- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 12, 2006

More a meditation on the themes of guilt and deception than a straightforward thriller, Michael Haneke’s Cache (Anglicized as Hidden), new from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment ($26.95), rates as one of the most haunting, thought-provoking films of the digital year. It’s our…

DVD pick of the week

French TV talk-show host Georges (Daniel Auteuil) sees his orderly life with wife Anne (Juliet Binoche) and 12-year-old son Pierrot (Lester Makedonsky) seriously disrupted by the arrival of sinister surveillance tapes taken of their home.

The videos are accompanied by violent, child-like drawings and followed by mysterious phone calls. The ensuing tension creates a rift between Georges and Anne, especially once he traces the threats’ possible origins to a long-ago act of childhood cruelty.

To reveal more would risk ruining the many surprises writer-director Haneke, whose cinematic techniques are as subtly striking as his plot, has in store. Unlike most mainstream Hollywood suspense films, “Cache” weaves the thriller elements into the tapestry of the characters’ everyday lives.

Mundane matters must still be attended to, friends and colleagues coped with, work continued and even television watched (indeed, TV supplies a key character in many of Mr. Haneke’s films). The director often utilizes a static, implicitly nonjudgmental camera, encouraging the viewer to filter the action through his or her own belief systems.

While most of the tale’s ambiguities work brilliantly, there is one tricky maneuver that might be considered a bit of a cheat. However, even that matter is cleared up in a fascinating bonus interview with the director (one reason why “Cache” actually plays better as a DVD than as a theatrical feature). Sony’s disc also includes a compelling behind-the-scenes featurette.

In short, “Cache” emerges as one of those rare films that will keep you pondering its sometimes wrenching insights long after the end credits roll.

Tele-video

In fresh TV-on-DVD developments, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment presents a pair of sitcoms old and new focusing on femme comedic talents: Barbara Eden in I Dream of Jeannie (four-disc, $39.95) and Ellen DeGeneres in The Ellen Show: The Complete Series (two-disc, $29.95).

Paramount Home Entertainment likewise revisits the distant and recent past via two new collections with a legal bent. Raymond Burr plays the eponymous attorney in the 19-episode Perry Mason: Season 1, Volume 1 (five-disc, $54.99), while nitwit Nevada law enforcers create chaos in the often-hilarious Reno 911!: The Complete Third Season Uncensored (two-disc, $26.99), armed with outtakes, cast and crew audio commentary, and other fun extras.

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment expands its TV-on-DVD lineup with “Super Size Me” documentarian Morgan Spurlock’s extras-enhanced reality series 30 Days ($26.98) and the 1960s underwater sci-fi show Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea: Season 1, Volume 1 (three-disc, $39.98), equipped with blooper reel, stills gallery and interviews with star David Hedison.

From across the pond, BBC Video releases the latest (2005) incarnation of the long-running cult sci-fi series Dr. Who: The Complete First Series (five-disc, $99.98), with cast and crew commentary plus more than five hours of extras ranging from interviews to featurettes. Koch Vision imports the hit UK mystery show McCallum: The Complete Series (five-disc, $59.98), starring John Hannah.

Elsewhere, Genius Products Inc. offers the wedding-centered reality TV collections Bridezillas: The Complete First Season and The Complete Second Season (two-disc, $26.98 each). Warner Home Video delivers ER: The Complete Fifth Season (six-disc, $49.98), with unaired scenes and a gag reel, and Lions Gate Home Entertainment releases the sitcom Weeds: Season 1 (two-disc, $39.98).

Collectors’ corner

Two very different vintage audience faves surface in special editions. Criterion Collection goes all out with its double-disc tribute to the influential no-budget 1970 chiller Equinox ($39.95), with startling work by future “Star Wars” visual effects ace Dennis Muren; extras include two audio commentaries, cast and crew interviews, bonus shorts, deleted scenes and much more.

Warner Home Video lavishes considerable TLC on John Frankenheimer’s remastered 1966 racing classic Grand Prix (two-disc, $20.98), starring James Garner and Eva Marie Saint, assembling four new documentaries along with a vintage featurette.

The ‘A’ list

In a light week for recent theatrical releases making their digital debuts, Sony Pictures proffers the Sharon Stone thriller sequel Basic Instinct 2 ($26.95), while HBO Video introduces Michael Winterbottom’s Laurence Sterne adaptation Tristram Shandy: A Cock & Bull Story ($27.95), complemented by an extended interview with star Steve Coogan, deleted scenes and cast audio commentary. ThinkFilm offers Marc Levin’s documentary Protocols of Zion ($29.99).

Phan mail

Dear Phantom: Looking for the Claude Chabrol film “La Femme Infidele.”

Raymond Carter, via e-mail

That 1969 thriller is out under its Anglicized title The Unfaithful Wife via Pathfinder Pictures ($19.98, pathfinderpictures.com).

Send your video comments and queries to Phantom of the Movies, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20002, or e-mail us at phanmedia @aol.com. Check out our Web site at www.videoscope mag.com.

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