French society in disarray, ‘Cypress Hill’ and other movies to watch this weekend
Director Jean-Christophe Meurisse aims for nothing less than a full vivisection of French society in “Bloody Oranges,” a daring social satire that proceeds from the premise that his homeland may be incurably ill. To make this point, Meurisse (who also wrote the screenplay, in collaboration with Amélie Philippe and Yohann Gloaguen) frequently makes his audience squirm, with sequences that push the boundaries of good taste. Consider yourself warned.
The movie weaves together three interconnected stories: one about a debt-ridden elderly couple who have pinned all their hopes for the future on winning a dance contest; another about their son, an ambitious lawyer trying to help a politician weather a financial scandal; and the third about a teenager getting lots of advice while preparing to have sex for the first time. Throughout, Meurisse throws in scenes of committees bickering over minutiae rather than making decisions; and about halfway through the picture he introduces a self-described “monster,” who inflicts explicit violence on a couple of the characters.
The film’s larger point seems to be that perhaps the French citizenry in the 2020s is too busy yelling at each other about nothing to address the real problems of social inequality — which also may be why so many shameless predators are able to do whatever they want. But “Bloody Oranges” isn’t a heavy-handed polemic. It’s more a genre-hopping experiment: sometimes funny, sometimes terrifying. Meurisse’s pluck is admirable, even though — or perhaps because — he’s made something often incredibly unpleasant.
In French with English subtitles
Running time: 1 hour, 44 minutes.
The war in Ukraine is front-page news now, but Russian bombing and military incursions in the Donbas region have been happening off and on for nearly a decade. Iryna Tsilyk’s documentary “The Earth Is Blue as an Orange” was shot long before the current crisis, and follows a couple of young Ukrainian cinephiles, along with their siblings and their single mother, as they try to cope with all the explosions and terror by making movies about their experiences.
This film is impressionistic, which may take some adjustment for anyone expecting a conventional documentary with lots of interviews and explanations. Tsilyk is working more in the slice-of-life tradition of nonfiction filmmaking, conveying what daily existence is like for a loving and creative family under the constant threat of destruction. The payoff to “The Earth Is Blue as an Orange” is incredibly powerful though, in ways that just about anyone can relate to, as these budding artists share their work with neighbors whose emotional reactions speak volumes about their shared nightmare.
'The Earth Is Blue as an Orange'
Running time: 1 hour, 14 minutes
Playing: VOD, also in theaters
A fun and fascinating artifact from Iron Curtain-era Romania, the 1984 animated science fiction film “Delta Space Mission” may not be as smooth as the American cartoons of its day, but co-directors Mircea Toia and Călin Cazan do fill the screen with wild visions and bright colors. Set in the year 3084, the movie follows an aqua-skinned alien journalist named Alma, who takes a ride on a super spaceship and soon finds the craft’s central computer has fallen in love with her. The story in “Delta Space Mission” matters less than the trippy vibe, which is enhanced greatly by a dreamy Călin Ioachimescu synthesizer score. This film is reminiscent of black-light posters and underground comics — though the overall approach is more innocent and hopeful than sketchily “adult.”
'Delta Space Mission'
Running time: 1 hour, 10 minutes
Playing: VOD and Blu-ray (from Vinegar Syndrome)
Just about anyone who was young and listening to popular music in the 1990s knows the hip-hop act Cypress Hill — either because of its biggest hit, “Insane in the Brain,” or because of the group’s vocal advocacy for marijuana. The Estevan Oriol documentary “Cypress Hill: Insane in the Brain” tells a fuller story about the group, tracing its enduring influence on rap, rooted in the group’s cross-genre hybrids, an inventive approach to rhythm, and a fierce loyalty to its fans. During their heyday, Cypress Hill pretty much went from high to high (no pun intended), which means this movie about the group is low on drama. But it’s filled with great music and welcome insight into some under-appreciated innovators.
'Cypress Hill: Insane in the Brain'
Running time: 1 hour, 29 minutes
“The Batman” has been one of the biggest hits of this year, and may revive interest in a DC Comics movie universe that was starting to feel a little spent. Give credit to director Matt Reeves for making a superhero film that plays like a gritty, epic crime saga, featuring a Batman (Robert Pattinson) with more human dimensions. (HBO Max)
“White Hot: The Rise & Fall of Abercrombie & Fitch” is the latest entry in a thriving documentary sub-genre, tracking the blunders that sunk once-thriving businesses. This film covers a once-hip clothing brand that got tripped up by changing times and embarrassing marketing mistakes. (Netflix)
Also on VOD
“We’re All Going to the World’s Fair” stars Anna Cobb as a lonely teenager named Casey, who spends most of her time online, engaging with the world through memes, videos and internet chats. When Casey takes part in a horror-themed “challenge,” strange things happen, vividly captured by writer-director Jane Schoenbrun in a slow-burning thriller about the attractions and dangers of modern communication. (Also in theaters)
Available now on DVD and Blu-ray
“Cyrano” is the film version of an Erica Schmidt stage musical, featuring songs composed by members of the moody alt-rock band the National. Peter Dinklage gives a magnificent performance as the title character: a lovestruck French cadet who channels his passion for his longtime friend Roxanne (Haley Bennett) into letters he writes for her handsome but hopeless suitor Christian (Kelvin Harrison Jr.). (Universal)
“Heavy Metal” adapted a groundbreaking adults-only science-fiction/fantasy comics magazine to the big-screen in 1981, pushing the boundaries of animation via stories featuring sex, violence and psychedelic imagery. The new Blu-ray set includes a 4K Ultra HD version, multiple behind-the-scenes features, and the sequel film “Heavy Metal 2000.” (Sony)
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