- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 14, 2002

Nothing if not a bold venture, maverick moviemaker James Toback's 1978 directorial debut Fingers, new from Warner Home Video ($19.98 DVD/$14.98 VHS), arrives as star Harvey Keitel's greatest post-"Mean Streets," pre-"Bad Lieutenant" showcase. It's our
Video pick of the week
As interpreted by Mr. Keitel, lead character Jimmy is a living, twitching contradiction, an emotional loner looking to juggle his belated concert-pianist ambitions with his chores as a collector for his loan-shark dad (raspy-voiced "The Godfather" alum Michael V. Gazzo).
Mr. Toback's camera follows Jimmy on his jittery New York City rounds, from a disastrous Carnegie Hall tryout before an initially encouraging conductor (an unrecognizable Dominic Chianese, of "The Sopranos" fame) to a wrenching mental-hospital visit with his unstable mom (Marian Seldes) to a brutal encounter with a hulking gambling deadbeat played by Lenny Montana (mobster Luca Brasi in "The Godfather").
The flick takes a daring twist when Jimmy tracks his disaffected artist squeeze Carol (Tisa Farrow, sister of Mia) to onetime boxing champ Dreems' (Jim Brown) downtown club, where the former fighter proffers a challenge to Jimmy's virility. "Fingers" eventually moves in a more traditional mob-movie direction when Jimmy undertakes a last-reel vendetta.
By turns distant and almost squirmingly intimate, this at once of- and ahead-of-its-time indie definitely rates a look for adventurous viewers. Filmmaker Toback's instructive audio commentary is likewise worth a listen, though the DVD's newly lensed featurette "Fingers: A Conversation About Independent Film with Harvey Keitel and James Toback" unfortunately emerges as a hastily assembled talking-heads time-filler.
Video verite
We also caught a pair of highly recommended, widely disparate new documentaries. David and Laurie Gwen Shapiro's Keep the River on Your Right: A Modern Cannibal Tale (Docurama, $24.98 DVD/$19.98 VHS) tells the startling story of American artist and anthropologist Tobias Schneebaum, who, at age 78, retraces his 1950s trip into the depths of the Peruvian jungle, where he had joined up with a cannibal tribe for a series of sometimes indelicate adventures. (One caveat: this one's not for the younger set).
Meantime, even if you're not a hip-hop fan, Doug Pray's Scratch (Palm Pictures, $29.99 2-DVD set) will draw you into the world of those dedicated DJs and "turntablists" who invented and continue to refine that fresh techno musical form. The double-disc set not only includes the colorful feature but a raft of extras, including filmmaker commentary, additional scenes, extended interviews, and even a do-it-yourself home DJ lesson.
Collectors corner
Miramax Home Entertainment reprices a pair of recent theatrical titles Meg Ryan and Hugh Jackman in the time-tripping romantic comedy Kate & Leopold and Kevin Spacey in the novel adaptation The Shipping News ($14.95 DVD/$9.95 VHS each).
Artisan Home Entertainment returns a brace of edgy crime capers to the video ranks, reissuing Walter Hill's New Orleans-set Johnny Handsome, starring Mickey Rourke, Ellen Barkin and a super-sleazy Lance Henriksen, along with the London-set Harvey Keitel showcase The Young Americans, featuring Viggo Mortensen ($14.98 DVD only).
The 'A' list
Miramax likewise leads the "A" list slate with a pair of exotic entries the hugely entertaining 1993 Hong Kong action/fantasy epic The Heroic Trio, starring Michelle Yeoh, Anita Mui and Maggie Cheung, and the atmospheric 1995 Joseph Conrad adaptation Victory, featuring strong work by leads Willem Dafoe, Sam Neill and Irene Jacob.
Touchstone Home Entertainment exhibits a lighter touch, unleashing Jim Carreyesque comic Dave Sheridan's showcase Frank McKlusky, CI, with Dolly Parton and Randy Quaid. All three will be priced for rental VHS and also available on DVD.
Tele-video
Sci-fi fans have reason to rejoice with Warner Home Video's gala 6-DVD set Babylon 5: The Complete First Season: Signs and Portents. The handsomely packaged widescreen set contains all 22 premiere season episodes, along with a wealth of special features, including select audio commentary by B5 creator J. Michael Straczynski, behind-the-scenes documentaries, episode previews and more. The set is tagged at $99.99.
Phan mail
Dear Phantom: A film that's been on my search list for years now is Man on the Roof. This is a Danish crime thriller. Also that Cincinnati-lensed black comedy Homebodies would be a happy find. Here's hoping you know because no one else has a clue.
N. Lope, via e-mail
While both titles are long out of circulation, Scarecrow Video (scarecrow.com) has 1977's "Man on the Roof" (choice of VHS or laserdisc) and "Homebodies" (VHS only) available on a mail-order rental basis.
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] Check out our Web site at www.videoscopemag.com.


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