This Week New Movies for February 26th 2013: Society and Slaves

The Master

Continuing to push the boundaries of traditional narrative and character development, the latest film from director Paul Thomas Anderson (Magnolia, There Will Be Blood, Boogie Nights), The Master, tells of Naval veteran Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix) who arrives back stateside from fighting in the Pacific front in World War II troubled, uncertain, and vulnerable - in fact all ready to have his world rocked by "The Cause."

The Cause is a religio-philosophical ideology and therapeutic practice invented and run by its charismatic leader, Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman). Over the course of a long voyage to New York City on board a yacht, Quell gradually becomes intrigued with Dodd's wide-ranging pronouncements. Quell is possibly suffering from shell shock, but maybe he was just fuscrewed up to start with. A heavy drinker, enamored of home-brewed gut-rot, easy sex, and violent outbursts, a man completely incapable of holding down a steady job, Quell actually could use something like The Cause, in that his life could only get better. But what is the mysterious connection between the two mutually-conning outsiders and why is Dodd interested in this ticking-time-bomb loser?

The Master received three Oscar nominations - Phoenix as Best Actor, Hoffman as Best Supporting Actor, and Amy Adams as Best Supporting Actress.

One terrific addition to this set's party is Let There Be Light (1946), John Huston's landmark 60-minute documentary about WWII veterans and the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder that's included in the extras.

Video: 1.85:1. Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. Extras: 20 minutes of deleted scenes edited into a short film with a separate stereo musical soundtrack by Johnny Greenwood, "Unguided Message" featurette, Let There Be Light (1946) John Huston's landmark 60-minute documentary about WWII veterans and the treatment PTSD; DVD, digital copy for downloading. Studio: Starz/Anchor Bay.

Holy Motors

A man wakes up in a hotel room next to an airport but the only sounds we hear are the lapping of waves and the screeching of seabirds. He locates a secret door in the wallpaper that's locked, but fortunately he realizes he has the key, which grows out of one of his fingers. Stumbling into a hallway he pushes through a set of doors to find himself in a packed movie house watching King Vidor's silent masterpiece, The Crowd, while a child leads an enormous canine up and down the aisles.The man is known only as "Le Dormeur" and is played by Léos Carax, French bad-boy writer-director who is responsible for Pola XBad Bood, and The Lovers on the Bridge and creating this gorgeous dream-like ravishment, his first feature film since 1999.

So it should not be much of a surprise that the main character, Monsieur Oscar (regular Carax collaborator Denis Levant), is a mysterious fellow who we follow from dawn to dusk as he rides around in a spacious white limousine driven by his close friend Céline (Edith Scob) while chameleon-like Monsieur Oscar transforms, using elaborate makeup and costumes, and performs a number of complex and unusual scenarios, jumping between the multiple parallel lives - a biz wiz, aging female Gypsy, assassin, beggar, motion-capture monster, and family man. In one sequence Levant reprises his role of Monsieur Merde - a character who dances through cemeteries, lives in a sewer, and abducts a supermodel (Eva Mendes) - who first appeared in Carax's segment of the collaborative film Tokyo! Monsieur Oscar also performs in a deathbed melodrama, a gangster film, a musical alongside pop star Kylie Minogue, and many others.

This brilliantly mind-bendingly irrational, hallucinatory, and confoundingly challenging movie - considered by many critics to be one of the best films of the year - co-stars Michel Piccoli, Edith Scob, Elise Lhomeau, Jeanne Disson, and Denis Lavant with new music performed by Kylie Minogue. In addition there's a rousing gathering of accordion players.

Video: 1.85:1. Audio: French Dolby Digital 5.1 with English subtitles. Extras: "Drive In – The Making of Holy Motors" 47-minute high-def featurette, Kylie Minogue interview. Studio: Indomina Releasing.

Sansho the Bailiff

Kenji Mizoguchi's dazzlingly directed masterpiece from 1954, Sansho the Bailiff (Sanshô Dayû), based on a story by Ogai Mori, is an epic period drama that paints portraits of a broad series of characters whose pasts and presents are intertwined. In 11th century Japan, a decent, idealistic governor (Masao Shimizu) disobeys a feudal lord who, under the influence of the governor's opponents, casts him into exile, leaving his wife, Tamaki (Kinuyo Tanaka), and children to fend for themselves.

Years pass and Tamaki, her son, Zushio (Yoshiaki Hanayagi), her daughter, Anju (Kyôko Kagawa, Madadayo), and their servant journey to the island where the governor now lives. On the way they're advised by a priestess (Kikue Mori) to hire two boatmen to help them but, unfortunately, the boatmen turn out to be vicious slave traders who sell Tamaki and the servant to a brothel while the children are sold to Sansho (Eitarô Shindô), owner of a slave camp.

