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Video Dome

A true working knowledge of world cinema doesn't happen these days without an acquaintance with Facets Video, the country's largest rental library devoted to "foreign, classic, and independent" films— which clocks in at 23,000 titles and counting. They have a Chicago storefront and a Walter Reade­style revival theater, but Facets overachieves as a mail-order renter: for $10 a pop (or less if you buy rental credits in bulk), anyone can get their mitts on uncommonly stocked out-of-print rarities. The Facets catalogue, an atlas-sized index itself costing eight bucks, makes for compulsive browsing— let's see, there's Greenaway's 26 Bathrooms, the 1955 version of 1984, Rossellini's Age of the Medici and Augustine of Hippo, Jancso's The Round-Up, Renoir's Toni, Arthur Robinson's Warning Shadows, Oscar Micheaux's Ten Minutes To Live, the 1937 Yiddish version of The Dybbuk, Duvivier's Panique, and Lina Wertmuller's pseudonymously credited spaghetti western, Belle Starr. And that's just the freaks I found. What's more, on the Web site (www.facets.org), previously viewed bargain tapes for sale include Woo's Bullet in the Head, Lang's Liliom, Hellman's Ride the Whirlwind, and Jean Rouch's Le Jaguar. Then there are the other 1.75 miles of videos. Facets may be the last video-renting company that still charges a membership fee ($35, including three rentals), but if you gripe, you get the Blockbuster New Release you deserve.

 
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