January physical media picks: The Holdovers DVD, a Dubai-themed coffee table book and more

The National staff choose their top new titles this month to add to your collection

January physical media picks. A Walter Hill Film, Dubai Is My Home and The Holdovers. Photo: MZS Press, Medina Publishing, Miramax
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A new year brings promise of all things extravagant and accessible. With all kinds of media becoming available via digital streaming, it’s time to take ownership of the media we appreciate and consume.

From a melancholic but funny Christmas film to a book about making Dubai a home, here are our physical media picks for new releases in January.

Chantal Akerman Masterpieces, 1968–1978 (January 23)

$99.95 (Dh367), The Criterion Collection

At the end of 2022, something extraordinary happened in the world of film criticism. For the first time, a female-directed film found itself atop the Sight & Sound Greatest Film of All Time list, which is released only once every decade and has been a reliable bellwether of popular taste since its launch in 1952.

That film was Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles by Belgian director Chantal Akerman, an experimental chronicle of one woman’s home life over three days that has remained divisive since its 1975 release.

Some have mislabelled Akerman as a one hit wonder, but her career was rich and varied, proven in part by this remarkable new set from the Criterion Collection, which brings together the nine films she made over the first 10 years of her career, including Jeanne Dielman – nine and a half if you count her unfinished film Hanging Out Yonkers, also included.

In true Criterion fashion, this is a feast for both long-time fans and newcomers, with essays, documentaries, early film school footage and more that help provide an invaluable snapshot of the filmmaker who directed the consensus best film ever made.

William Mullally, Arts & Culture Editor

Brion Gysin - Junk (January 26)

22.00 (Dh88), Wewantsounds

The infamous British-Canadian multi-hyphenate Brion Gysin is best known in the artistic and literary communities, but his contributions across media are revelatory and yet still unheralded.

Once called "the only man I ever respected" by Naked Lunch author William S Burroughs, Gysin also spent his long career with strong ties to the Arab world. He was one of the founders of the Tangiers beat scene in the 1950s, the proprietor of the restaurant 1001 Nights, which served as a cultural hub at the time. It was there that he met Burroughs, and the two soon invented the Dadaist cut-up technique that still has influence today. He also dedicated most of his life to his calligraphic works inspired directly by Arabic script.

With all that said, did you know he also released one of the wildest avant-funk albums of the 1980s? The French boutique label Wewantsounds is reissuing that album, inaptly titled Junk, for the first time since its original limited pressing, along with a new introduction by Gysin scholar Jason Weiss. David Bowie and Laurie Anderson were known fans of his work, and he might now finally find the music audience he deserves.

William Mullally, Arts & Culture Editor

The Holdovers (January 2)

$24.95 (Dh92), Universal Home Entertainment

Omaha native Alexander Payne has been making thoughtful and enjoyable cinematic romps since making Citizen Ruth in 1996. His timeless classics include films such as About Schmidt, Sideways and Nebraska.

Payne’s films are personal and intimate but also universal in their appeal. His most recent film, The Holdovers, tells the story of three mismatched people who must spend Christmas together due to unforeseen circumstances.

It stars Paul Giamatti as a bitter but witty history teacher at a boarding school. Due to being unpopular among his peers, Giamatti’s character is tasked with staying at the school during Christmas break while everyone else goes home for the holidays. Eventually, it is just one student, played brilliantly by newcomer Dominic Sessa, who stays behind, and the school's lunch lady, played by Da'Vine Joy Randolph, a lonely mother who lost her child in the Vietnam War.

The three characters soon form an unlikely bond as they all battle their personal demons, while attempting to improve the predicament they find themselves in.

The film’s home video release is a collector’s edition that includes a Blu-ray Disc and a DVD disc. The release also includes additional material to dive into including deleted scenes, an alternate ending, two production videos that cover the actors and the making of the film.

Faisal Salah, Gaming & Social Journalist

Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown (January 18)

AED 200, Ubisoft

The Prince of Persia series has been a cornerstone of platforming games since the release of the first game in 1989.

With fantastical settings and exciting gameplay, the series experienced continued success until 2010s The Forgotten Sands. There are now eight mainline titles.

The latest release comes with a fresh experience that both throws back to the first game and adds new traversing mechanics to bring in new players. Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown offers a lively and frenetic gaming experience as the main character Sargon can jump, dash and slide through levels while fending off oncoming obstacles.

The title is worth owning and keeping in your library for its potential to be revisited and played again over time. It’s also suitable for all ages and can be purchased for all the new gaming consoles.

Faisal Salah, Gaming & Social Journalist

Dubai is My Home by Marie-Jeanne Acquaviva and Olivia Froudkine (January 29)

$65.00 (Dh200), Medina Publishing Limited

Everyone knows Dubai. At least they think they do.

As one of the most globally recognised cities in the world, the impression of Dubai is often riddled with cliches. Dubai is My Home goes beyond the ideas of sleek skyscrapers, gold souks and designer stores in malls.

Through personal stories and captivating photography, this book explores the diverse spectrum of local residents and expats all of whom call Dubai home. The collection of stories is of one of the first of its kind about the city and would make a great addition to anyone’s personal library. The cover design will not only add a burst of colour to your home, but the content is a reminder that Dubai is filled with people who have real lives and roots in a city that has seen so much growth and change over the years.

Maan Jalal, Arts & Culture Reporter

Jingul by Ustad Noor Bakhsh (January 19)

$29.99 (Dh110), honiunhoni

There are musicians whose names are inextricable from their instruments. Think the sitar with Ravi Shankar, the electric guitar with Jimi Hendrix, or the duduk with Djivan Gasparyan. Similarly, the benju immediately evokes Ustad Noor Bakhsh.

The benju – a droning keyed zither – is a prominent voice in the music of Pakistan’s Balochistan region, and Bakhsh is regarded as one of its most talented players. A well-known figure in Balochistan for decades, Bakhsh has just begun receiving worldwide recognition for his music. His first recording, Jingul, was only published in 2022 as a collaboration between labels honiunhoni and Hive Mind Records. A vinyl edition of the album is now being re-released.

The work will surely be a noteworthy addition to your record collection. A meditative 11-song album, Jingul spreads a sonic landscape that takes cues from the Sufi devotional music of qawwali. Between the lilting twangs of Bakhsh’s benju and the accompanying pair of Tanpura, Jingul will likely dominate your turntable for weeks as a soothing soundtrack with which to conclude a workday.

Razmig Bedirian, Arts & Culture Reporter

A Walter Hill Film (January 17)

$49.99 (Dh183), MZS Press

The still-active cult filmmaker Walter Hill has made plenty of movies that are beloved. He directed 48 Hrs, The Warriors, Streets of Fire and HBO’s classic series Deadwood, not to mention producing the entire Alien series, but has never gotten the respect he has long deserved.

New York Times contributor Walter Chaw has finally righted that wrong with this lovingly produced 400-plus-page critical study of Hill’s works, the culmination of four years of interviews with the filmmaker, as well as in-depth study of his works. The ultra-limited volume from art book publisher MZS Press also includes written contribution from director Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, Scott Pilgrim vs the World).

A Walter Hill Film is a study of a career that has revealed itself to me as extraordinarily sensitive to issues around race and gender; a “man’s man” director actually brave enough to show things as they really are in our world – broken, hostile towards culturally-proscribed underclasses, with pieces consistent through what is now a seventh decade,” says Shaw.

William Mullally, Arts & Culture Editor

Updated: January 23, 2024, 7:15 AM