Errol Morris' First Person

MGM Home Ent., $39.98.

Errol Morris talks to giant squid hunter Clyde Roper, a real-life Steve Zissou, who wonders what it would be like to match eyeballs with the largest eyeball existing in nature. "An obsession interfering with your health might cost you your life," says Morris of Roper's heart problems. "Let's not blame the giant squid," Roper replies. It's a typical moment on this three-disc set (released July 27), which collects all the episodes of Morris' First Person cable series. It's the ideal vehicle for the Oscar-winning documentarian (The Fog of War), offering elements of his best work in 24 half-hour installments. You get seamless segues between reality and popular culture, hints of carnival music highlighting his subjects' eccentricities, and the famous Interrotron. The modified teleprompter allows Morris to project his image over the lens, eyeball-to-eyeball with his subjects, like a talking Chuck Close portrait. Aside from a few questions from the director, the disparate subjects speak in soliloquies.

In "Mr. Debt," lawyer Andrew Capoccia turns credit cards into an epic struggle, which Morris intersperses with images of a swashbuckling Robin Hood. Death is also a prevalent topic in First Person. A museum director argues it's more respectful to humanity to donate one's body to medicine than to be buried in a box; a cryogenic enthusiast keeps his mother's head frozen; and a professional crime-scene cleaner talks matter-of-factly about her trade, while preserving her grief and maternal instinct.

Some of Morris' other subjects aren't so likable. Psychologist Gary Greenberg, subtly smarmy like Steve Buscemi, attempts to write a biography of Unabomber Ted Kaczynski to raise his own literary star. "The wish to be heard was definitely powerful," he remarks of Kaczynski—and Morris leaves the irony implicit. Morris enthusiasts should also note a separate collection of his first three features: Vernon, Florida; Gates of Heaven; and The Thin Blue Line ($49.96, also from MGM).

Arriving AUG. 30, Sahara is basically an ad for cargo pants; Monster-in-Law wastes both J.Lo and Jane Fonda (whose Oscar turn in Klute is also new to DVD); and Ong-Bak: The Thai Warrior makes full use of Tony Jaa. From TV, look for new episodes of Curb Your Enthusiasm and old episodes of Monty Python, with different packages highlighting different cast members—John Cleese, Eric Idle, etc. Our pick of the week would have to be the Israeli drama Walk on Water.


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