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precarious since 1997 | by maryann johanson

new on DVD: murder, revenge, swordfighting, true love… and Aeon Flux

If you missed Casanova (read my review/buy at Amazon) when it slipped almost unnoticed through the multiplexes at Christmastime — and got drowned out in watercooler chatter by star Heath Ledger’s other romantic turn on film right around then — now’s your chance to catch up with one of the most delightful films of 2005. Playful and sexy in a refreshingly grownup way, it turns romance into a battle of wits and love into a duel… including plenty of actual swordplay. Between Brokeback Mountain and his wonderfully mischievous performance here, it’s now officially impossible not to be in love with Heath.

Love is a much more serious affair in Tristan & Isolde (read my review/buy at Amazon), the surprisingly good retelling of Western civilization’s ur-tragic love story. It achieves the difficult balance that Hollywood films set in the medieval world rarely do: it manages neither to look like it was shot at a Renaissance festival nor to inspire you to start quoting from Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

Love and romance and sex in contemporary life rarely features rapiers, but revenge is often on the menu. To wit: Woody Allen’s Match Point (not reviewed/buy at Amazon), in which he goes all Hitchcock on us with the tale of a social-climbing London tennis pro (Jonathan Rhys Myers) and the golden girl (Scarlett Johansson) who makes his life an agony of lust, lies, and getting even. (Damn, it’s nice to see a good film from Allen again after his recent string of disasters.) Such things are handled far more slyly and subtly in Shopgirl (not reviewed/buy at Amazon), based on Steve Martin’s novella, in which his well-off older man seduces a struggling retail clerk (Claire Danes) and gets in deeper than he meant to. It’s all a bit too undercooked to really enthrall, but the performances are lovely.

And then there’s Aeon Flux (read my review/buy at Amazon), which features the whole stew of love, sex, revenge, intrigue, and girls in skintight Lycra kicking ass. And is only worth seeing if girls in skintight Lycra kicking ass is your thing.

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