YASUJIRO OZU'S 1953 family drama may well turn up on more 10-all-time-best lists than any other film. It has been cited as a profound influence and inspiration by filmmakers as diverse as Lindsay Anderson, Claire Denis, Aki Kaurism䫩, Paul Schrader, and Wim Wenders. Its creator has been called both the most universal and most intensely Japanese of all cinema artists. That's quite a reputation to live up to, one thatat first encounterseems overblown. The movie is like a retelling of King Lear with all the melodrama, poetry, and character left out. It lays out its images of aging, passing time, and loss so laconically that Samuel Beckett seems lusty in comparison.
For these reasons, Criterion's two-disc packaging of Story (Oct. 28) provides tremendous support for the film. The relentless voice-over commentary by Ozu expert David Desser is repetitiousOzu's technical vocabulary is tiny, though superbly employedand tends to overemphasize the obvious. Fortunately, the second disc more than makes up for that. The prize is a two-hour documentary on Ozu's life and work that humanizes the austere figure of film legend without attempting to disperse his central mystery. Generous career excerpts from early silents to late color masterpieces provide invaluable context for the work of an artist who is better judged by his whole oeuvre than any one element of it.
If you're coming to Ozu for the first time, I strongly recommend watching this doc before the feature presentation; it may save you a lot of frustration. I can't say the same for a 40-minute featurette produced by Ozu's mother studio in celebration of the 90th anniversary of his birth, which demonstrates that directors (including those enumerated above) are not all that much more enlightening about other directors' work than they are about their own. ROGER DOWNEY
RELEASED NOV. 25, The Boys of St. Vincent (1993) dramatizes the real-life pederasty scandal that shook Canada's Catholic church. X2 arrives on two discs (appropriately), with extras including director Bryan Singer's commentary. The French Man on the Train did quite well in Seattle, and may make some critics' top-10 lists. A bunch of Neil Simon comedies, including The Out-of-Towners, are new to disc, as is the Jim Carrey hit Bruce Almighty. A SIFF favorite from Thailand, the historical epic The Legend of Suriyothai, also debuts, as does the documentary Pandemic: Facing AIDS. EDS.