Henry IV/The Prince of Homburg/The Nanny
Fresh from yet another New York Film Festival triumph (the Moro-kidnapping psychodrama Good Morning, Night), Marco Bellocchio is finally ensconced in the mandarin priesthood of great international filmmakers. Though notorious as a provocateur (largely thanks to Maruschka Detmers’s blowjob in Devil in the Flesh), Bellocchio is a supremely restrained, sober artist, as deft with poetic visuals as he is concerned with the dogfight between history and family. Facets brings us three of his best films, only one of which—the sad Pirandello satire Henry IV (1984), with Marcello Mastroianni as a mad aristocrat who believes he’s the titular monarch—has seen a theatrical release here. The Prince of Homburg (1997), from a classic Kleist play, follows the travails of a dream-haunted German officer in the 17th-century war with Sweden, while The Nanny (1999), from another Pirandello tale, explores the dynamics of a fragile fin de siècle Italian family when a nursemaid is hired. Both these newer films are nuanced, deeply mysterious, and possessed of some of the most beautiful deep-shadow, natural-light cinematography (by longtime Bellocchio partner in crime Giuseppe Lanci) executed anywhere in recent years. MICHAEL ATKINSON
(Blue Underground DVD)
Possibly no American pulp-master of the ’60s and ’70s had as many potent ideas as George Romero, resulting in at least three triumphs of queasy chaos: Night of the Living Dead, Martin, and this anarchic field day (originally titled, poorly, Code Name: Trixie), in which the military quarantines a virus-infected town only to have the contagion-maddened populace fight back viciously. Talk about timely: The Ashcroftian governmental cure out-terrorizes the disease, revolutionary paranoia becomes a nerve-racking reality, and the gritty visions of neighborhood-invading army trucks and hazmat-suited infantry are the stuff of childhood nightmares. It could be party software for militiamen, but The Crazies speaks more radically about the American love-hate relationship with authority than any film of the Nixon era. And like all of Romero’s home runs, it ends on a note of blasted rue. Supplements include a Romero commentary, artwork, and a doc on micro-cult star Lynn Lowry. M.A.
Electra, My Love
A great semi-forgotten master, Hungarian new wave pioneer Miklos Jancso reorchestrated camera movement, off-screen space, long-take realism, and landscape into a stream-of-consciousness style that allowed his films to be roamed around in as if they were small countries. Inspiring Tarkovsky and Sokurov, the unique formal attack was ideally suited for mass portraits of political rupture. But in this rarely seen tour de force, Jancso re-envisions the Euripides drama as an experimental theater-dancework, performed by hordes of metaphoric extras on the windblown Hungarian plains. In this superhumanly gorgeous movie, even the flocks of birds obey the laws of composition, and the age-old revenge myth acquires a hulking machine’s chilling inevitability. M.A.
The Kids Are Alright
Serving as a much better tribute than their endless cycle of “final” tours, this reissued 1979 documentary on the Who (which just received a special NYFF screening) is one of the most entertaining rock docs ever made, a defining film in the then tiny, pre-MTV genre. First-time director Jeff Stein bounces between live shows, early music videos, interviews, and TV appearances rather than relying on a linear historical narrative. Maybe conceived to hide the Who’s eventual decline, the movie ignores much of their later output. Pretty boy Roger Daltrey and poker-faced John Entwistle were outshone by Pete Townshend’s guitar, songs, and ideas (and early instrument destruction), which dictated the group’s direction. But it’s Keith Moon’s sociopathic behavior that dominates the film, defining a rock attitude for arrested adolescents everywhere. Spinal Tap were surely taking notes. JASON GROSS