A monthly guide to what’s essential in the world of streaming, Blu-ray, and DVD with an emphasis on vintage favorites getting a second life.
Le Samourai (Criterion)
Looking for one of the secret sources of cinematic cool? Look no further than this 1967 film from Jean-Pierre Melville, the first of several memorable collaborations with star Alain Delon. Delon plays a Parisian assassin who keeps a low profile and lives his life with few attachments. But he finds his approach to life challenged, and his own life endangered, when he begins a relationship with a witness to one of his crimes. Melville shoots the film with a chilly distance and reserved style that suits the material, and which has influenced everyone from John Woo to Walter Hill to Michael Mann. But just as important, and as influential, are the moments that suggest the emotions roiling beneath the surface of Delon’s character. It’s a perfect thriller that doubles as a depiction of an existential crisis. This new Blu-ray edition ports over the fine features from Criterion’s previous DVD release and sports a spiffy new transfer.
Misery (Shout! Factory)
Rob Reiner’s latest, LBJ, debuted to polite reviews a few weeks ago without really attracting that much attention. Reiner’s had his ups and downs as a director and lately it’s been mostly downs. But it’s worth recalling that he began his career with a terrific run of movies and each one looked nothing like the one before. This Is Spinal Tap led to The Sure Thing which led to Stand By Me which led to The Princess Bride which led to When Harry Met Sally… There’s no apparent logic there, and little beyond Reiner’s an affection for actors and a love for telling stories unites the movies. His next movie, Misery, released in 1990, was a bit of a return, reuniting him with the work of Stephen King. But it’s a much nastier movie than Stand By Me, exploring the dark places the relationships between artists and audiences can go via a bestselling author (James Caan) who finds himself imprisoned by his deranged “number one fan” (Kathy Bates, in the role that made her a household name). It’s tensely staged and skillfully acted and rightfully shows up near the top of any worthwhile list of the best King adaptations. Reiner shows up for an interview on this new Blu-ray edition, which also ports over some vintage features from previous home video releases, including an audio commentary.