Few myths have helped define modernity more than the story of Faust, a scholar who sells his soul to the devil in exchange for youth, wealth, power, and/or knowledge. It has fascinated artists from Christopher Marlowe to Richard Wagner and Charles Gounod.
Set during the Middle Ages, Sokurov's film is based on two versions of the tale, Goethe's neo-Romantic play Faust composed in the first few years of the 19th century and Thomas Mann's Doctor Faustus, written in the 1940s during Hitler's reign of terror.
Goethe's Faust has a maniacal thirst for knowledge, Mann's for power. For Sokurov, knowledge is power, and an obsession for obtaining it poses a dangerous temptation to abuse that power.
Despite its philosophical complexity, Sokurov's film is wondrously sensuous, alive, vital, and rounded out with delightful touches of humor and black comedy.
( www.kinolorber.com; $29.95; not rated)
Other titles of note
Hinterland: Series 1. Brooding isn't just for the Scottish and Irish as this murder mystery series proves. Shot simultaneously in English and Welsh, the four feature-length mysteries in this collection star Richard Harrington as a police detective in the starkly beautiful coastal town of Aberystwyth in Wales, a place haunted by so many buried secrets, their periodic reemergence leads to murder. ( http://acornonline.com; $59.99; not rated)
Witches of East End: Season 1. A show about a town full of really hot women, and their equally hot grown-up daughters, who also happen to be powerful witches? Sign me up! Based on the Melissa de la Cruz novel, Lifetime's series is a heady mix of drama, suspense, horror and soap opera romance starring Julia Ormond, Mädchen Amick, Rachel Boston and Jenna Dewan-Tatum. Prepare for Sunday's Season 2 premiere with this three-disc boxed set. ( https://www.foxconnect.com; $29.98; not rated)
No Clue. Canadian helmer Carl Bessai ( Normal) delivers a genuinely funny dark comedy with this satire about a goofy ad salesman (Brent Butt) who pretends he's a private eye when a hot damsel in distress (Amy Smart) comes calling. ( http://entertainmentone.com; $19.98; not rated)
And don't forget
Catch a fresh season of cartoonist Aaron McGruder's animated adaptation of his brilliant strip The Boondocks Season 4. . . . Michael Peña leads an impressive cast as the titular hero in the biopic Cesar Chavez, due July 22. . . . Without a Trace alum Poppy Montgomery plays a New York police detective with a photographic memory in Unforgettable Season 2. . . . Nicola Pagett ( Upstairs, Downstairs) stars as Leo Tolstoy's heroine in this classic nine-hour mini-series version of Anna Karenina from 1977.
Most titles also available for digital download from major retailers.