BEST FOREIGN FILMS RENTALS (1999)
Subtitled "Videos from Around the World" on the painted mural that adorns its outside wall, this truly international tape outlet is also a local treasure. We nearly flipped when we found Hou Hsiao-hsien's The Puppetmaster during a recent visit, and the many other ultrararities here include something for everyone from just about everywhere: Spain, Poland, Yugoslavia, France, Israel, Sweden, Russia, and more, each country given its own amply stocked shelf and often arranged by auteur (oo la la). But the highlight of this store (aside from the rental prices, which are as low as $1.66 per tape per day) is clearly its stunning Asian action collection, which numbers in the several hundreds of tapes and is categorized according to such stars as Chow Yun-Fat, Michelle Yeoh, Yuen Biao, and Jet Li, with an entire rack devoted to Jackie Chan. And did we mention the Japanimation? The shop is unkempt but also utterly unpretentious, with laser-printed signs offering, "If You Don't See What You Want--Ask!" Luckily, it doesn't often get to that point, not with such hard-to-find foreign titles as Ingmar Bergman's Brink of Life, "Beat" Takeshi Kitano's Violent Cop, Bigas Luna's Golden Balls, Dennis Potter's Secret Friends, Jean-Luc Godard's Sauve qui peut (la vie), or Ana Belén's wonderfully named How to Be a Woman and Not Die in the Attempt.