If there is a film-nerd heaven

Cinema Revolution refuses to sacrifice quality for quantity.

Tom Horgen

When hard-core film buffs go to sleep at night, Cinema Revolution is what they dream about.

It’s a sleekly designed DVD rental store that specializes in foreign and independent films. While there are other like-minded rental shops in the Twin Cities, none of them look like Cinema Revolution. And hey, this is the movies we’re talking about here. The look is everything.

The little haven for cineastes, located upstairs from the Taj of India in trendy Uptown, knows this well. As you enter the brightly lit store, a silver widescreen television, playing something you should probably see, greets you. The neatly kept rows of DVDs, organized by nation and then by filmmaker stretch into the horizon. Very auteur friendly.

Cinema Revolution opened last October with 400 titles and is now up to about 650. The store’s owner, John Koch, hopes to be at 1,000 by the one-year anniversary.

“It’s our No. 1 goal, even before anyone gets paid around here,” he said jokingly.

Given the store’s niche market, its modest catalog is quite impressive. You’ll find almost complete filmographies of the world’s best directors (of those films available on DVD at least). The big guys: Federico Fellini, Jean-Luc Godard, Akira Kurosawa and Ingmar Bergman are represented well. As are less-recognized figures such as Pier Paolo Pasolini and Rainer Werner Fassbinder.

Of course, American indie masters such as David Lynch, John Cassavetes and John Sayles are there with rows of DVDs as well.

The store’s inventory includes roughly two-thirds of the prestigious Criterion Collection catalog (about 235 films). Criterion produces the best looking, most heavily stacked DVDs for classic and foreign films.

Koch admits that the store’s catalog is currently a bit Eurocentric, but he’s committed to expanding his Asian and Latin American sections. He wants to eventually acquire more Bollywood, anime and Hollywood classics. In the next couple months he’ll create a film noir section, adding about 20 movies about hard-boiled detectives and femme fatales.

Koch said his database of customer requests is usually his best indicator of what to get next. Customers can see what’s on tap at the store’s Web site.

Koch initially thought he’d have to rent out current indie hits so that he could eventually build his collection of less-talked-about films – such as those by Russian master Andrei Tarkovsky, one of his favorites. But Koch has found that many of his customers have as deep an appreciation for those films as he does.

“At first I thought I’d rent movies like ‘Bend It Like Beckham’ to enable me to rent stuff like Tarkovsky. But it’s been the opposite,” Koch said.

The customers have spoken. The revolution is here.