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January 16, 2005 Edition

Quartet


The Bostonians


The Europeans


We now own the Merchant/Ivory Collection, a four-DVD set featuring “The Europeans,” the story of a too-clever European woman and her brother who arrive unexpectedly to visit their American cousins in New England; “Quartet,” a story of innocence, manipulation, and deceit set in glittery 1920s Paris; “The Bostonians,” set in post-Civil War era Boston where a gifted young female orator is fought over by a male chauvenist and a suffragette; and “Maurice,” in which a young man struggles with his sexual orientation and class snobbery in pre-World War I Britain. Merchant/Ivory films are usually period pieces with lots of dialogue and not so much action, and are often adapted from classic novels. In this collection, two are from Henry James novels, one from E.M. Forster, and one from Jean Rhys.

Maurice


The Samurai Trilogy


The Samurai Trilogy, set in 17th century Japan during a devastating Civil War, is the story of legendary Samurai Musashi Miyamoto, who begins life as a peasant who longs to become a soldier hero, but only manages to be routed in battle and end up a fugitive. While on the run, he meets a priest who trains him to be a proper samurai. As a thoughtful and skilled swordsman, he bests his many opponents, wins the hearts of two very different women and the enmity of a jealous young warrior, whom he battles at the end of the trilogy. The first part of this series won the 1955 Oscar for Best Foreign Film. The three titles are "Musashi Miyamoto," "Duel at Ichijoji Temple," and "Duel at Ganryu Island." (In Japanese with English subtitles.)

Osama


“Osama,” set in the nightmare world of Taliban-ruled Afghanistan, is based on the true story of a 12-year-old girl who is slowly starving to death because there are no men left in her family. Under Taliban rule women aren’t allowed to leave their homes without a male escort, so her mother disguises her as a boy so that she can get a job and feed the family. “Osama” is terrified, but willing to try to fit into a boy’s world, even when all the boys are rounded up to go to religious school and it seems certain her secret will be discovered. (Special features include the original theater trailer and a short interview with the director. In Pashtu with English subtitles.)

Under the Sun


“Under the Sun” is a Swedish import that was a nominee for Best Foreign Film at the 1999 Academy Awards. Farmer Olaf has never learned to read or write, and has lived alone at the end of a road ever since his mother died. His only friend is a womanizing gambler who shamelessly takes advantage of Olaf’s dependence on him where literacy is concerned. But one day Olaf gets someone else’s help in placing an ad in the local paper for a “young lady housekeeper” and Ellen appears in Olaf’s life. City-wise and gorgeous, she captures Olaf’s heart immediately - and Eric’s too. Convinced that she’s hiding a dark past (and hoping to win her for himself), Eric works hard to sever the developing romance between Olaf and Ellen. Beautifully filmed in the rich golds and greens of summer, this is a warming movie in all senses! (In Swedish with English subtitles.)

The Dreamlife of Angels


“The Dreamlife of Angels” is a multi-award winner from France that tells the stories of three girls whose lives intertwine in fascinating ways. Marie is housesitting for a mother and daughter who are in the hospital following a car accident, and Isa is the wanderer who comes to work in the dress factory that Marie works at. Though polar opposites in personality, something clicks and the two become friends and roommates, until Marie’s romance with handsome and arrogant Chris puts a wedge between them. The third girl is Sandrine, who is comatose in the hospital, being read to by Isa, who has found Sandrine’s diary and become captivated by Sandrine’s inner life. (In French with subtitles in English, Spanish, and French.)

The Station Agent


“The Station Agent” is a light comedy about a man who’s inherited an abandoned railroad station in rural New Jersey from his former employer and decides it will be the perfect place to be alone. Fin is a dwarf and tired of hearing about it, but his dreams of life alone won’t come true at this station. There are just too many interested people in the small town nearby who are drawn to him: Joe, the hotdog vendor, and Olivia, an artist with a sad past, are the two who eventually draw Fin out. (Special features include commentary by the director and actors, and deleted scenes. In English with a French soundtrack option and French and Spanish subtitles.)

In America


“In America” is a perfect tear-jerker of a movie that begins in tragedy and ends happily. When the Sullivans lose their only son to cancer, they try to make a new beginning by leaving Ireland for America, taking their two young daughters with them. Living in a drug-dealer infested tenement and taking whatever jobs they can, they begin to heal with the help of their downstairs neighbor. (Special features include commentary by the director, deleted scenes, a “making-of” featurette, and an alternate ending. In English with French and Spanish soundtrack options and English and Spanish subtitles.)

Lost in Translation


“Lost in Translation” tells the story two lonely Americans who find themselves in the same posh Japanese hotel for a week that becomes a turning point in their lives. Bill is an aging actor who is now far better known in Japan than in the States, who has left his wife and kids at home while he travels to Japan for a series of whiskey commercials. Charlotte is the wife of an obsessive photographer, left to her own devices while he is at work - which is virtually all the time. The two meet one night and hit it off immediately, forming a close friendship that transcends their age differences and exploring Japan’s nightlife and culture together. (Special features include interviews with Bill Murray and director Sophia Coppola, a “behind-the-scenes” documentary, a music video, and more. In English with a French soundtrack option and English, Spanish, and French subtitles.)

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