DVDs for 3/24/09 – William Wellman, In Treatment, Twilight and Bond… James Bond

Hollywood pro William Wellman directed more than 80 films in every genre over the course of four decades, but for my money, he was never more interesting than in the early sound era, where his energy and audacity powered over a dozen short, sharp, street-smart films filled with saucy sexiness and startling violence and mixed with varying measures of social commentary. Forbidden Hollywood Collection Volume Three collects six features by the enormously prolific director from that era (and two documentaries) on a four-disc set, and they are something else, films strewn with wild melodrama, romantic triangles, brawny action and some of the sexiest scenes of heavy petting and passionate smooching you’ve seen out of old Hollywood, with more frank sexuality more suggested than shown but there is no mistaking the suggestions.

I cover all six films – with special attention paid to the two mad masterpieces of depression-era outrage and helplessness Heroes for Sale and Wild Boys of the Road (both 1933) – in my review on Parallax View.

The intense and thoroughly riveting In Treatment, a series developed for HBO by Rodrigo Garcia (who directed half the series himself), is presented in an unconventional format: five half-hour episodes a week over the course of nine weeks. Each feature psychiatrist Paul (Gabriel Byrne) in a weekly session with his patients and, at the end of the week, with his own therapist (Dianne Wiest), with whom he has an adversarial relationship. Which isn’t all that different from many of his own patients: Laura (Melissa George) is in love with Paul and spends her sessions trying to rouse an emotion from him; Alex (Blair Underwood) is a hyper-competitive Navy pilot who treats his session like verbal sparring matches; Sophie (Mia Wasikowska) is a teenage gymnast with deep emotional conflicts; and Amy and Jake (Embeth Davidtz, Josh Charles) are married couple who can turn ferocious in the middle of a session. The show was adapted from the Israeli series Be’Tipul and many of the American scripts are based on episodes written by Ari Folman, the writer/director of the Oscar nominated film Waltz With Bashir. Garcia is a cinematic short story craftsman and this series, like his films, is adept at exploring uncomfortable relationships and tense emotional states.

The two big releases of the week are the latest James Bond thriller Quantum of Solace, which has both the shortest running time  and the most obscure title of any Bond film I can think of, and the teenage vampire phenomenon Twilight, an adaptation of the first film in Stephenie Meyer’s hit series of young adult novels.

Kristen Stewart is the human damsel Bella Swann who is uncommonly, instinctively, irrationally attracted to the brooding Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson), a pale, aloof high school dreamboat in a reclusive vampire family that has vowed to live in harmony with humans in an overcast, verdant American Eden in the rural Pacific Northwest. Director Catherine Hardwicke celebrates the swoony emotional intensity of romantic delirium – this is one heroine who is literally swept off her feet – and delivers the goods when the feral vampire hunters (led by Cam Gigandet) target Bella to rouse the Cullens into battle.

For the rest of the week’s highlights (including Guy Maddin’s Careful: Remastered And Repressed and Blu-ray releases of Francois Truffaut’s The 400 Blows and The Last Metro and , visit my weekly column, which goes live every Tuesday on MSN Entertainment, or go directly to the various pages dedicated to New Releases, Special Releases, TV and Blu-ray.

Author: seanax

I write the weekly newspaper column Stream On Demand and the companion website (www.streamondemandathome.com). I'm a contributing writer for Turner Classic Movies Online, Keyframe, Independent Lens, and Cinephiled, and the editor of Parallax View (www.parallax-view.org).. I've written for The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, The Seattle Weekly, GreenCine.com, Senses of Cinema, Asian Cult Cinema, and Psychotronic Video, among other publications, and I am a contributing editor to Parallax View. I currently live and work in Seattle, Washington, with my two cats, Hammet and Chandler.

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