First Run's February '05 Releases
The Champagne Safari (February 16/06)
Sporadically intriguing but mostly interminable, The Champagne Safari documents the life and times of industrial magnate Charles Bedaux. Though he arrived in America virtually penniless, Bedaux eventually went on to revolutionize the way assembly lines worked and became one of the top five earners during the Great Depression. Director George Ungar structures the film around an expedition - dubbed "the champagne safari" - undertaken by Bedaux at the height of his power, just prior to his downfall stemming from charges of corruption and treason (Bedaux was chummy with the Nazis). The Champagne Safari starts out well enough, as filmmaker George Ungar chronicles Bedaux's early days and the successful implementation of his so-called "scientific management" method of running factories. But it becomes clear early on that Bedaux's life is, on the whole, just not all that compelling, which ultimately transforms the film into a tedious and thoroughly unpleasant experience. The stale, unimaginative directorial choices from Ungar certainly doesn't help matters, nor does the relentlessly mind-numbing narration. And while there are a few intriguing tidbits here and there - particularly the revelation that Bedaux was working on a sci-fi novel about a universe-ruling tyrant named Charles Bedaux - The Champagne Safari generally feels as though it'd be whole lot more effective as a short.
Torremolinos 73 (February 16/06)
Starring two actors best known for their work in Pedro Almodovar's films, Javier Camara and Candela Pena, Torremolinos 73 is a breezy (if altogether forgettable) comedy revolving around the exploits of a door-to-door salesman who stumbles into a lucrative career as a pornographer. Alfredo (Camara) has been selling encyclopedias for over 15 years, but business has been steadily waning - forcing his boss to pursue other avenues of profit. He enters into an agreement with a Scandinavian company to produce "educational" sex tapes, and offers Alfredo the chance to participate. Faced with the prospect of unemployment, Alfredo reluctantly agrees and sets about filming a series of movies with his wife (Pena). Written and directed by newcomer Pablo Berger, Torremolinos 73 has the feel and style of a '70s flick (it's also set during that decade) - something that's reflected in the film's various elements, from the visuals to the set design to the score. Berger infuses the movie with a laid-back, distinctly low-key vibe, which - while occasionally effective - ultimately transforms the movie into a decidedly hit-and-miss affair. Still, Camara and Pena are perfectly-cast in their respective roles, while Dutch actor (and future James Bond villain) Mads Mikkelsen steals the show with a cameo appearance as a well-meaning porn star.
|About the DVDs: The Champagne Safari and Torremolinos 73 arrive on DVD courtesy of First Run Features, and both films come armed with a grab-bag of bonus features. The Champagne Safari includes an essay on the expedition, a photo gallery, a biography on director George Ungar, and several trailers - while Torremolinos 73 comes with an introduction from the director, biographies of key cast and crew members, a photo gallery, and various "sexy" trailers from the '60s and '70s.