More years pass with Zusho and Anju growing up as slaves and working in different parts of the camp, only occasionally meeting, both suffering from malnutrition, dehydration, and exhaustion while those around them often collapse or die. Slowly, Zusho takes on a slave mentality, unthinkingly obeying the orders of the guards and trying to survive for the day, but Anju continues to hope that eventually all will return to how it was and she'll be reunited with Zusho and their mother and father, but that will take a whole series of rich developments, dangers, actions, and adventures before any of it is possible.

Sansho the Bailiff won Silver Lion Award at the Venice Film Festival. It comes in a restored high-definition digital transfer, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack.

Video: 1.33:1. Audio: Japanese LPCM Mono. Extras: commentary by Japanese-literature professor Jeffrey Angles, video interview with actress Kagawa, "Performance"11-minute video interview with Kagawa (who also appeared in Kurosawa's High and Low and Yasujiro Ozu's Tokyo Story), "Production" 15-minute video interview with assistant director Tokuzo Tanaka, "Simplicity" 24-minute featurette in which Japanese film critic and historian Tadao Sato discusses Sansho the Bailif  (all above interviews in Japanese, with optional English subtitles), booklet featuring an essay by film writer Mark Le Fanu and two versions of the story on which the film was based - Ogai Mori's 1915 Sansho Dayu (Sansho the Steward) and a written form of an earlier oral variation. Studio: The Criterion Collection.

The Hudsucker Proxy

Writers, producers, and directors Joel and Ethan Coen's 1994 screwball comedy, The Hudsucker Proxy, inspired by the films of Preston Sturges, Frank Capra, and Howard Hawks, takes a darkly satirical look at big business. When the founder and president of manufacturing company Hudsucker Industries, Waring Hudsucker (Charles Durning), leaps to his death from a 44th floor window, panicking the board of directors into coming up with a plan to install a complete idiot as the new president of the company in order to depress the value of the stock, thereby allowing the board members to acquire a controlling interest for themselves cheap. All they need to do is to find the right innocent imbecile.

Fortunately, one arrives in the form of mailroom clerk and recent graduate of the 1958 class of the Muncie College of Business Administration, Norville Barnes (Tim Robbins). The Chairman (Paul Newman) installs him as CEO, but the unassuming dope takes his new job seriously and does what he sees is best for the company, steadfastly pursuing his own ideas such as developing the hula hoop. The board, in the hope that this idiot idea will flop, go along with him and in doing so unintentionally increase the company's worth.

Meanwhile, blousy, brassy, fast-talking newspaper reporter Amy Archer (Jennifer Jason Leigh), assigned to write a story about Norville, gets herself hired at Hudsucker Industries as Barnes' personal secretary. There she discovers Mussburger's plot and takes the story back to her Chief (John Mahoney). Meanwhile, Mussburger convinces the board that Norville is insane and should be sent to a psychiatric hospital. . . .

The cast includes Sam Raimi (who co-wrote the script), Steve Buscemi, John Goodman, and Anna Nicole Smith.

Video: 1.85:1. Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0. Extras: TBA. Studio: Warner.

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2

It . . . is . . . over!

Video: 2.40:1. Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1. Extras: commentary by director Bill Condon, "Forever: Filming Breaking Dawn Part 2" seven-part making of documentary, "Two Movies at Once" featurette, "Jump To" features, "The Forgotten" Green Day music video. Studio: Lionsgate.

Chronicle of a Summer

In the summer of '60 filmmaker-anthropologist Jean Rouch and sociologist Edgar Morin went around interviewing people in the streets of Paris in order to make a sociopolitical diagnosis of the place and times that would revolutionize documentary filmmaking in creating what Morin termed "cinéma verité."

Beginning with the seemingly simple question "Are you happy?" the conversations evolves into all kinds of reactions and responses, leading to further questions on political issues such as the ongoing Algerian War. Gradually, the beliefs, hopes, and fears of several generations were revealed.

Before the interviews begin, though, the filmmakers question themselves as to whether it's even possible to be honest and sincere in front of a camera. And later, towards the end of the film, they show those interviewed the footage and get their reaction as to how real they felt the movie was. Chronicle of a Summer (Chronique d'un Été, 1961) was to become a hugely influential film in its simple approach producing such riches.

Chronicle of a Summer comes in a new digital transfer from a 2K digital master of the Cineteca di Bologna restoration of the film, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack.

Video: 1.37:1. Audio: French LPCM Mono. Extras: "Un été + 50" 73-minute 2011 documentary featuring outtakes and new interviews with Morin and some of the film's subjects, archival interviews with Rouch and one of the film's subjects, new interview with anthropology professor Faye Ginsburg, booklet featuring an essay by scholar Sam Di Iorio. Studio:  The Criterion Collection.

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