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DVDs Nuts!



Gigante  From the mythical Orpheus to Say Anything's Lloyd Dobler, the line between dangerous obsession and adorable pursuit has always been blurry, and it takes a confident storyteller to convince an audience to either fear or swoon over such a love-struck lead. With the intimate Uruguayan film Gigante, writer-director Adrián Biniez has a long way to go to persuade us that his hero, burly security-camera overseer Jara, is not one step away from jail. Jara's obsession lies with cleaning lady Julia; he watches her constantly from the camera feed that's helpfully his main job to scour. Too shy to engage her, he instead follows her around, making rituals of shadowing the object of his affection and even secretly "protecting" her. It sounds creepy, for sure, but Biniez triumphs in converting us to Jara's side and hoping his one-way view opens up and envelops him in love.

Paris  Writer-director Cédric Klapisch brings a Woody Allen sensibility to Paris, France, penning a love letter to the very act of loving and living but without Paris, je t'aime's self-consciousness. Pierre (Romain Duris) will die without a heart transplant, and his sister (Juliette Binoche) flies in to care for him during the search. The whole experience, and Binoche's three children, has opened Pierre's eyes to the beauty and liveliness around him, which sounds utterly trite, except that Klapisch provides escape routes when the touchy-feely meter reaches the red zone. Those routes are in the form of alternate storylines involving a professor and his student (Inglorious Basterds' Mélanie Laurent), a market worker and his ex-wife, and a boat adventure. Deep, it's not. But Paris hits a nerve that feels like a breath of life, to both the audience and Pierre. 

Serbis  From director Brillante Mendoza comes this look at the urban Mecca of Angeles City in the Philippines, the first such examination I've seen on film. From the 1900s until the 1990s, the city's economy, culture and inhabitants all revolved around Clark Air Base, the largest U.S. installation of its kind in the world. That deep history, and the hole Clark's closing left, informs everything about the city, in ways both vibrant and sleazy. Mendoza personifies this feeling within the walls of a family porn theater, which is falling apart along with the family that runs it. The resulting film is one of physicality and immediacy, a now-ness that's exhilarating to watch and endearing to remember. 

The Wedding Song  Completing this all-foreign installment of DVDs Nuts! is a lovely little coming-of-age film from Tunisia that takes place during the country's Nazi occupation. Two girls who are best friends, one a Sephardic Jew and the other a Muslim, grow older, sadder and more divided as their differences come to light in a hateful environment, and writer-director Karin Albou gives the two leads ample space to explore those feelings. That organic direction contributes to an ever-tightening grasp of hope for the girls and their relationship that's as suspenseful as anything put out stateside lately.

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