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Project Grizzly

As Werner Herzog’s Grizzly Man comes to the end of its theatrical run, Reaction Releasing and Ventura Entertainment bring another much-lauded man-meets-bear documentary to DVD, director Peter Lynch’s Project Grizzly (1996). Lynch’s portrait of naturalist Troy Hurtubise doesn’t share the tragic trajectory of Herzog’s exploration of bear-watcher Timothy Treadwell’s life and death, but it revels in documenting the same eccentric energy of a man running headlong into the sublime. A Canadian scrap-metal dealer with a degree in natural sciences, Hurtubise discovered his life’s mission after surviving a face-to-face encounter with a wild grizzly. Using his own money and resources, he set out to build a grizzly-proof suit to facilitate, he says, close-quarters bear research. Hurtubise’s claims to science, however, are made suspect not only by the homespun appearance of his prototype — an awkward fusion of a space suit and medieval armor — but by his unorthodox testing methods. Lynch mines much humor from scenes of Hurtubise, in full costume, being thrown down a hill, hit with swinging logs and run into by a flatbed truck, while Hurtubise himself cultivates a decidedly mythical and mystical aura. Dressed as a modern-day Daniel Boone with buckskin and bowie knives, he speaks of spirit guides and revelatory dreams, and there’s never much doubt that he longs to once more ride those waves of primal fear and wonder that swelled when he first ran into the bear he calls The Old Man. Lynch underscores that desire by intercutting dreary shots of Hurtubise’s slow-moving rural hometown with majestic scenes of Canada’s northern wilderness. Whatever else its purpose, Hurtubise’s suit is an ingenious means of escape.

Other recommended new releases: Arrested Development: The Complete Second Season (DVD); Flesh (DVD); Heat (DVD); Soap: The Complete Fourth Season (DVD); Trash (DVD).Also released this week:VHS/DVD: The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. DVD: 11:14; Bionicle 3: Web of Shadows; Bomb the System; The Bridge of San Luis Rey; Ellen Degeneres: The Beginning & Here and Now; The Fog (Dhund); The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air: The Complete Second Season; Greatest Ballets of the World: The Nutcracker, Romeo and Juliet, The Sleeping Beauty, Swan Lake; Happily Ever After; Hondo; The Jeffersons: The Complete Fourth Season; Kicking & Screaming (2005); Kingdom of Heaven; Last Goodbye; Martha’s Classic Thanksgiving; Martha’s Favorite Family Dinners; Martha’s Holidays 2005; Martha’s Homemade Holidays; McClintock; Only Fools and Horses: Complete Series 6; Pure Heat: Ultimate MLB; Sex-A-Go-Go Collection: The Yellow Teddybears/Zeta One/Secrets of A Windmill Girl/Girl Flesh; Show Me; Tom and Jerry: The Fast and the Furry; Unleashed; Unveiled; Veronica Mars: The Complete First Season.