Studio Canal, £19.99
Greek cinema has provided so many richly symbolic and downright puzzling films over the last decade that it's hard not to view every new work as some kind of fresh critique on the country's social, political and economic ills. This third feature from director Athina Rachel Tsangari, also the producer of three films by Greek cinema's leading light, Yorgos Lanthimos, is no exception. But running alongside whatever abstract metaphors are in play is a more concrete concern: how men inter-act with each other, and the infantile games they play in their efforts to gain status within a group.
Chevalier is billed as a comedy, though what comedy there is comes from the slow accretion of absurd detail as Tsangari pits her six wealthy middle-aged Greek protagonists into a seagoing holiday on board a luxurious motorboat. A combination of boredom and frustrated machismo causes them to invent a competition in which each will judge the others to see who is “best”. To the winner, a “chevalier” or signet ring.
The game is as meaningless as the sobriquet “best” is nebulous, but the participants take it very seriously and as their chef and “cabin boy” (actually a 50something butler-type) serve up exquisite dishes, they score each other in notebooks. Everything is judged, from the size of their erections to the type of ringtone they have on their phones. They collectively examine how each of them sleeps, what they wear in bed, how they talk to their wives and girlfriends and even race each other building IKEA CD towers. Nothing is solved, and nobody is happier as a result of the eventual outcome. It's all just a colossal waste of time - though the same can't be said of the film itself.
The Small World Of Sammy Lee (12)
Studio Canal, £11.99
This glorious restoration of a lost classic of British cinema screened at last month's London Film Festival and now, for the first time, comes to Blu-ray. Shot by Ken Hughes in 1962 in and around London's Soho district, it follows the misfortunes of Jewish strip-joint compere and small-time grifter Sammy Lee, also a card-playing gambler who, as the film starts, is ending a late night with a large debt of the sort it's advisable to pay off quickly. Sammy is given five hours, resulting in a series of frantic phone calls and sprints between this and that shady Soho “businessman”, and an increasing sense of desperation as the numbers fail to add up.
The plotting is tight, but it's the performance of child star-turned-pop star Anthony Newley as Sammy that really drives the action: he's brilliant from start to finish, a dark, intense ball of fretting energy clad in a skinny-fitting tuxedo and a mac. A cockney Lenny Bruce, if you like. The milieu helps too, as Hughes makes the most of the Soho setting to intercut the interior shots with evocative street scenes made crisp and perfect by this 2K restoration. And keep an eye out for the supporting cast, among them Wilfred Brambell (old man Steptoe in Steptoe And Son), Warren Mitchell (later to star as Alf Garnett in Til Death Us Do Part), Derek Nimmo (as a camp flower arranger), Scottish actor Roy Kinnear and Julia Foster as Patsy, the innocent Yorkshire girl who turns up on Sammy's doorstep.
Elstree 1976 (12)
Soda Pictures, £17.99
Forty years after Star Wars was made at London's Elstree Studios in the baking summer of 1976, George Lucas's space western has never been bigger. So much so that even those who played bit parts in the original or who were simply hired as extras, can make a decent living flogging photos, autographs and memories at the scores of fan conventions held annually all over the world.
In this entertaining if slightly rambling documentary, director Jon Spira tracks down some of these people and mines their experiences of working on the film for wider revelations about how it affected their lives and, if they had one, their subsequent careers.
Top dog on the fan circuit is genial 78-year-old Dave Prowse, the former bodybuilder and bit part player chosen to take the role of Darth Vader. Readers of a certain age will have fond memories of Prowse as Green Cross Code Man, a superhero-style character in a series of late-1970s road safety campaigns, and he's no less value here, noting gleefully that he has been banned from the two biggest (and official) Star Wars conventions for refusing to stop signing autographs with the phrase “Dave Prowse is Darth Vader”.
Another fan favourite is Jeremy Bulloch. He played cult baddie Boba Fett, an alien bounty hunter who features heavily in the various video game, book and comic spin-offs. But Bulloch's Star Wars fame came from behind a rubber mask which, as Edinburgh-based Canadian actor Angus McInnes archly notes, makes you more money on the fan circuit than if you were what he calls “a face”. McInnes played X Wing pilot Gold Leader. Without a mask.
Other participants include Derek Lyons, whose father had links to the Krays and who was a fresh-faced 18-year-old when found himself loitering in the background on several key scenes, and Laurie Goode, one of a couple of extras who claims to have been the stormtrooper who can be seen banging his head on a slow-opening blast shutter. You couldn't see very well through the helmets, apparently.