A pair of intriguing dramas

Posted: December 04, 2009

Strand Releasing, known for provocative films from around the world, is offering two new, intriguing and moving films on DVD.

Director Max Frberbck returns to the setting and themes of his critically acclaimed WWII drama, Aime & Jaguar (1999), with Woman in Berlin, another look at the harsh lives civilians led in the besieged city of Berlin.

Set in 1945 during the Russian invasion of the city, it's about a woman named Anonyma (Nina Hoss) who tries to avoid the fate that befalls so many women at the hands of the Red Army by offering sex and companionship to a Russian officer named Andrej (Evgeny Sidikhin) in exchange for protection.

The two unlikely friends develop a complex love-hate relationship of mutual distrust and mutual need.

And on Dec. 15, Strand (www.strandreleasing.com) will release the intense psychological drama The Headless Woman, directed by the remarkable Argentinean filmmaker Lucrecia Martel (The Holy Girl). Maria Onetto plays Veronica, a respected professional who one day runs over an unseen object while driving along a dirt road. As the days go by, she becomes convinced she may have killed someone. Her emotional turmoil increases when she reads that police have found the body of a young boy. As Veronica's state deteriorates, her husband, who fears discovery and scandal, desperately tries to cover her tracks. (Both films are unrated; $27.99 each.)

Other DVDs of note

It's been a good 15 years since American auteur Quentin Tarantino established his bona fides as a talented writer-director. Some of us have been waiting for him to grow up and create a serious film not undermined by irony. Inglourious Basterds, due Dec. 15 from Universal Studios (www.universalstudioshomeentertainment.com; $29.98 single-disc DVD; $34.98 two-disc DVD; $39.99 Blu-ray; rated R) isn't it. That said, the WWII send-up, a remake of Enzo G. Castellari's 1978 B-film classic, is as enjoyable as a Tarantino film can get.

Japanese director Yukihiko Tsutsumi made a splash at film fests this year with his two-part apocalyptic fantasy/sci-fi masterpiece, 20th Century Boys. The first volume, 20th Century Boys 1: Beginning of the End, is due Dec. 15 from Viz Video (www.viz.com; $24.98; not rated). Don't miss it. (The second film is due Feb. 16.)

Speaking of apocalyptic stories, learn about the ideas that inspired Roland Emmerich's 2012 with 2012: Science or Superstition, a terrific documentary featuring numerous experts, released by The Disinformation Co. (www.disinfo.com; $19.95; not rated).

Love the weird and the strange? See the terrific hipster comedy Who Is KK Downey? made by Canadian comedy troupe Kidnapper Films, and out on DVD from IndiePix (http://indiepixfilms.com; $24.95; not rated). It's about two loser wannabes who hatch up and act out a seriously mental literary plot to gain fame and fortune.

Wim Wenders, a pioneer in the New German Cinema, gained worldwide acclaim and fame with his 1987 masterpiece, Wings of Desire (Der Himmel ber Berlin), a rapturous existential love story starring Solveig Dommartin, Peter Falk, and longtime Wenders collaborator Bruno Ganz. If you missed it on the big screen, do the next best thing and watch the gorgeously restored DVD from the Criterion Collection (www.criterion.com; $39.95 DVD & Blu-ray; rated PG-13). It features commentary by Wenders and Falk and hours of extra features and documentaries.

And don't forget . . .

. . . David & Layla from Vanguard Cinema (www.vanguardcinema.com; $19.95; rated R) is a romantic comedy about an all-American Jewish guy who falls for a mysterious Muslim woman who turns out to be an illegal immigrant. . . . Lost: The Complete Fifth Season is due on Tuesday, Dec. 8, from Walt Disney (http://disneydvd.disney.go.com; $59.99 DVD; $79.99 Blu-ray; not rated). . . . Chris Vance plays a nutty psychiatrist in Mental: The Complete First Season from Fox (www.foxhome.com/; $49.98; not rated). . . . Follow the adventures of beloved anim hero Goku with Dragon Ball, Season 2 from FUNimation (www.funimation.com; $49.98; not rated). . . . Michael Mann's brilliant gangster epic, Public Enemies, which sets Johnny Depp and Christian Bale against each other, is due Tuesday, Dec. 8, from Universal (www.universalstudioshomeentertainment.com; $29.98; rated R). . . . John Connor's war against cyborgs continues in Terminator Salvation from Warner (www.wbshop.com; $28.98; rated PG-13). . . . J.J. Abrams reinvents a TV classic with Star Trek from Paramount www.paramount.com; $29.99; rated PG-13).

Contact staff writer Tirdad Derakhshani at 215-854-2736 or tirdad@phillynews.com.

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