- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 28, 2002

Your Phantom surely wasn't the only one who first saw Ingmar Bergman's Wild Strawberries at a long-ago college or art-house screening where a grainy 16 mm print made the Swedish auteur's vision seem even bleaker than intended. Well, that vision has been expertly corrected with Criterion Collection/Home Vision's pristine new DVD edition ($39.98), in which cinematographer Gunnar Fischer's evocative light and shadow play can be fully appreciated. It's our …

Video pick of the week
We'd also forgotten that Mr. Bergman's 1957 opus is, at heart, a road movie. After the famous primal symbols-laden opening, with its bouncing coffins and handless clocks, we follow 78-year-old dreamer Isak (played by veteran Swedish director Victor Sjostrom) through his confrontations with both impinging mortality and belated enlightenment.
When professor Isak, accompanied by his disenchanted daughter-in-law Sara (Bibi Andersson), decides to drive to a ceremony being held in his honor, he revisits his past at a former family summer place and encounters the present when he picks up a trio of enthusiastic young hitchhikers on their way to Italy. An ensuing near-collision brings the group into sour contact with an embittered middle-age couple whose troubles reflect those of Isak's own dysfunctional family.
In the end, "Wild Strawberries" is not, in fact, a grim work but one that despite its plethora of pessimistic characters who adopt a viewpoint of obedient nihilism brims with about as much hope as Mr. Bergman could muster. For Bergmaniacs who wish to delve deeper, the Criterion edition offers Jorn Donner's feature-length documentary Ingmar Bergman on Life and Work, audio commentary by film scholar Peter Cowie and a rare stills gallery.
Home Vision also introduces a pair of seminal Czech new wave comedies by Milos ("One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest") Forman: 1965's Loves of a Blonde and 1967's The Firemen's Ball ($29.98 each), both including video interviews with the director.

The 'A' list
Among the recent theatrical releases heading to home video shelves in March, we sight a pair of sci-fi-tinged features: Richard Kelly's surreal indie Donnie Darko (20th Century Fox), with Jake Gyllenhaal; and K-Pax (Universal), with the (in this case) aptly named Kevin Spacey as a mental patient who claims to be an extraterrestrial, and Jeff Bridges as an understandably bemused shrink.
In a lighter vein, bank robbers Bruce Willis and Billy Bob Thornton both tumble for captive Cate Blanchett in Barry Levinson's crime comedy Bandits (MGM). Leslie Nielsen plays a secret agent on the trail of evil aliens in the slapstick farce 2001: A Space Travesty (Columbia/TriStar).
Paramount presents a pair of recent indies: William H. Macy and Laura Dern in Focus , an anti-discrimination drama based on a work by Arthur Miller; and Barbet Schroeder's edgy Our Lady of the Assassins , set in Colombia. All of the above will be priced for rental and also available on DVD.

Video verite
In documentary developments, the earlier-cited Home Vision/Criterion Collection debuts a duo of very different artist-oriented BBC documentaries.
The Confessions of Robert Crumb (1987) proffers a fascinating portrait of America's greatest living underground cartoonist not only told but written (with remarkable candor) in his own words.
Jackson Pollock: Love and Death on Long Island (1999) explores the rise and premature demise of the controversial abstract painter via rare archival footage and interviews with, among others, widow and fellow artist Lee Krasner and actor Ed Harris, who portrayed the painter in his self-directed, eponymous "Pollock." The DVDs are tagged at $19.98 each.
The same sticker applies to Rat Pack's Las Vegas (White Star), a fresh look at Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and gang's ring-a-ding reign in the Las Vegas of the 1950s and '60s, featuring rare footage of the Pack in action, as well as the story behind the birth of that glittering city.

Anime territory
In Japanese animation news, Columbia/TriStar launches its new cult-oriented label, Destination Films, with Osamu Tezaka's acclaimed anime epic Metropolis (priced for rental VHS, $27.98 DVD).
Urban Vision weighs in with a gala DVD edition of the atmospheric animated chiller Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust ($29.98), while Bandai Entertainment contributes a deluxe double-disc special edition of the sci-fi adventure Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade ($59.98).

Phan mail
Dear Phantom: I am checking availability of the following on VHS: The Kremlin Letter (1969), The Great Gatsby (1949) and The Seven Minutes (1971). Thank you.
Walt Fetterer, via e-mail

Unfortunately, and somewhat mysteriously, none of the above has joined the home video ranks to date.

Send your video comments and queries to Phantom of the Movies, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, D.C. 20002 or e-mail us at: [email protected] And check out our Web site at www.videoscopemag.com

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