April 8-14, 2004
Brigands, Chapter VII ($29.95 DVD) Otar Iosseliani is sometimes called the "Georgian Jacques Tati," but the black humor of his 1996 feature Brigands, Chapter VII is closer to Luis Buñuel; Iosseliani even opens with a paying tribute to The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie by machine-gunning his cast during a dinner party. Then, however, the scene shifts to a projection booth, where the drunk projectionist is loudly cursed out for getting the reels in the wrong order and showing the film's ending first. As Brigands demonstrates, though, history, like a reel of film, runs in circles. In various eras, Brigands' protagonist, Vano (Amiran Amiranachvili), is a despotic medieval tyrant, a Stalinist official and a homeless man roaming the streets of present-day Paris. Recalling the time-shifting of Emir Kusturica's Underground, Iossseliani cuts deftly between eras, and between betrayals: Evil king Vano locks his wife in a chastity belt before heading off to battle, whereupon she promptly throws an extra key to the stable boy waiting below; Stalinist torturer Vano teaches his son to be such a good little communist that he promptly reports his parents for vaguely anti-government threats. The film's tone is one of forbearance rather than acceptance; with its knowledge that history can't change human nature comes a faith that tyrants inevitably sow the seeds of their own downfall. Regarded as a major figure overseas, Iosseliani is ill-represented in this country: Only one other film, Monday Morning, is available on video. Those with deep pockets and region-free players may want to shell out for a French box set collecting 10 of Iossliani's features, reportedly with English subtitles.
Paperboys ($14.98 DVD) The ghost of Terrence Malick haunts Mike Mills' beautiful documentary sketch of a vanishing American institution: the paperboy. If that last bit sounds grandiose, it's no less than Mills (currently shooting his feature debut, an adaptation of Walter Kirn's novel Thumbsucker) claims; the kids he interviews have clearly been prompted to ruminate on their profession's demise. (Tellingly, they do so without concern, blissfully predicting a future when newspapers will be delivered by robot, though rarely one in which, as is more likely, print media cease to exist.) The film is better when no one speaks. Mills' roving shots of boys on their bikes have a pristine, evocative beauty that transcends the film's more didactic aims. The DVD includes Mills' short Deformer, a portrait of artist and skateboarder Ed Templeton.