Hangmen Also Die
Displaced Prussians Fritz Lang and Bertolt Brecht manufactured this shrill 1943 five-course meal of Hollywood propaganda as nearly a parody of the new form—and yet the Langian physicality is tense and sublime, and the patriotic keening is offset by an explosion of crisscrossing motivations and moral compromise. The story fictionalizes the 1942 assassination in Prague of Nazi bigwig Reinhard Heydrich, which happens before the film begins; Brian Donlevy's fugitive gunman avoids capture and eventually accepts shelter from a rebel Czech family, led by father Walter Brennan. From there, Donlevy becomes just one figure in an expanding, complex cast, each with their own MO and point of view: Brennan's reprisal prisoner, Anna Lee's conflicted daughter, Dennis O'Keefe's jealous fiancé, Alexander Granach's beery gestapo, Gene Lockhart's sweaty collaborator, etc. The two-and-a-quarter-hour film has the iconic thrust of a silent; the pro-sacrifice resistance cant has an oddly jihadist tenor today. No supps, but it's being boxed with four other beautiful noirs, including Behind Locked Doors (1948), Budd Boetticher's jittery forecast of Shock Corridor, and Anthony Mann's lean and mean Railroaded (1947). MICHAEL ATKINSON
I Am a Sex Addict
Caveh Zahedi has made a movie of our times—a strange mix of self-absorption, shamelessness in the pursuit of fame, and sex. Most shocking of all is that it works. Parts fiction and documentary, confessional and comedy, the film traces the history of Zahedi's addiction to sex with prostitutes using re-enactments, home-movie footage, and plenty of asides to the camera. It would all be terribly annoying and pretentious without Zahedi's cheerful evisceration of himself and his half-baked realizations. He also scores laughs with jabs at the film's microbudget (he explains that he can't afford to shoot in Paris, then puts a guy wearing a beret in the next shot). And underneath it all is a serious portrait of the artist as an addict. Sure, some of the jokes fall flat, but Sex Addict is far better than it needs to be, and surely better than the films it will inspire. JORDAN HARPER
Pretty in Pink
Some Kind of Wonderful
Blane or Duckie? A slumber party debacle for 20 years and running. And now we learn that Andie (Molly Ringwald) was supposed to end up with underdog Duckie (John Cryer) at the end of John Hughes' new-wave fairy tale Pretty in Pink (1986). When the ending didn't test well, a new one was shot six months later with Andrew McCarthy, as handsome and sensitive Blane, donning a wig to mask a shaved head. "Our lesson was, forget the politics, when a girl wants the cute guy, she's gotta get the cute guy," explains Howard Deutch, musing on his directorial debut in "The Lost Dance," one of several featurettes. Unfortunately, Andie and Duckie's moonlight dance is omitted from the extras on this "Everything's Duckie" edition of the enduring favorite, in which love triumphs over class boundaries and New Order plays like John Williams. (Even if unrequited love doesn't quite cut it, Duckie is well taken care of, last seen heading toward Kristy Swanson.)
As we learn on the disc's interviews, Ringwald consulted on everything from casting to costume (she didn't like the prom dress), but didn't feel romantic chemistry with Cryer. While Andie was written specifically for the 17-year-old Ringwald, Jennifer Beals was originally approached for the role. James Spader, who wore linen suits to school and played "Steff" to jerkwad perfection, is noticeably absent from bonus footage. As is the reclusive Hughes, save for on-set interviews from '86. Though there is plenty of lip- service paid to the man who wrote against type and understood teenagers as adults—from the outsider to the popular girl to the class villain. Hughes had an ear for teendom, from music to fashion to language—even inventing slang ("Let's plow," "human Tater Tot," "Richie," and "Zoid") so it wouldn't sound dated. Hughes' dialogue was "sincere, touching, and a joke," remarks Deutch on Pink's commentary.
Some Kind of Wonderful, Hughes and Deutch's similarly themed 1987 follow-up, allowed them to incorporate the original Pink ending with a gender role-reversal, letting tomboyish Watts (Mary Stuart Masterson) win over her best friend, the angst-ridden artist Keith (Eric Stoltz), who pines for the popular girl (Lea Thompson), who's also a striver. Wonderful features "The John Hughes Time Capsule," a chat between the writer and Kevin Bacon (about the time of 1988's She's Having a Baby). Asked if he feels any responsibility toward the era's youth, Hughes says he simply wished for kids to walk out of his films with a strong sense of self. Deutch and Thompson, now married, provide the somewhat cutesy commentary. I guess the geek got the girl after all. KATE SILVER
Starring Maggie Gyllenhaal, The Great New Wonderful is a 9/11-themed N.Y.C. ensemble piece that never reached Seattle theaters. With the World Cup over, soccer nuts may appreciate Goal! The Dream Begins. Czech master animator Jan Svankmajer is featured on a new collection from Kino. The erstwhile Island County congressional candidate is featured in Serving in Silence: The Margarethe Cammermeyer Story. And there's a pretty good chance The Death of Mr. Lazarescu will top several year-end critics' polls, no matter that it's depressing and Romanian. The lesser mafioso film 10th & Wolf stars James Marsden, Giovanni Ribisi, Brad Renfro, and Piper Perabo. The documentary Fabulous! The Story of Queer Cinema speaks for itself. You get two different takes on tough teen girls in Hard Candy and Stick It. From Criterion, look for Víctor Erice's The Spirit of the Beehive (1973), one of the best portrayals of childhood ever put on celluloid.