The Girls and other new releases

Call us sophomoric, but we love those post-Godardian disjunctures.

The Girls

New Yorker, $29.95

Old-school feminist emancipation from Swedish-star-turned-new-waver Mai Zetterling. Three actresses (Bibi Andersson, Harriet Andersson, and Gunnel Lindblom) set out on a theater tour performing Aristophanes' Lysistrata and come to realize that the ancient women-halting-war-by-withholding-sex comedy isn't all that farcical and speaks sharply to modern times. In 1968, Vietnam never has to be mentioned, but the gender combat is unrelenting. Shot in black-and-white so high contrast that black figures are often subsumed by the whiteness of rooms or snowy fields, Zetterling's film is vivid, zesty, and sometimes sophomoric in its post-Godardian disjunctures, down to a typical daydream sequence in which an audience of irate women pelt movie images of Stalin, LBJ, and Moshe Dayan with pies. As bullhorn metafilms go, it's rousing and endearingly evocative of its day. Extras include a 1996 feature doc in which the gorgeous troika of Svenskfilm royalty reconvene at the recently dead director's house for an autumnal confab and re-evaluation of their communal experience making The Girls almost 30 years earlier. MICHAEL ATKINSON

A Prairie Home Companion

New Line, $27.98

This all-star sing-along—with Meryl Streep, Lily Tomlin, Tommy Lee Jones, Virginia Madsen, Woody Harrelson, etc.—that wears its smile bright and wide looked for all the world like a summertime sleeper hit. Not so much, even though no movie this year was more amiable or possessing of so much magic from start to finish. Which makes the 49-minute making-of doc, the extended musical sequences, and the ambling Robert Altman–Kevin Kline commentary all the more wonderful; you never want the thing to end. The making-of is pretty special all by its lonesome—a mite meta, as it goes behind the scenes of a "behind-the-scenes" production, but a pleasure that provides a peek at how Altman works. "Come play with us," he says. Sure thing, boss. ROBERT WILONSKY

Hail Mary

New Yorker, $29.95

When it came out in 1985, Jean-Luc Godard's Hail Mary stirred controversy for its retelling of the Mary and Joseph story. It was even panned by the noted critic John Paul II—and the producers printed the papal condemnation right on the DVD box; they know great press when they see it. Though the notion of the Virgin Mary visiting the gynecologist might sound offensive, in practice it's pretty mundane. Hail Mary is even a tad boring in that way common to French art house films, which never tell a story in 10 minutes if they can take 20. Although slow, this tale of a young girl struggling to deal with the sudden, certain presence of the divine in her life is clearly about more than depicting God's mom nekkid in the tub. Maybe the pope was pissed about Joseph's portrayal as an asshole cab driver, but Joe always was the odd man out in this story. JORDAN HARPER

Bad Santa: Director's Cut

Dimension, $19.99

Even those of us who think Bad Santa's a genuine comic masterpiece—a sort of Bizarro World hybrid of Our Gang shorts, underground comics, and every Christmas story ever told—can't fathom the need for a third edition. There's already the theatrical version, itself offensive enough to drive patrons out of theaters; Badder Santa, the unrated version filled with the naughtiest bits stuck to the cutting-room floor; and now this Terry Zwigoff–approved cut—which, l'artiste says in the dreary commentary track, he thought would never see release. There are some significant changes, but they're also nearly imperceptible. Is it better than the original? Doubtful, especially with a handful of deleted scenes suggesting you got better bonuses in the unrated take. But is it as good? Sure, if you're into art with a capital "F." ROBERT WILONSKY

Other Releases

Comedians Lewis Black (The Daily Show) and Cedric the Entertainer are featured in new stand-up shows on disc. Once in a Lifetime: The Extraordinary Story of the New York Cosmos isn't extraordinary but is an OK time capsule of the '70s. The Mostly Unfabulous Social Life of Ethan Green isn't fabulous, but it may remind some viewers of sexual indiscretions of the '80. For Christmas, perhaps: yet another repackaging of Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Disney is reissuing The Little Mermaid. X-Men 3: The Last Stand brings an end, we hope, to that underwhelming superhero franchise. Once a snicker-fest and now a cult film is Point Break, in all its Keanu-Swayze-rificness. For kids (girl kids), there are two titles based on Kay Thompson's beloved Eloise character. From TV, look for season one The Big Love, two of CSI: New York, four of Starsky & Hutch (will the '70s never end?), five of That '70s Show (there's your answer), and five of La Femme Nikita. Vaughn-iston, or whatever they're called, and regardless of whether they're actually engaged, star in The Break-Up. Horror fans—or, more likely, Project Greenlight fans—can check out Feast. Slightly better (well, not much) is The Omen remake with Julia Stiles and Liev Schreiber. From Criterion, master of the reissue, Clean, Shaven is a devastating portrait of mental illness; and Alfonso Cuarón's Sólo Con tu Pareja is a 1991 send-up of older Mexican sex comedies, in which a bed-hopping scoundrel is brought to hell with a false-positive AIDS test.

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