(16/05/07)

The Lavender Hill Mob | Dir: Charles Crichton (1951) | With Alec Guiness, Sid James and Stanley Holloway. Released by Optimum Classic.

Released as part of a collection dedicated to the works of British actor Sid James (best known for his gruff manner, his preposterous looks and his filthy cackle" according to IMDB) that also includes The Big Job and Make Mine a Million, The Lavender Hill Mob stands out for its artistic merit and inventivess, which sometimes verges on the surreal. Often regarded as Ealing Studio’s jewel on the crown, it is a great genre piece precisely because it continously stretches the limits of what comedy is supposed to be. Since the focus here is on Sid James, let’s bring him in: James plays a professional criminal named Lackery, one of two hired by a meek bank transfer agent called Holland (Alec Guiness) to help him carry out the perfect crime. Holland’s job involves his overseeing the deliveries of gold bullion, a job he’s been doing for 20 years and which instilled in him a dream of becoming rich and living the good life, signified by a restaurant in a Spanish-speaking Rio de Janeiro. What sounds like gangster caper fare turns into a visual fest of set pieces, bold montage and quirky sound that still retains a freshness about it. The acting is superb throughout and you just wish they could make more films like this, not just remake them. Watch out for a cameo by a young, still-unknown Audrey Hepburn in the Rio restaurant scene.

Toofy Shorts Vol.1 | Dir: Various | Released by Team Toofy Productions.

This selection of 12 international independent short films, released by the people who put together the Boulder, Colorado’s Toofy Film Fest, includes a fine selection of short films and animations from around the globe. The style of each short varies enormously, and herein lies the charm of the compilation: it wisely avoids the homogeneity that often compromises similar efforts. Some of the highlights includes the delicious B-movie pastiche Revenge of the Roadkill Rabbit (Dir: Eric Stough and Graham Hoof, featuring the voices of Matt Stone and Trey Parker), a mixture of comedy and horror that looks at the relationship between people and animals. Very ingenious narrative and great visuals. The short Spin (Dir: Jamin Winans) takes the slogan "god is a DJ’ to its literal end. A DJ is sent to a busy city, Terminator-style, to mend a series of events that he witnesses on the block where he gets stationed. He goes about his duty using the stratch technique to undo bad deeds. From Italy comes the harrowing Maree(Dir: James Pellerito), which shows an Albanian father making the ferry crossing to Venice to abandon his son in the city in the hope he may get a better future there. Told with straightforward simplicity and very few words, Pellegrino gets to the real heart of the matter of this very contemporary European issue.

Tim Marlow with Gilbert & George | Dir: Ben Harding. Released by Seventh Art.

To coincide with the recent blockbuster retrospective of the works of Gilbert & George, Britain’s most famous art couple, at the Tate Modern until early May, Seventh Art has put together this neat DVD package where the duo gives us a tour of their exhibition while they discuss their work with art critic and historian Tim Marlow. Gilbert & George are old hands at the media game and know how to keep their besuited personas intact all the way through. Marlow sometimes gets carried away with his enthusiasm and too close to dumbing things down a bit for the sake of clarity, but you can’t accuse him of not being quick-witted and knowledgeable.

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