Editor’s Notes: Things to Come, Love and Anarchism, Orange Is the New Black: Season Four, Fifty Shades Darker, and Brain Damage are out on their respective home video formats May 8th.
Things to Come
Things to Come (IFC Films) stars Isabelle Huppert (Elle) as middle-aged Nathalie, an academic with a seemingly settled, routine existence, juggling the day-to-day demands of career and family, including frequent visits to her demanding mother (Edith Scob). Her children are grown up and have moved away and, though once a radical herself, she is no longer in sync with the concerns of many of her students.
When Heinz (Andrew Marcon), her husband of 25 years, announces that he’s leaving her, Nathalie’s life starts to crumble. She and Heinz are both philosophy instructors, and books have been their common bond. Because of their shared passion for the written word, Nathalie took for granted the fact that he would always love her.
Around the same time, her publishers drop her work from their catalogues because she’s not young or hip enough to satisfy their new marketing plan. For the first time in years, she finds herself adrift, but also with a new sense of liberation. With nothing to hold her back, Nathalie sets out to establish herself and rediscover herself.
Ms. Huppert is excellent as a woman facing a new challenges later in life. Her Nathalie goes from self-confidence to insecurity as she navigates life without her long-time partner. With an expressive face that conveys apprehension and uncertainty with pinpoint precision, Ms. Huppert beautifully presents Nathalie sympathetically. She tends to underplay in a role that less-secure actors might exaggerate. The story is not all that unique, but it’s her performance that holds the viewer and makes Nathalie a flesh-and-blood individual rather than a cliche.
There are no bonus features on the PG-13 rated Blu-ray release. The widescreen film is in French, with available English and Spanish subtitles.
Love and Anarchism
Love and Anarchism (Arrow Academy) is the work of Kiju Yoshida, a Japanese director not well known in the United States. Yoshida is a contemporary of Nagisa Oshima (“In the Realm of the Senses”) who began as an assistant to Keisuke Kinoshita before directing his first feature film at age 27, and building a body of work consisting of 20 features and documentaries.
This box set contains three of Yoshida’s films from the late 60s and early 70s that aren’t exactly a trilogy, yet contain similar themes of radical politics and an unconventional shooting style. Eros & Massacre is presented in both its 169-minute theatrical version and the director’s cut, running 3 hours, 40 minutes. Eros & Massacre tells the parallel stories of early 20th-century anarchist and free love advocate Sakae Osugi and a pair of student activists whose stories intertwine and interact with one another. The result is a complex film, regarded by many critics as Yoshida’s masterpiece.
Heroic Purgatory is a bleak look into 1970’s political disclosures taking place in Japan. The third film, Coup d’etat is a dramatic biography of a right-wing extremist who sought to overthrow the Japanese government in 1936. This latter film led to Yoshida’s retirement from filmmaking. Many years would pass before he took on another cinematic project, and later efforts were mostly documentaries.
Bonus materials in the 7-disc Blu-ray + DVD box set include scene-select commentaries on all three films; Heroic Purgatory and Coup d’etat theatrical trailers; introductions to Heroic Purgatory and Coup d’etat by Yoshida; newly-filmed discussions of the films; a 30minute documentary on Eros & Massacre; and an illustrated 80-page book featuring writing on the films and the Japanese Avant-Garde Cinema in the 1960s and 1970s. The unrated films are in Japanese, withEnglish subtitles.
Orange Is the New Black: Season Four
Orange Is the New Black: Season Four (Lionsgate) is different in tone from previous seasons. There’s less comedy, and what starts as amusing episodes quickly take a darker turn. Piper Chapman (Taylor Schilling), who’s moved more into an ensemble position than lead character, tries to appear intimidating in front of her fellow inmates, but her attempt escalates in unexpected ways. This sudden shift underscores the basic theme of the show — that everyone inside Litchfield has a different story and violence can erupt unexpectedly at any time.
Two issues covered this season include racial tension and privatized prisons. A hundred new inmates are crowded into the already crowded correctional facility, creating tension among both prisoners and guards.
