Film: Video Watch

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The Kaurismaki Collection (15)

Available to buy, pounds 15.99 each Dry isn't the word for Ariel (released with Hamlet Goes Business) and I Hired A Contract Killer (released with The Match Factory Girl). The Finnish film-maker Aki Kaurismaki, responsible most recently for Drifting Clouds, has pushed the famously phlegmatic Scandinavian disposition to a new level of aridity.

An ex-miner, Taisto (Turo Pajala) decides there's no future for him in his home town (his father takes his own life with the minimum of fuss - having left his son his open-top Cadillac - within the first five minutes) and heads south. Taisto betrays little emotion other than a deadpan stoicism as he moves from odd jobs to prison, picking up a girlfriend and her child along the way.

The tongue-in-cheek existentialism may not be to everyone's taste, but this absurdly melancholic road movie can't help but raise a smile.

The Sweet Hereafter (15)

Available to rent from Wednesday

Atom Egoyan's involved drama bristles with narrative invention. A top city lawyer, Ian Holm, arrives in a British Columbian rural community in the aftermath of a tragic school bus accident to encourage its inhabitants to sue for damages. At the nub of the film, however, is the convoluted heartbreak that comes with watching your kids grow up.

Egoyan illustrates this with a Pied Piper of Hamelin motif throughout the film, a tale which, as we see, cuts both ways. Fourteen children died in the crash, but those parents whose offspring are alive hardly seem better off: Holm is barely on speaking terms with his junkie daughter, and the legal action rests on the testimony of a young girl in an incestuous relationship with her father.

Even if, by the close, Egoyan's film portends more than it delivers by way of its themes, its intelligence and unpredictability keep you watching.

12 Monkeys (18)

Available to rent from Monday

More future-shock shenanigans from Terry Gilliam, who, with Bruce Willis, Brad Pitt and Madeleine Stowe, charges into the temporal nightmares only hinted at by this film's inspiration, La Jetee (1962).

As with Brazil, Gilliam somehow manages to inject his dystopian visions with a frantic humanity, which ought to be all the more appealing in this wide-screen release. As is customary with Gilliam, don't waste too much time on the plot: Willis attempts to convince Stowe that he's been sent back from the future to track down an eco-terrorist group who, if unhindered, will wipe out millions of people six years hence. Enjoy, instead, Gilliam's endlessly fertile imagination and chaotic way with the standard chase- cum-thriller plot.

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