On vacation over the holidays last month, I was able to spend some extra time watching new DVD arrivals. Three of them in particular caught my attention and my fancy. First off is a new documentary (recommended by a library patron—thanks!) titled 1971: the year a few ordinary citizens took on the FBI.
In a brief running time of 79 minutes, this movie packs a punch, showing how history can be changed by seemingly minor events. In that year, a group of anti-war protestors broke into a small FBI office in Media, PA. Their goal was to find out what kind of files the agency, then under the authority of J. Edgar Hoover, was keeping on dissenters and draft resisters. Their find was stunning, and the film, through suspenseful re-enactments and powerful interviews, gives us the scoop on this bit of hidden history. Was the break-in right? The filmmakers, though undoubtedly having an opinion on the matter, nevertheless let the viewer decide.
Faust is a film based on the great German poem by Goethe, directed by a Russian, Alexander Sokurov. Employing a technique that avoids frequent camera cuts and favors a flowing take instead, Sokurov draws us in with an atmosphere of gloom, decay and the Devil, 18th-century style. Faust, a scientist and “seeker of truth,” meets the Devil in a pawn shop, and soon finds himself spiraling out of control as the evil one draws him in through Faust’s desire for a young woman, Gretchen. Murder, mysterious events and desire make this a fascinating film. (Faust is not rated, but is the equivalent of an R rating.)
Finally, there is Closer to the Moon, an English-language production about an obscure chapter in Romanian history that took place at the height of the Cold War. A bank robbery takes place but it is filmed in broad daylight. No one worries about it at first since there was a director and a cameraman there, and besides, it’s Romania, where crime (supposedly) doesn’t happen. Or does it? Based on a real event that took place in 1959, Closer maintains an appropriately light (and ironic) tone in the face of the rather serious implications of people dealing with life under a repressive regime, and risking their lives in the process. Thoroughly enjoyable, my only complaint about Closer to the Moon is the fact that sometimes British accents are employed when it would’ve been much more believable to hear Romanian accents instead. (This film is also not rated; equivalent of an R, for a few brief scenes.)