National Catholic Register

Arts & Entertainment

Weekly Video Picks

BY John Prizer

May 19-25, 2002 Issue | Posted 5/19/02 at 2:00 PM


Roommates (1995)

Few films examine the relationship between a child and a grandparent. Roommates, directed by Peter Yates (Bullitt) and written by Max Apple and Stephen Metcalfe, is a feel-good comedy-drama about the lifelong bonds between the crusty Rocky (Peter Falk) and his orphaned grandson, Michael. The rest of the family wants to send the 5-year-old boy away to an orphanage. But the 75-year-old man, who “has the personality of a clenched fist,” insists on raising him. “The child stays! Conversation over,” he declares.

Michael grows up to be a medical student and, when Rocky is evicted from his apartment, the young man talks his grandparent into moving into the place he shares with six other students. The conflicts that follow are both funny and touching. The roommates have little in common except a love of poker. But when Michael marries, he does-n't abandon Rocky. In an understated way, the movie deals intelligently with the issues of aging in our society and the meaning of family ties.

Himalaya (2001)

It's easy for Westerners to sentimentalize the picturesque way of life of primitive peoples. Himalaya, nominated for a Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, dramatizes the generational conflict for the leadership of a Nepalese mountain tribe with a point of view that treats its age-old customs with respect yet also suggests some of its shortcomings. Tinle (Thinlen Lhondup) is the elderly chief of a yak-herding, farming village who rigidly adheres to the astrological traditions of their Buddhist beliefs. When his oldest son dies, he insists on leading a caravan to trade salt for grain across the mountains with his younger son, Norbou (Karma Tenzing Nyima Lama), who's a monk and a painter. But neither is really up to it.

Tinle's fatalistic and tradition-bound decisions are challenged by his dead son's charismatic best friend, Karma (Gurgyon Kyap), who's more forward-looking. Their trek is full of dangers and surprises. Veteran French documentary filmmaker Eric Valli captures the lonely grandeur of the Nepalese landscape and the colorful textures of his characters' daily lives.

The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956)

The Middle East is usually depicted as a place of mystery and intrigue. So when a French spy (Daniel Gelin), who's disguised as an Arab, is chased through a Moroccan bazaar and dies in the arms of an unsuspecting American tourist (James Stewart), we know that the tourist and his wife (Doris Day) are going to be sucked into a vortex of danger and death not of their own making. After the dying French spy whispers some incomprehensible words into the Americans' ears, their young son is kidnapped. In order to save the child, the tourist couple must travel to London, where they find themselves entangled in a diplomatic assassination plot.

The Man Who Knew Too Much is Alfred Hitchcock's only remake. (The original dates from 1934.) The emphasis is on the thrills and suspense, not the politics. The climax includes two of Hitchcock's most famous set pieces: a 12-minute assassination attempt during a concert at Albert Hall and the embassy rescue of the tourists' missing son.