The 5 Best Movies to Buy or Stream This Week: ‘Blue Velvet,’ ‘The Perfection’


If you’re in the mood for something wild, boy is this the week for you: we’ve got a new Neil Jordan thriller, a new Gaspar Noé eye-poke,a David Lynch classic on disc, as well as one of Netflix’s wildest originals to date for you streamers. All that and an essential Agnès Varda below:


The Perfection : “What is happening to me?!” Lizzie (Logan Browning) asks – demands, really – and by that point, you’re probably wondering the same thing. She’s dizzy, she’s feverish, she’s throwing up, and… are those bugs she’s throwing up? What’s wild about that moment in Richard Shepard’s bonkers Netflix thriller is that the movie hasn’t even gotten truly nuts yet; it’s a parade of exploitation tropes, borderline-surrealistic images, stomach-churning gore, and twisty storytelling, assembled with the cackling glee of a mad scientist. Shepard (who also directed the frustratingly underseen post-Bond Pierce Brosnan vehicle The Matador) has a way of slicing through scenes and expertly digging out their red meat, summoning up an unnerving darkness and piercing intensity that really goes to work on the viewer. You have to be willing to give yourself over to its nutty mood swings and bug-eyed storytelling. But if you do… it’s a ride.


Blue Velvet : David Lynch’s psychosexual mystery/horror masterpiece makes its way (finally) to the Criterion Collection and folks, there’s not an ounce of dust on the damn thing. If anything, his 1986 screwjob seems even darker and more daring now, in this improbably more timid cinematic landscape; it’s hard to imagine a filmmaker so nakedly and unapologetically laying out his fetishes and preoccupations (even Lynch himself has to do that on television these days). The transfer is a knockout, and the sound design is as haunting as ever. But what really stuck for this viewer this time around are the performances – not just the show-offs, like Hopper’s jet-fuel turn as Frank Booth or MacLachlan’s embodiment of the innocent, whose eyes are first widened by what he sees, and then by his hunger to see more. But the nuances of what Isabella Rossellini is up to here only grow more overwhelming, and our recent (overdue) appreciation of Laura Dern helps underscore how she takes what could have been a cipher of a character, and makes her much, much more. ( Also streaming on Prime, through Friday .) (Includes deleted scenes and alternate takes, new and archival documentaries, interview and featurette.)


Greta : Like The Perfection, the latest from venerable director Neil Jordan (The Crying Game) begins as a fairly straightforward and reasonably grounded thriller, and then goes absolutely, entertainingly batty. Chloë Grace Moretz stars as Frances, a naïve transplant to New York who finds a handbag on the train, returns it to its owner (Isabelle Huppert), and makes an unexpected friend – for a time. Jordan so convincingly seizes on the small, human moments early on (aptly capturing, for example, the awkwardness of time in the company of a relative stranger) that the shift into thriller mode could be jarring; instead, it seems remotely plausible. Some critics have wondered if we’re intended to take the picture seriously, or if its wild gestures towards camp are intended as a big wink. But Jordan is such a skilled craftsman, he manages to make both movies at the same time, and let the viewer watch whichever one they’d like. And you simply haven’t lived until you’ve seen Huppert dance triumphantly after – well, no spoilers. (Includes featurette and deleted scenes.)


One Sings, the Other Doesn’t : Criterion had already announced the release of Agnès Varda’s 1977 masterpiece when the legendary filmmaker died in March, but this four-star special edition seems an appropriate memorial to the French New Wave’s considerable gifts. And it’s unexpectedly timely in other ways as well – dealing, as it does, directly with the issue of abortion (complete with a pointed “My body is mine” song) and the convoluted logistics of acquiring one in an unenlightened society. But it’s much more than a political tract; this is the poignant story of two young women (one much younger than the other), and the unlikely friendship that spans across years, partners, continents, and cultures. Wielding slash-and-burn dialogue (“With no education, it’s marriage or prostitution.” “Not much difference”), complex characters, and lived-in performances, Varda crafts a long, rich, textured story that comes to a pitch-perfect conclusion. (Includes documentary, trailer, and two mid-‘70s Varda short films.)


Climax : You wouldn’t think notorious provocateur Gaspar Noé would make much of a movie musical director, but you’d be wrong; the opening dance sequence of his dark dance flick is absolutely electrifying, energetic and enthralling and sexy, and the long takes and wide overheads he deploys for subsequent dance breaks are inventive and often breathtaking. He tells the one-long-night story of a dance company’s post-rehearsal after-party, a “well, that escalated quickly” situation in which drugs, violence, and paranoia turn the banging rave to a screaming abattoir. The picture is A Lot – like most Noé, it goes on well past the making of the point – but even at its grisliest, it’s hard to take your eyes off it. (Includes featurette.)