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January 1, 2013

12

On DVD/Blu-ray – A Pair of Movies Featuring Snow in the Mountains

by HELEN GEIB

We had a particularly beautiful snowfall Friday night, that heavy snow that outlines every branch and twig and makes the neighborhood look like a snow globe. I didn’t even mind shoveling my driveway because it was a chance to be outside soaking in the sight. In honor of my weekend winter wonderland, this week’s DVD/Blu-ray recommendation is two movies with memorable snowy vistas. They also remind me how glad I am to live at a lower altitude and a more southerly latitude.

Himalaya (1999)

Himalaya (1999)

A Nepalese movie filmed entirely on location in remote, high mountains, Himalaya revolves around a village’s annual salt caravan to the lowlands to trade for grain. Snow-capped mountains in every direction are an ever present reminder of winter, and the dramatic climax is an endurance march through chest high on a yak snow in a blizzard. Beyond the usual audience for foreign cinema, this is a great movie for families and the foreign movie-phobic. The main characters are universal: a crusty old man determined to show everyone he still has what it takes to lead the caravan; his cute as a button grandson; a beautiful widow; and the strong, handsome young chief who courts her. It’s also a must-see for the armchair traveler, especially one who reads National Geographic. The director is a French professional photographer whose work is regularly published in the magazine and the movie, through the cast of local non-professional actors, documents traditional culture and customs along with the stunning landscape.

Himalaya made enough of a splash internationally to be nominated for the Oscar for best foreign-language film and, more significantly for me, to rate a one week theatrical engagement in Indianapolis. On the big screen is how I’ll never forget first seeing it, but it’s still a wonderful movie watched on DVD. The only extra is a half hour making-of.

The Way Back (2010)

The Way Back (2010)

The Indian Himalayas are the destination for the gulag escapees in the WWII adventure The Way Back. Snow bookends a trek on which climate is the most formidable obstacle. The grandeur of the mountains notwithstanding, what comes to mind first when I think of this movie is always an early scene set in the Siberian forest shortly after their escape from the camp. Still and snowbound, the landscape has a terrible beauty.

For my full review: The Way Back was the featured DVD/Blu-ray when it was released in 2011. It’s available in both formats. Extras are a short making-of and the trailer.

NEW RELEASES FOR JANUARY 1, 2012

Cosmopolis

Looper

12 Comments Post a comment
  1. Miriam
    Jan 1 2013

    Thinking Himalayas, you should see The Man Who Skiid Down Everest. It was the utterly extraordinary Oscar winning documentary in 1975. How it was filmed is beyond me but the images and his descent are unforgettable.

  2. Jan 1 2013

    Another great winter film is Downhill Racer with Robert Redford. Fast paced, character driven, it’s technically a sports film, and it’s a Criterion Collection release. And you know that I hate sports, so my recommending this film is very important!

    lol

  3. Jan 2 2013

    ‘Downhill Racer’ is indeed an interesting film. You get to see a man skiing down a steep slope at high speeds from the skier’s point-of-view, which makes the viewer feel almost like they are on a roller coaster.

    I’ve also lived in Indy for 6 years and still can’t get used to the crazy weather and how up and down it is. I’m sure Helen is used to it, but I can’t get over how last year on New Year’s there was no snow, mild temps in the 50′s and 60′s, and my neighbor fed ducks on a pond behind my place that had no ice. This year it is freezing, snow everywhere, and the pond is completely frozen over with no duck in sight. The landscape of Indy may be boring, but the weather NEVER is.

  4. Jan 2 2013

    This year, in Toronto, we had flurries on Christmas eve and then nothing. But six days ago it started to snow and the snow hadn’t yet gone away. It doesn’t come down from the sky but it doesn’t melt away. Curious…

    And back on topic, another excellent winter film is Transsiberian, starring Woody Harrelson and Sir Ben Kingsly. It’s a very good thriller.

  5. Jan 2 2013

    I’m not sure I understand your last statement about snow in Toronto Nir, but on the subject of winter films I also really liked ‘The Ice Storm’ with Kevin Kline and Sigourney Weaver. One of director Ang Lee’s best films and the key party scene is great!

  6. Jan 2 2013

    The Ice Storm is a classic; Criterion Collection picked it up a few years back. And Carpenter’s brilliant remake of The Thing is also a great winter film.

    I was saying that Toronto barely had snow until late last week and even though now it’s everywhere, it doesn’t seem to be coming from the sky. It’s just lying there and never going away. lol

  7. Jan 2 2013

    Another good wintertime movie is ‘Misery’ and of course ‘Fargo’!

  8. Jan 2 2013

    Classics.

    Oh, and I’d recently watched Never Cry Wolf (1983), an amazing film, and most of it takes place during winter. Beautiful scenery, beautiful film.

  9. Jan 3 2013

    NEVER CRY WOLF is improbably entertaining. I really liked it even as an eight year old. The way he proves his point about the wolves by living on rat is particularly memorable!

    Snow in TRANSSIBERIAN functions mostly as forbidding backdrop to the journey, but the sequence where they visit the ruined church is very beautiful.

  10. Jan 3 2013

    That’s a great sequence indeed.

    And a guilty pleasure is Cliffhanger, starring Sylvester Stallone.

  11. Jan 3 2013

    ‘Cliffhanger’ is a indeed a good guilty pleasure. Another good cold climate one is the James Bond film ‘For Your Eyes Only’ as well as the espionage classic ‘Ice Station Zebra’ with Rock Hudson and Patrick McGoohan.

  12. Jan 3 2013

    Ice Station Zebra is widely considered to be a B-film but I find it to be a legitimately good film. It also stars Ernest Borgnine. :O)

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