It’s January and the party is over. Months of belt-tightening and couch surfing lay ahead for those of us bankrupted by seasonal (or more international financial) excess. But let’s keep in mind Jean-Paul Sartre’s eulogy that ‘to read a poem in January is as lovely as a walk in June.’ You could spend this time watching the final series of The Wire or the late summer releases which are just being released on DVD (Tropic Thunder, Somers Town, Pineapple Express) but why not pepper your mail order lists (retail is out of the question) with something more spicy?
The Jim Jarmusch Collection Volume 2 (Optimum) •••• traces the America auteur’s work from the late 1980s into the early 90s. It features two of his most magically strange and beautiful films – Mystery Train and Dead Man and his flawed attempt at a portmanteau flick - Night on Earth. All are well worth seeing or revisiting and this three disc set features illuminating interviews with Jarmusch acolytes Gena Rowlands and John Hurt.
The Dardenne Brothers Collection (Artificial Eye) •••• is a testament to why this Belgian filmmaking duo, who specialise in naturalistic and downbeat melodramas, are held in such high regard by critics (if not always the public). The four films in this set: The Promise, Rosetta, The Son and The Child are relentless reconfigurations of British social and Italian neo realist film traditions.
Of the standalones there’s a few things of interest. Louis Malle’s lovely 1981 two hander My Dinner with Andre (Optimum) •••• raises its cheeky head again, Oliver Hodges’ Garbage Warrior (ICA) •••, a documentary portrait of maverick eco-architect Michael Reynolds, is reassurance enough that there is maybe just one living architect who is not a self regarding egotist.
Finally if you want to put your new Blu-ray player through its paces you can’t do better than Wong Kai-wai’s lavish 1994 martial arts actioner Ashes of Time: Redux (Artificial Eye) ••••.