Antonia's Line

D: Marleen Gorris; with Willeke Van Ammelrooy, Els Dottermans, Jan Decleir, Veerle Van Overloop, Marina De Graaf, Mil Seghers, Thyrza Ravesteijn.
VHS Home Video
Vulcan Video, 609 W. 29th

This little Dutch film about a big family paints a sentimental portrait of European rural life after World War II. The story coaxes us to admire and love Antonia (Van Amelrooy), a woman who "knows when enough is enough," and lays down to die at 88 with three generations of her descendents surrounding her bedside. It's easy enough to love formidable Antonia and her line of prodigy children, but the film itself is a little harder to embrace. Leaning heavily on voiceover narration to push forward a complex and overburdened plot, the film sometimes fails to hold interest from one delightful remembrance to the next. Inexplicably quirky and silly magical vision sequences, such as stone angels knocking over priests with a flap of their wings, come out of nowhere. Yet themes of family, community, life, and death will charm you out of noticing these shortcomings. Antonia's Line took home the Oscar for best foreign language film last year because it leaves its audience thoughtful and meditative on the epic, cyclic qualities of life. -- Kayte VanScoy

Blow Out

D: Brian DePalma; with John Travolta, Nancy Allen, John Lithgow, Dennis Franz.
VHS Home Video

Riding high on the success of Saturday Night Fever (1977), Grease (1978), and Urban Cowboy (1980), John Travolta hit the skids with Blow Out (1981) and continued his Eighties downhill slide -- Two of a Kind, Stayin' Alive (both 1983), and Perfect (1985) -- until Look Who's Talking in 1989. Still, Travolta is fine as the B-picture soundman who accidentally tapes a Chappaquidick-type political scandal, and Franz is perfect as a sleazy photographer. Writer-director DePalma (Dressed to Kill, Mission: Impossible) has never had an original idea in his life, however. This one is a swipe of Michelangelo Antonioni's 1966 classic, Blowup, and includes the doomed notion of casting his then-wife Allen in the female lead. Totally unbelievable, yet the film's self-deprecating take on Travolta's slasher-film kingpin boss and the sullenly ironic ending are memorable.

-- Raoul Hernandez

Angels and Insects

D: Philip Haas; with Mark Rylance, Kristin Scott Thomas, Patsy Kensit, Jeremy Kemp, Douglas Henshall, Annette Badland, Anna Massey.
VHS Home Video
Vulcan Video, 609 W. 29th

Opening with a sequence depicting what tradition would have us believe was the furthest thing from the Victorian mind, this stunning English heritage film progresses at a pace some may find frustratingly slow. But rest assured, the plot packs more punch than the typical action-adventure film. The protagonist is an Australian naturalist circa Darwin; shipwrecked and in dire need of help, a wealthy English benefactor offers him aid and eventually one of his daughters. Based on A.S. Byatt's novella Morpho Eugenia, the film seems to dawdle in precious dialog until the viewer realizes that the story is inlaid with as much visual as verbal panache. Paul Brown's costume design alone should clue the alert viewer into precisely what this tale has to tell. This is a film, however, about aristocratic Victorians, so have patience with characters who tiptoe on eggshells to avoid speaking the truth. The plot steadily but surely reveals all. -- Clay Smith

War Wind


At first glance, many people will assume that this is just a Warcraft II or Command & Conquer knockoff. War Wind does indeed have many similarities to those wildly successful real-time strategy games, and drawing upon some of the best ideas in both, it attempts to go a whole lot further. It almost makes it. War Wind is played with four totally unique races, each featuring radically different strengths and weaknesses. But the game falters in several areas, one of which is that, visually, it is often hard to figure out -- the different characters for a particular race can be difficult to distinguish on screen. Another weakness is in War Wind's unnecessarily awkward interface. The game should appeal to avid fans of the genre, but new fans take heed: There's better stuff out there. -- Kurt Dillard

Swimming to Cambodia

D: Jonathan Demme; with Spalding Gray.
VHS Home Video

With Spalding Gray's recent appearance at the Paramount, we have a perfect excuse to revisit his masterwork, the highly acclaimed Swimming to Cambodia. If you aren't familiar with Gray, he is a singularly unique entertainer -- a monologist whose films and live performances consist of his "raving, talking head" behind a desk for 90-plus minutes, and they are always completely enthralling. In Cambodia, Gray relates his experiences during the filming of The Killing Fields, in which he had a minor role. Along the way he speaks ostensibly about the malignancy of the early 1970s: Vietnam, the Kent State massacre, and the genocide committed by Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge, on which Fields is based. However, it is through Gray's subtle parallels with the evils of today -- our urban strife, sex parlors, drugs, and deviants -- that his message illustrates our collective loss of innocence . Laurie Anderson's tribal score and Demme's perfectly executed direction take us right inside the mind of this eccentric genius. And it's one hell of a visit. -- Christopher Null

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