VIDEOSCAN. A selection of new releases for sale or rent
FRENCH CANCAN (1954. Directed by Jean Renoir. Interama Video Classics) - Some consider this dramatic comedy a triumph of musical and visual charm, but it seems rather slight from today's vantage point, especially when compared with more substantial Renoir efforts like ``The Rules of the Game'' and ``The Grand Illusion,'' among others. Yet there's a lot of energy and color in its story of a Montmartre impresario who inaugurates the Moulin Rouge nightclub, revives the cancan under a new name, and juggles a new girlfriend and an old mistress, all in less than two high-kicking hours. Jean Gabin is the star, and Edith Piaf makes a brief but effective appearance. The action holds up reasonably well on the small video screen, but lacks the sense of immediacy it conveys in a theatrical setting. LIGHT YEARS (1987. Directed by Harvey Weinstein. Vidmark Entertainment) - Rene Laloux, who made the provocative ``Fantastic Planet'' several years ago, dreamed up this animated science-fiction yarn about a genetically engineered race that sends a young hero to destroy its worst enemy, a giant brain with a malevolent army to do its bidding. Voices for the cartoon are provided by such stars as Glenn Close and Jennifer Grey, as well as Christopher Plummer as the brain, which sounds like it's doing an Orson Welles imitation. The picture was written by science-fiction veteran Isaac Asimov, in his screenwriting debut, but the story packs few surprises and becomes downright silly at times. Note: Although the movie has a mild PG rating, it contains some nudity and violence. VERNON, FLORIDA (1981. Directed by Errol Morris. RCA/Columbia Pictures Home Video) - Morris turns the conventions of nonfiction film upside down in his documentaries, inviting people to reveal themselves by saying or doing just about anything they want in front of his camera. This movie doesn't have the resonance or depth of ``The Thin Blue Line,'' his subsequent film, but it paints a vivid and sometimes hilarious portrait of the sleepy Southern town it visits for a little more than an hour. The result is vintage Morris: realistic, surrealistic, and engrossing. WHAT HAVE I DONE TO DESERVE THIS? (1985. Directed by Pedro Almod'ovar. Cinevista) - An outrageous family is the focus of this pitch-dark comedy, which criticizes the social and domestic habits of contemporary Spain by cramming a steady stream of bizarre and shocking events into its sarcastic story line. Almod'ovar's visual style is often inventive, but as in most of his movies, the plot loses momentum in the second half. Carmen Maura, who makes a stronger impression in the same director's ``Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown,'' is the star. Unlike most video transfers, incidentally, this one preserves the movie's original height-to-width proportion.