News Column

Louis Malle's 'Alamo Bay' stirred the waters

October 4, 2013

YellowBrix

Oct. 04--New Wave directors such as Jean-Luc Godard and Fran ois Truffaut famously incorporated tropes from American noir and Western films into theirs.

Their colleague Louis Malle went a step further and made a score of American films, including My Dinner With Andre (1981) , Vanya on 42nd Street (1994) -- and the 1981 masterpiece Atlantic City featuring Burt Lancaster and Susan Sarandon.

Malle's work was well-received -- even revered -- here with the possible exception of 1985's Alamo Bay, which sharply divided critics. Some condemned it, others acknowledged Malle's bravery in tackling such controversial subject matter.

Set in a small coastal fishing town in Texas, Alamo Bay stars Ed Harris as a Vietnam veteran who feels his livelihood as a shrimp fisherman is threatened by a score of new immigrant fishermen, political refugees from Vietnam.

"We defend everybody all over the world, but there's no protection for any American," Harris declares in the film, which was scored by guitar great Ry Cooder and which costars Amy Madigan and Donald Moffat.

Shot documentary-style, with very little aesthetic polish, the film refused to take sides, showing great empathy for both.

"It's not easy to say, well, this is just another classic case of intolerance and racism," Malle said in a 1985 interview. "It's always much more complicated when you are trying to deal with the truth, when you are trying to deal with the reality of life."

Alamo Bay is available directly from Screen Archives Entertainment as part of its limited-issue Twilight Time series. (www.screenarchives.com; $29.95. not rated)

Other DVDs of note

Much Ado About Nothing. Joss Whedon, best known for creating some of American TV's best-loved sci-fi and fantasy series, including Angel, Firefly, and Dollhouse, bravely charges into new territory with this randy take on the Shakespeare comedy. Whedon came up with the critical hit after holding a series of informal Shakespeare reading sessions at his house. The film stars Whedon regulars Amy Acker, Alexis Denisof, Reed Diamond, and Nathan Fillion and is due Tuesday from Lionsgate. (www.lionsgateshop.com; $19.98 DVD; $24.99 Blu-ray; rated PG-13)

The Fall, Series 1. X-Files alumna Gillian Anderson has done some great work since moving to Britain, including this terrifying police thriller told in five 60-minute episodes. Anderson stars as a senior detective sent to Belfast in Northern Ireland to investigate a shocking series of rape-murders. The series has a disturbing twist: We're treated not only to the police investigation, but also are given an intimate view of the murderer's life as a family man and successful white-collar professional. The DVD is due Oct. 15 from Acorn Media. (www.acornmedia.com/; $39.99; not rated)

From Here to Eternity. Celebrate the 60th anniversary of Fred Zinnemann 's masterpiece with this gorgeously restored Blu-ray edition. Montgomery Clift, Burt Lancaster, Frank Sinatra, and Deborah Kerr star in this explosive romantic potboiler set in the weeks before the bombing of Pearl Harbor. (www.sonypictures.com/; $19.99; not rated)

Awkward: Seasons One & Two. Ashley Rickards is brilliant as square-peg teen Jenna Hamilton in MTV's well-written, hilarious sitcom about the miseries of not fitting in in high school. The four-disc set includes 24 episodes. (http://paramountstore.com/; $26.98; not rated)

tirdad@phillynews.com

215-854-2736

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