It's been a fabulous few weeks for movies -- at theaters and at home. There are images in the great Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky's Solaris, recently released on Blu-ray and DVD, that are so beautiful they can evoke an aching longing for transcendent experience. This is entirely the point, for the film is about the search for meaning in a God-breathed universe. A man goes to space to investigate a mystery, discovers himself in the face of his loved ones, and ends in an embrace with the divine -- love itself. It's an astonishing work of art that repays multiple viewings, and serves as nothing less than an icon for worship. This summer's The Tree of Life, the fifth film in 40 years from the Christian humanist artist Terrence Malick, becomes something similar, and in the process makes excellent cinematic use of Brad Pitt and Sean Penn as avatars of contemporary masculinity. It's the most moving film I’ve seen this year.
Questions of what it means to be human are also explored in Insignificance, Blow Out, and Kes, all three also released on DVD for reappraisal long after they were made. Insignificance is a smart and amusing fantasy that brings Marilyn Monroe, Sen. Joseph McCarthy, Joe DiMaggio, and Albert Einstein together for a night of conversation, and Blow Out is a playful thriller about the ruination that violence brings to those individuals or nations who think it’s the only option. Kes, English socialist filmmaker Ken Loach's key movie, takes socioeconomic disenfranchisement seriously in its tragic story of a little boy aiming for hope and being crushed by the brokenness that often manifests when men haven't learned to control their own anger. These are magnificent, important films that deserve serious attention.