Saturday, April 16, 2016

Blu-ray/DVD/Digital debut for Marleen Gorris' 20-year-old Oscar winner, ANTONIA'S LINE

Thanks to Film Movement's new "Classics" division, those of us who've had a hankering to revisit a movie we loved and that won Best Foreign Language Film some 20 years ago can do just that, come this Tuesday April 19, when ANTONIA'S LINE comes to Blu-ray (the transfer is generally sparkling and quite lovely), DVD and Digital Download.  I remember that our entire family left the theater in tears (rather joyful ones) at the end of the film, but other than that I could not recall a single specific scene. Consequently, I think I enjoyed the movie every bit as much the second time around and am happy to report that it holds up quite beautifully both in terms of its content (five generations of women -- the titular Antonia and her mom, daughter, granddaughter and great-granddaughter -- and how they make their way in our world) and its style (combining dark humor with magic realism to form an odd but very appealing "reality").

As written and directed by Marleen Gorris, shown at left, the movie is enormously feminist without ever having to use the word or push it any further than the film can easily maintain. It takes the position that, in a patriarchal society, strong women must isolate, to some extent at least, and these women certainly do that, while inviting certain of the men into their circle but on the women's terms, not those of the guys. Each woman in this line pursues her own agenda -- art, science/math/music, writing and exploring -- with both achievement and enjoyment, while the men watch and encourage. This is quite the opposite from what we're generally used to seeing in our films -- both mainstream and independent -- but damned if it doesn't work quite wonderfully, for the onscreen characters and us viewers, too.

The film was a Netherlands/Belgium co-production (with some help from France and Britain), and the cast Gorris chose was almost entirely new to U.S. audiences then, and is likely to have remained so even today -- with the exception of Jan Decleir (shown above left, with Willeke van Ammelrooy, the very impressed actress who plays Antonia) who has been seen in a number of films released here over the two decades since.

That cast if first-rate, however, and the assortment of odd but often loveable characters portrayed adds immeasurably to the audience's delight. There a lot of death in the movie and even some violence -- the worst offence is the crime of rape -- but the philosophy here is one of growth and satisfaction, even as time brings its usual barrage of age and loss. For anyone who loved this movie back in the day -- and certainly anyone who hasn't yet experienced it -- this new release of Antonia's Line to home video will be welcome indeed. (That's Els Dottermans, above, who plays Antonia's daughter, Danielle.)

From Film Movement Classics, in Dutch with English subtitles and running just 102 minutes, the film arrives on Blu-ray, DVD and digital download on April 19th -- for purchase or rental.

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