DVDs for 5/12/09 – Taken, Of Time and the City, Wise Blood and more

I’m an unabashed fan of Luc Besson’s Euro-thrillers,  the closest thing we have today to  the scruffy and spirited drive-in action films and low-budget thrillers of the seventies, and Taken, directed by Pierre Morel (of the crazed and gloriously adrenaline-charged exploitation-with-a-social-message action blast Banlieue 13, aka District B-13), is just the kind of thing he does well. This one stars Liam Neeson, who is perfectly cast as a seemingly unintimidating Dad who goes to Paris to rescue his kidnapped daughter the reveals his “very particular set of skills” as he tears through the Albanian underworld of Paris. He doesn’t show off or waste any energy. He only shoots to wound when he needs the victim alive to talk. Otherwise, he dispatches every crook in his way quickly and efficiently whenever he can. It’s almost creepy the way his single-minded pursuit ignores the other victims along the way. It’s also the kind of touch that really defines this guy and this film.

The commentary by screenwriter Robert Mark Kamen is excellent; you can read my review in the “Supplemental Notes” section of my Parallax View DVD column.

British director Terence Davies brings his distinctive sensibility and compassion to Of Time and the City, his very personal profile of Liverpool told from his ambivalent perspective of troubled affection and critical commentary. Davies illustrates this first-person essay with a vivid selection of archival news and newsreel clips, documentary footage and home movies, and personally narrates with a witty collection of literary quotes, song lyrics, movie titles and snatches of poetry backed by a collection of popular songs and snatches of classical music. It’s less a documentary than a lyrical essay that freely mixes history and remembrance, a wistful, funny, satirical, angry and forgiving portrait, as much about the artist himself as of the city that shaped Terence Davies and his art.

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