- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Apres lui (MPI, $24.98) - One wonders if French filmmakers have started making more movies about the travails of later life just so they can continue to put Catherine Deneuve on screen. The 65-year-old actress is as elegant as ever, as American audiences are reminded with the DVD release of the 2007 French flick “Apres lui.” This powerful look at loss was directed by young filmmaker Gael Morel, who co-wrote it with Christophe Honore, whose own film “Dans Paris” was one of the most memorable French imports of the last few years.

Miss Deneuve stars as Camille, a Lyon divorcee whose life is shattered when her university student son is killed in a car accident. Everyone else around her shuns Franck (Thomas Dumerchez), her son’s best friend but also the driver of the car that night. Camille, though, hangs on to him for dear life - he’s the only connection to what she’s lost, and perhaps the only one whose grief approaches her own.

The viewer spends the 90 minutes of this emotionally taut, painstakingly made film wondering whether the two will become a sort of family, or lovers, or simply destroy each other. Miss Deneuve’s performance is so moving, the viewer often feels like a voyeur, privy to something he shouldn’t be. Sadly, there are no extras on this disc besides a collection of trailers.

The Class (Entre les murs) (Sony, $28.96 for DVD, $39.95 for Blu-ray) - France’s entry in this year’s Academy Awards is also new on DVD this week. Yet, this French docudrama feels like it could have been made in just about any well-off but conflicted country in the world. Based on the memoirs of a Parisian teacher, “The Class” explores one year in the life of an inner-city school whose various immigrant students have trouble assimilating into French society - although some of them have no interest in doing so.

Extras include a making-of featurette and audio commentary on select scenes. The Blu-ray edition also includes some extras with the actors, almost all of whom were new to the profession. “Actors’ Workshop” takes you into the rehearsal sessions, while “Actors’ Self-Portraits” shows you how the young students interviewed themselves to create their characters.

Paris 36 - (Sony, $28.96) - Not all French films are gloomy, as this glorious hymn to life proves. “Paris 36” follows a ragtag group of artists, singers, dancers and comedians who try to resurrect their beloved music hall in 1936 Paris. That’s not to say this film, which is filled with lively music of the time, doesn’t have its ominous moments. Politically, this was a dark time for France and Europe, and Christophe Barratier - whose previous film, “Les Choristes,” was Oscar-nominated - uses that to make his period piece heftier than it might have been.

Extras include a commentary with Mr. Barratier and Nora Arnezeder, who plays a beautiful and talented singer who just might save that music hall, a featurette exploring the budding career of Miss Arnezeder, interviews with the other actors and a making-of featurette focusing on the locations.

I Love You, Man (Paramount, $29.99 for DVD, $39.99 for Blu-ray) - Paul Rudd and Jason Segel star in this comedy that’s the fourth best-grossing R-rated film of the year. Mr. Rudd is Peter, a man who’s just become happily engaged - until he realizes he doesn’t have any male friends who can serve as his best man. He finds one in Sydney (Mr. Segel), but their budding bromance causes tension with fiancee Zooey (Rashida Jones).

Extras, all in high-definition, include a commentary with director John Hamburg, Mr. Rudd and Mr. Segel, a making-of featurette, a gag reel and 50 minutes of outtakes and deleted scenes.

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