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Out on Video

By David Sterritt / October 17, 1997



* THE LUMIRE BROTHERS' FIRST FILMS - Film is the only art that can be traced directly to its first appearances, including brilliant "actualities" shot between 1895 and 1897 by Louis and Auguste Lumire, whose pioneering movies still pack a visual wallop today. Documenting subjects as different as childhood, daily work, exotic landscapes, and people just having fun, the pictures are valuable as records of a bygone time and as sophisticated cinematic works. French filmmaker Bertrand Tavernier guides us through the program with a witty narration that identifies landmarks like the first masterpiece, the first suspense movie - a child tottering precariously down a sidewalk - and what might be called the first cat-food commercial. A delight. (Not rated; Kino Video)

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* PICKPOCKET - Robert Bresson is one of the world's most deeply religious filmmakers, absorbed in morality, redemption, and the responsibility of individuals to use their human freedom as a means of transcending material temptations. This rigorous and respected 1959 drama focuses on a young man who turns to crime in a desperate attempt to assert his mastery over what he perceives as a blind and treacherous society, then conquers his weaknesses by learning to value the spiritual comforts of love. Although every scene is ingeniously written and filmed, Bresson steers away from Hollywood-style spectacle, rejecting cinematic tricks or storytelling twists that might divert attention from his ethical and philosophical messages. The result is a French classic that has also had a strong influence on American directors. (Not rated; New Yorker Video)

* VIVRE SA VIE - One of French filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard's greatest works, this 1962 masterpiece uses the tragic story of a prostitute as the basis for an impassioned attack on materialism, consumerism, and exploitation, emphasizing the disastrous effects these social ills inflict on women. Anna Karina gives her most poignant performance, and Godard's voice lends a personal touch in a monologue near the end. Also known as "My Life to Live." (Not rated; Fox Lorber Home Video)