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Popcorn & Prejudice: A Movie Blog

Seattle Times writer Moira Macdonald muses on moviegoing. Email Moira: mmacdonald@seattletimes.com.

February 23, 2010 at 11:06 AM

A great DVD week: “Howards End,” “September Issue” and more

There’s something for everyone in this week’s new DVD releases. If you like documentaries, the made-in-Seattle roller-derby doc “Blood on the Flat Track: The Rise of the Rat City Rollergirls” debuts today, along with the excellent “The September Issue,” in which filmmaker R. J. Cutler and his crew embed themselves at Vogue magazine and watch the fascinating rivalry between editor Anna Wintour and creative director Grace Coddington. The fine soccer drama “The Damned United” turns up, for those who aren’t getting enough sports with the Olympics, and war-movie buffs may well enjoy the Danish World War II drama “Flame & Citron.” “An Englishman in New York,” which opened the Seattle Lesbian & Gay Film Festival last fall, comes out today, featuring John Hurt as Quentin Crisp; also new on DVD is the French rom-com “Shall We Kiss?”
And the good people of Criterion are this week releasing a new edition of the 1992 Merchant/Ivory drama “Howards End,” based on E.M. Forster’s brilliant novel of class, societal change, and unexpected love in Edwardian England. Period literary dramas, for reasons I will never understand, are out of fashion these days, and since Ismail Merchant’s death a few years ago few filmmakers make the effort. (I’m encouraged, though, by the news that the very talented British filmmaker Andrea Arnold, who’s made two devastating contemporary dramas — “Red Road” and “Fish Tank” — will next take on “Wuthering Heights.”) But the shimmeringly beautiful “Howards End” came during the M/I team’s peak years, and was greatly admired when it was released — for its visual beauty (will anyone ever forget those early shots of the Howards End garden at twilight, like a dew-strewn Eden?); its literate screenplay that allowed every character to be both wise and foolish as they struggled against and with convention; and its remarkable performances, particularly the electric pairing of Emma Thompson and Anthony Hopkins (who would reteam shortly afterwards for “The Remains of the Day”). Here they are, in a scene in which Mr. Wilcox has asked Miss Schlegel to marry him, without exactly saying as much; note their positions on the staircase, and the quavering bravery with which Thompson rises to his level and offers him a kiss. Lovely.

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