There are new characters, most significantly Judy King (Blair Brown), who’s patterned after Martha Stewart. This character provides a lot of the humor of this season’s episodes. Because of the large cast, not every character gets equal screen time, though most have gotten or will get their spotlight through big moments and flashbacks revealing their backstories.
There is a definite sadness about the plight of the inmates. Prison is prison, and all would rather be anywhere but within the walls of Litchfield. Some are remorseful and feel bad about the paths they have taken, so the writers show us the human side of what many would consider social outcasts. The layers of writing have made the show an exceptional series.
Special features on the 3-disc Blu-ray release include a gag reel, a tour of the set, and commentaries with cast and crew. A digital HD copy is included.
Fifty Shades Darker
Fifty Shades Darker (Universal Home Entertainment) is a sequel to 2015’s Fifty Shades of Grey. At the end of that film, Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) left billionaire Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) because she refused to formalize there S & M relationship with a contract. Christian has been wounded and attempts to entice a cautious Anastasia back into his life. However, she demands a new arrangement before she’ll give him another chance. The two begin to build trust and find stability, following their explorations of kinky sex.
Their agreement, however, appears to disintegrate when Grey once again controls the relationship, exercising his twisted sexual desires. Ana goes along with this, because she benefits from his wealthy lifestyle, including excursions on his yacht.
The film follows the same dramatic arc of the first movie, but lacks impact because of its familiarity. Since this film is the second in a trilogy, it fails to resolve many issues. Serialized feature films have been made before (Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings), but in this case, the film is so poorly crafted, it dulls the desire to see what’s going to happen to these characters next.
The so-called sex scenes are nothing more than R-rated intensity and often look as if director James Foley and the two stars are working really hard to squeeze any eroticism out of them. Dornan comes across not as an alluring, irresistible guy, but as a creep made bold by his wealth and arrogance, intent on exercising his perverted form of abusive control. The viewer tends to lose patience with Ana, who knows this guy, recognizes his flaws, and is still drawn back into his weird lifestyle. It’s one thing for an innocent to be captivated by an imagined illusion, but once that illusion gives way to reality and the fascination remains, the character loses credibility.
Bonus features on the unrated 2-disc 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray + digital HD release includes deleted scenes, a teaser to Fifty Shades Freed, and several behind-the-scenes featurettes. The R-rated theatrical version of the film is also included. Fifty Shades Darker is also available in a 2-disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack.
Brain Damage (Arrow Video), directed by Frank Henenlotter (Basket Case), is a bizarre film about a symbiotic relationship. Young Manhattanite Brian (Rick Herbst) becomes addicted to a peculiar psychedelic drug given to him by a slug-like creature that leads to highs and lows.
The monster, which feeds on human brains, escapes from the apartment of an elderly European couple (Lucille Saint-Peter, Theo Barnes). The oddball couple have named their talking pet monster Aylmer (voice of horror host Zacherley). Aylmer escapes because they feed him animal brains and he craves the real thing — human brains.
Aylmer makes his way into Brian’s neighboring apartment, grasps his neck, and injects him with a substance that causes Brian to see everything as beautiful. Brian likes the feeling and is soon hooked. The downside is that the drug causes mood swings that turn the young man’s life into turmoil. Aylmer eventually becomes abusive, knowing Brian can’t survive without him.
As in Basket Case, Henenlotter makes a special effects creation a major character. The effects are strictly low budget, but that’s part of the appeal of this audacious film. As a horror film, it’s more comedic than scary, and comes off more as a cautionary tale about the pitfalls of addiction, though it never comes across as didactic. For fans of cult movies, Brain Damage will offer some jaw-dropping moments.
Bonus extras on the 2-disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack include audio commentary by writer/director Frank Henenlotter; the documentary Listen to the Light: The Making of Brain Damage; interview with actor Rick Herbst; a look at the special effects work of Gabe Bartalos; a feature illustrating the contributions of visual effects supervisor Al Magliochetti; overview of the New York City locations used in the film; interview with superfan Adam Skinner; Q & A with Frank Henenlotter; Bygone Behemoth, an animated short featuring a brief appearance by John Zacherle in his final onscreen role; reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork; and a collector’s booklet containing new writing on the film, original archive stills and posters.