The latest DVDs

The Mail & Guardian takes a look at some of the latest DVD releases, including The Diving Bell and the Butterfly and Brick Lane.

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Journalist and Elle editor Jean-Dominique Bauby had a stroke in the mid-1990s that left him paralysed, save for movement in his left eye. In 200 000 blinks from July to August in 1996 he spelled out his story, an exploration of his life as an immovable object, showing that without any faculties one can still have a life.

Mathieu Amalric plays Bauby in Julian Schnabel’s remarkable film The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, which soars beyond and above its own constraints. That is to say, while the work is about paralysis, certain metaphors allow cinematic freedom to shine through.

The diving bell, of course, is the body in which the protagonist is entrapped while the butterfly is the guy’s imagination flying free. The problem with such fixed references is that the plot has to return to them time and again—and so a little too often we return to the sinking man in the quaint old diving suit or the chrysalis freeing itself from its larva state.

Generally, though, the movie is proof that something wonderful can be created from the most vile circumstance and that, after all, is the point.—Matthew Krouse


Brick Lane
Movies about Asian immigrants arriving in the United Kingdom in search of a better life tend to focus on the downside of traditional family life in conflict with some of the freedoms of the West.

In Sarah Gavron’s Brick Lane, a beautiful but tragic Bangladeshi woman called Nazneen (Tannishtha Chatterjee) is married off to an ugly, fat and cruel loser who gives her two lovely daughters and a terribly dull life in this area of London.

She finds some respite in an affair with Karim (Christopher Simpson)—the sexiest boy around—a lackey for a cheap clothing manufacturer who runs a sweatshop nearby. Nazneen gets a second-hand sewing machine and begins earning a pittance, an action which sparks a series of unhappy responses from her controlling chubby hubby. Brick Lane is low-key and sad and tries, with some success, to show how cultural alienation can lead to religious (in this case, Muslim) fundamentalism.—MK

Casanova
The BBC’s series (two full-length movies in length) retells the famous rake’s life story without going much beyond the myth of the great lover (historically, he was also a kind of scientist, a heretic, even a revolutionary, and an early fantasy novelist—much more interesting than the mythic figure).

Peter O’Toole is the old Casanova, looking back on his long life, and David Tennant his younger self. Scripted by Russell T Davies, who wrote Queer as Folk, it puts some fresh flesh on the old bones and is engaging enough, while still feeling over-extended and rather anachronistic.

The sex is treated rather like Fellini treated it in his version of Casanova, though without the chilly irony; here it’s supposed to be cheerily bawdy. The participants keep most of their clothes on. The hairstyles are awful.—Shaun de Waal

Goya’s Ghosts
Long and lugubrious, this tale is seen through the eyes of the Spanish painter and takes us from the days of the Spanish Inquisition to the time of the French Revolution. Natalie Portman plays an abused young woman (abused by the filmmakers as well as the Inquisition, that is), Stellan Skarsgaard the painter, and Javier Bardem is a priest—more terrifying than his role in No County for Old Men.—SdW

The Other Side
A really bad horror film, understandably straight-to-DVD. Young man pursues the person who murdered his parents while in turn being pursued by the Grim Reaper (with tatty cloak and scythe, too). Unscary, unfunny.—SdW

The Ruins
Slightly better as horror goes; it even got a big-screen release. American travellers in Mexico find themselves persecuted by hungry plants while trapped atop ancient pyramid. Why do young Americans go on holiday to such places? Didn’t they see Hostel? - SdW

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