In Small Packages

A few intrepid independent distributors are willing to risk getting trampled under the studios’ Christmas stampede, especially if they’re angling for Oscars too. In Regis Wargnier’s Indochine, Southeast Asian history disappears into a heroic romance, not unlike The Jewel in the Crown in tone, starring Catherine Deneuve as a rubber-plantation owner whose adoptive daughter (Linh Dan Pham) takes up with a naval officer (Vincent Perez) and turns revolutionary just as French Indochina splits into Vietnam and Cambodia. But perhaps the quintessential Christmas movie comes from Abel Ferrara (King of New York). In Bad Lieutenant (rated the controversial NC-17), Harvey Keitel plays a New York City cop strung out on alcohol, cocaine, heroin, and gambling, who’s assigned to investigate the altar rape of a beautiful nun (Frankie Thorn). “It’s not about New York,” says Ferrara in the press notes. “It’s about the human soul.” Tidings of comfort and joy.

Ella Taylor is a film critic for L. A. Weekly.