced veterans. Bobby Cannavale and Kim Raver are best friends and paramedic partners with serious romantic tension, Eddie Cibrian is Raver’s fireman ex-husband, and Jason Wiles is a hotheaded police officer with poor people skills and a partner (Molly Price) who does her best to take the edge off his worst instincts. The series focuses on community policing, the day-to-day work of patrolling and “solving problems,” in Sully’s own words, and the relationships between the cops, the firemen and the paramedics, both personal and professional. With the police station and firehouse just across the alley, there’s plenty of opportunity for the crews to cross paths on and off the job.
Other TV highlights include Slings & Arrows: The Complete Collection, Beauty and the Beast: The Final Season, and the British mini-series Strictly Confidential.
[Note: click on DVD cover to find it on Amazon]