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New on Disc: 'Queen to Play' and more …

15 Aug, 2011 By: Mike Clark

Queen to Play

Street 8/16
Zeitgeist, Drama, B.O. $0.5 million, $29.95 DVD, NR.
In French with English subtitles.
Stars Sandrine Bonnaire, Kevin Kline, Francis Renaud.
Sandrine Bonnaire, now approaching her mid-40s in real life, plays a married, attractive maid who changes bed sheets in a hotel. Living in Corsica, her “Helene” character still regards her husband (Francis Renaud) as attractive, but the family’s blue-collar status alienates the snobbish teenaged daughter they’ve raised, creating some household tension. What’s more, Helene is more intellectually curious than her mate and seems to sense that some fundamental zest is missing from the union on both mental and physical planes. But she’s faithful by nature, and this easy-to-take story ends up turning on chess — specifically, Helene’s afternoon tutelage by widowed doctor/employer (Kevin Kline) with whom she starts to play. This is a bearded Kline speaking French and looking, if not exactly rumpled, getting there. Their contests (which begin to affect her work performance and punctuality) start local tongues to wagging, to which Helene’s husband is not oblivious. It goes without saying that any viewer who’s consumed by the game will probably be even more intrigued. Though Kline has always been a malleable actor, it’s worth taking five minutes with his filmography to note just how extensively he’s been able to mine a fairly mild screen person into all kinds of characterizations, even outlandish ones. This is Bonnaire’s movie, but someone had to have the inspiration to think even think that Kline might fit nicely into this role. Given that this is Bottaro’s first feature, she either caught a break or she has killer instincts for a little movie with killer dimples.
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Breaking Glass

Street 8/16
Olive, Drama, $24.95 DVD, $29.99 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Phil Daniels, Hazel O’Connor, Jon Finch, Jonathan Pryce.
As with other movies that now come off as artifacts of an age, the late writer-director Brian Gibson’s musical punk saga is possibly an object of nostalgia these days — though then, as now, its demographic is on the rarefied side. One wonders if any affection Glass engenders will ever be on the cuddly side. As portrayed here — particularly in a scene where the police invade a flat to bust the plot-central band without much right or provocation — this government looks like a pretty good one to rebel against. And to this end, punk-ishly aspiring lead singer Kate (Hazel O’Connor, often killing the pancake makeup budget) is to the manner born when it comes to ranting and railing on stage. But will she keep her integrity and not sell out to industry promoters? This is the crux of a story that’s more interesting around the edges than down the middle.
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The Rise and Fall of Legs Diamond

Available via WBshop.com’s Warner Archive
Warner, Drama, $19.95 DVD, NR.
Stars Ray Danton, Karen Steele, Elaine Stewart, Warren Oates.
Of all the movies Budd Boetticher directed that aren’t revered Randolph Scott Westerns, there are at least two with fairly sturdy critical reputations. One is 1951’s The Bullfighter and the Lady, and the other is this underworld biopic. Starring cleft-chinned Ray Danton as the Prohibition-era lowlife, Legs also offers an older screen version of Arnold Rothstein as portrayed by predominantly ‘40s player Robert Lowery. By the time of this biopic’s setting, Rothstein — the famed operator who allegedly fixed the 1919 World Series — is aged enough for “Legs” to be having fun with the inside gams of the elder hood’s mistress (Elaine Stewart) after winnowing his way rather creatively into the Rothstein organization. Glossy sheen or not (and allowing for the widescreen differential), Legs still looks something from the studio’s ubiquitous TV lineup of the day — something that might have starred, well, Ray Danton (who was a regular on the Warner/ABC show “The Alaskans”).
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