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DVDs Nuts!



Beaches of Agnès  It's to my detriment, and to the credit of this documentary about the life of the grandmother of French New Wave, that I have not seen any of Agnès Varda's films except this one, but my Netflix queue is now full of them. It's safe to say, whoever you are, your life is far less interesting than Varda's, now 81 years old. Her friends represent the finest in art and film culture, and her residence – hell, her existence – is one of pure, willful beauty. But watching her document herself is refreshingly, amazingly devoid of self-importance or deification. Instead, Beaches of Agnès plays like a memorable visit to an old friend. ;

Believe: The Eddie Izzard Story  Here's another bio-doc that (mostly) avoids self-immolation. Believe focuses on Izzard's tortured journey back to the stand-up stage after he was stung by accusations of recycling material back in 2000. As he workshops his new act, he offers up shockingly comprehensive home videos and photos from childhood, through his start as a street performer and his ascent to comedy god. He's told the stories before – the death of his mother, his stint in the military – but to see Izzard's angry youth period in living color still packs a wallop, as does seeing his surprisingly poorly received stand-up beginnings.

Cold Souls  An effective sci-fi drama with a Russian foundation, Cold Souls opens with Paul Giamatti (as Paul Giamatti) pouring his heart into a stage reading of Chekhov's Uncle Vanya. It's a performance that hurts Giamatti too much for him to take. Luckily, a Charlie Kaufman-esque procedure has been developed that allows him to rid himself of his soul in order to "lighten his load." Hijinks ensue when his soul is stolen. Giamatti is typically perfect, as is Katheryn Winnick as the eventual recipient of Giamatti's soul (who thinks it's Al Pacino's). Dear Hollywood: Please give Winnick more work immediately. 

Shall We Kiss?  Two pretty people connect in a romantically shot Paris, but the woman refuses to take it any further. Her reason is the heart of the tale in this absorbing, transporting story from writer-director Emmanuel Mouret. The film becomes an exercise in pleasure delay, but it's one we're happy to go along with, intoxicated by the New Wave-ish aesthetic. 

We Live in Public  In this glimpse at a dot-com hero's complete destruction, director Ondi Timoner raises so many questions that it often distracts from the viewing experience. Watching Josh Harris, an Internet millionaire who devised an underground terrarium in which 100 people lived completely on camera at all times, can be harrowing, but the scariest part of the film is the inevitable thought, "What's changed since the 'net voyeurism infancy of the early '90s?" Public, then, could be a documentary that's more fun to talk about afterward than to actually watch.


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