Rack Focus


The Bad Sleep Well


A young man seeks to expose his father’s killer in Akira Kurosawa’s Hamlet-like story of corporate corruption in postwar Japan. Supplements include a making-of documentary as well as essays by filmmaker Michael Almereyda and occasional Voice contributor Chuck Stephens.

Black Girl/Borom Sarret

(New Yorker)

While it’s long been a critical cliché to call Ousmane Sembene the “father of African cinema,” actually seeing his films has been exceedingly difficult. Happily this began to change last spring with New Yorker’s DVD releases of Mandabi and Xala. Now comes this disc, packaging two early works from the Senegalese master. In the tragic short feature Black Girl (1965), a woman moves from Dakar to the French Riviera with her wealthy white employers and finds herself a virtual prisoner, not only of domestic drudgery but of language itself—the young servant’s voiceover thoughts fill the spare soundtrack but her utterances are almost entirely limited to simple “Oui, monsieur”s and “Non, madame”s. The 20-minute Borom Sarret (1964), a day in the life of an unlucky Dakar wagon driver, scans as a subtler take on the everyday traumas of Senegal’s postcolonial moment. Sembene’s formal economy is strik ing—brisk editing, no showy camera movement, judicious close-ups, cannily chosen music. As with Bresson and the Dardennes, these films will make nearly everything else you watch for the next week feel bloated and nonessential by contrast.

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