National Catholic Register

Arts & Entertainment

DVD Picks and Passes

BY Steven D. Greydanus

June 29 - July 5, 2008 Issue | Posted 6/24/08 at 1:11 PM


Be Kind Rewind (2008)

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance / Shane (1962/1953)

Recently released on DVD, Michel Gondry’s Be Kind Rewind is as kind-hearted and nostalgic as its name suggests. Centered on an old-fashioned neighborhood video-rental shop (that’s video as in VHS videotape), Be Kind builds with gentle absurdism on an utterly silly first-act conceit straight out of a 1980s paranormal comedy like Zapped! or Modern Problems to a touching climax celebrating benevolence and community togetherness.

The movie stands or falls with goodwill. There’s the goodwill that nutty Jerry (Jack Black) and sweet Mike (Mos Def) bring to their ludicrous scheme, after a freak disaster wipes out its entire stock, to save the failing video store — by making their own versions of movies from Ghostbusters to 2001: A Space Odyssey to rent to customers. The goodwill with which their efforts are received, and the larger goodwill ultimately occasioned by the whole business. And, not least of all, the goodwill that the viewer brings, or does not bring, to the film itself.

Be Kind is escapist fantasy, but self-consciously so; the hardness of the world is lightly papered over, but not really covered up or forgotten. “Our history belongs to us — we can change it if we want to,” someone goes so far as to say at one point. But Be Kind never forgets that there are limits to what we can change, realities we can’t remake, erase or rewind. What we can do is be kind.

Also new on DVD is a cheap twofer edition of two Western classics, each available separately in more robust DVD editions.

John Ford’s The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance juxtaposes two American icons — John Wayne and Jimmy Stewart — representing strikingly different ideals: toughness vs. sensitivity, frontier grit vs. civilized decency, rugged individualism vs. communal values.

The result is a complex and nuanced take on the Western that acknowledges the necessity and the limitations of both ideals, of Wayne’s “hard” virtues and Stewart’s “soft” ones, and explores the transition from rugged individualism to civilized law and order.

George Stevens’ Shane defined the archetypal Western hero who is not a cowboy or a sheriff, but a wandering gunslinger who comes upon oppression in a lawless frontier and sides with the oppressed.

If the Western is the quintessential American mythology, Shane (Alan Ladd) is the Western’s great knight-samurai archetype: stern in battle, mild with women and children, siding with the wronged, honoring marriage.

While an extended barroom brawl is ultimately as cheerfully romanticized as any in the genre, the film takes a notably different view of gun violence. The number of bullets fired is remarkably small, and each bullet has enormous impact.

Content advisory Be Kind Rewind: A few instances of crass sexual references and body-function humor; a few depictions of vandalism; brief minor profanity. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance / Shane: Frontier violence including deadly gunplay. All three films aimed at teens and up.