GUADALUPE (2006) - pass

GROUNDHOG DAY (1993) - Pick


Despite some Da Vinci Code-esque stylings and telenovela-style soap operatics, the Mexican film Guadalupe, new on DVD, is a reverent exploration of the story of Juan Diego and the Virgin of Guadalupe.

It’s seen in flashback along with a contemporary tale involving archaeologist siblings who undertake to investigate the tilma of Juan Diego bearing the miraculous image of the Virgin.

Directed by Santiago Parra, the film works in every tidbit of evidence and trivia about the tilma I’ve ever heard: its miraculous survival, the absence of brush strokes or other signs of artifice, the photographic examination of the Virgin’s eyes. There are also apparently fictional Dan Brown-style conceits (a discovered first-century inscription predicting the Guadalupe image, some sort of correlation between the image and stellar constellations).

Unfortunately, the contemporary story is rather dull, and the film as a whole doesn’t really hold together. The Juan Diego story is the best thing here; the actor playing Juan Diego makes it work, despite the cheesy visual effects used to turn a young actress into the Virgin Mary. But it’s not really enough. Available in online bookstores.

Celebrating its 15th anniversary with a new DVD edition, Groundhog Day is one of the best comedies of the last quarter century. The premise — a self-centered meteorologist named Phil (Bill Murray) inexplicably trapped in a single 24-hour day, forced to live it over and over again — could easily have gotten old after about a half hour. But the filmmakers explore every possible consequence of their setup with such wit and energy that it just gets funnier and funnier.

Best of all, Phil not only grows on you as you watch — even though he can’t grow on anyone else, since no one else remembers earlier iterations — he grows as a character and a person, and so the film becomes a story of redemption. Andie MacDowell is delightful as the exasperated producer who only knows Phil as he was on Feb. 1.

Also recently released on DVD, The Beads of One Rosary is a bittersweet Polish comedy-drama, set in the late 1970s, about a crusty old retired miner named Habryka whose stubbornness rouses the ire of communist officials as well as his neighbors.

The government wants to relocate all residents into tenement buildings in order to raze their neighborhood for new mining operations, but Habryka, a lapsed Catholic, refuses to leave his ancestral home. Although the story is not religious, Polish Catholicism is part of the cultural fabric (the “rosary beads” of the title are Habryka’s son’s metaphor for their family unity).

Incidentally, part of the low-budget film’s charm is unintentionally hilarious subtitle translations, with botched idioms like “after my dead body” and “sleep over it,” and Habryka repeatedly berating his wife as “you old democracy.” Available in online bookstores.

Content advisory

Guadalupe: Discussion of marital issues and other mature themes. Groundhog Day: Some innuendo and a couple of implied sexual encounters (nothing explicit); comic treatment of immoral behavior (theft, suicide) in a fantasy setting without permanent consequences. The Beads of One Rosary: Some profanity and crass language. All three films teens and up.