Off the shelf

DVDs, by Robert Frankel

‘La jetée | Sans Soleil,’ dir. Chris Marker

Two of the most exquisite experiments in filmmaking ever created, “La jetée” and “Sans Soleil” still have the power to challenge and move viewers decades after their original releases. “La jetée” tells the story of a survivor of the third world war who is sent through time by his captives. In just 27 minutes and using only still images — until one famous instant, when the medium literally changes before viewers’ eyes — “La jetée” is able to tell a story as powerful and shattering as a feature-length film. “Sans Soleil,” on the other hand, is a stream-of-consciousness travelogue around the world as well as a meditation on time, memory, and existence. Even with its disregard for convention and narrative flow, “Sans Soleil” is a beautiful documentary, offering a deeper insight into human culture than most others.

Odegaard Media Library / DVD CRIT 200

‘Vanya on 42nd Street,’ dir. Louis Malle

Staged productions don’t naturally make for an interesting cinematic experience, but under the eye of notable French filmmaker Louis Malle, this production of Anton Chekov’s “Uncle Vanya” is nothing short of brilliant. In a dilapidated playhouse in downtown Manhattan, theater director Andre Gregory staged a production of “Uncle Vanya,” even though the cast and the director never planned on showing it to the public. These performances would never have been seen had it not been for Malle, who captures the art of creation with an understated grace. Starring such notable performers as Julianne Moore and Wallace Shawn, “Vanya on 42nd Street” strips Chekhov’s play to its barest form, revealing the act of theater at its rawest.

Odegaard Media Library / DVD CRIT 646

CDs, by Andrew Gospe

‘Remain in Light,’ Talking Heads

“Remain in Light” was Talking Heads’ fourth studio album, and it cemented the band’s place as one of the most innovative rock groups of the ’70s and ’80s. Under the guidance of producer Brian Eno, the band blended new wave synths, African rhythms, and singer David Byrne’s stream-of-consciousness lyrics into a product that is far catchier and more coherent than those components suggest. It’s worth a listen just for its kinetic first half, which culminates in “Once in a Lifetime,” arguably the band’s most famous song and certainly one of its best — Byrne somehow makes existential crisis a fun listen. Thirty-two years after its release, “Remain in Light” is a rare album that still sounds fresh and forward-thinking so many years later, the product of a band at its creative peak.

Odegaard Media Center / Cd SIRE 017

‘Let It Be,’ The Replacements

After emerging from the Minneapolis hardcore scene alongside bands like Hüsker Dü, The Replacements expanded beyond punk and shaped the future of indie rock with “Let It Be.” That isn’t to say this is the album where The Replacements ceased being a punk band, because tracks like “Tommy Gets His Tonsils Out” and “We’re Comin’ Out” prove they still were. (Also, there’s a song called “Gary’s Got a Boner,” which should dispel any confusion with the Beatles fairly quickly.) But much of “Let It Be” ventures into now-familiar territory: a go-for-broke guitar sound that’s more melodic than punk (see album closer “Answering Machine”) that acted as a precursor to bands like Pavement in the early ’90s.

Odegaard Media Center / Cd TTR 001

Books, by Andre Stackhouse

‘The Giver,’ by Lois Lowry

It’s rare for young-adult literature to take on quite as much as “The Giver” and pull it off so well. “The Giver” is set in a “utopian” society, where everything is kept harmonious through strict rules. Jobs are assigned, spouses are designated based on personalities, and children are born to designated “birthmothers” and then assigned to families. The story follows 12-year-old Jonas, who learns he is going to be the next “Giver,” considered the most important person in the community. As Jonas takes on his new duties, he learns disturbing truths about his home and has to make tough decisions as he tries to do what’s right. “The Giver” is one part “Brave New World,” one part “Pleasantville,” and a dash of “Nineteen Eighty-Four.” Never pulling punches or watering things down, “The Giver” explores what’s really important in life. Due to its target audience, “The Giver” is a fast and easy read, but no less fulfilling than many of the classics it takes after.

Suzzallo/Allen Stacks / PZ7.L9673 Gi 1993

‘The House of the Scorpion,’ by Nancy Farmer

I’m a big fan of near-future science fiction for its ability to make me think about the state of the world, where things are going, and where things will be in 50 to 100 years. “The House of the Scorpion” is set in Opium, a new country between the United States and Mexico that is ruled by El Patrón, a 143-year-old drug lord. El Patrón raises clones of himself so that when he needs a new organ, he can take it from the clone, who dies, and extend his own life. The story follows the life of one such clone named Matt, who is oblivious to his fate. The stark depiction of the near-future is uncomfortably believable. El Patrón is a heartless man, but his backstory gives reason for his cruelty. “The House of the Scorpion” covers a lot of ground and has a lot of depth, but it never becomes convoluted.

Suzzallo/Allen Stacks / PZ7.F23814 Mat 2002

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