My Life As A Courgette (PG)

Thunderbird Releasing, £17.99

Premiered in the Cannes Film Festival's Director's Fortnight strand last year and subsequently nominated for an Oscar – it lost out to Disney's Zootopia – this bitter-sweet film from Swiss animator Claude Barras turns on the lives of a group of children living in care in a residential home in France. Nine-year-old Courgette, our hero, is there because he inadvertently caused his alcoholic mother to kill herself falling down the stairs, the scene which opens the film. His real name is Icare but, as he tells caring police officer Raymond, he prefers Courgette, the nickname his mother gave him.

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Other children at the home have similar stories: Beatrice's mother has been deported, Ahmed's father is in prison for robbery, Alice's father (also in prison) was “a creep”, according to posturing-but-vulnerable Simon, who provides Courgette with everyone's back story. The next arrival after Courgette is Camille, with whom he strikes up a deep friendship and whose own background is even worse than his – her father killed her mother and then shot himself. There are other ways in which the film doesn't shirk from the real world, such as when Simon gives the assembled gang a sweetly misguided explanation of how the sex act works: the woman agrees with the man over and over again until his willy explodes, he says. Given all that, the PG rating is a little hard to comprehend.

Shot using stop-motion techniques with occasional animated additions, such as when the kids go on a funfair ghost train ride, the film looks fantastic, though. Borrowing from Japanese anime, the character design emphasises the children's faces and in particular their eyes, while at the same time making them less cloyingly cute than in a typical Studio Ghibli offering. An affecting and moving film, with an ending every bit as bitter-sweet as the rest of it. Extras include an introduction by Peter Lord of Aardman Films and a Making Of documentary.

Vampir Cuadecuc (U)

Second Run, £12.99

When cult Spanish horror director Jess Franco re-created 19th century Transylvania in Barcelona in 1969 for the purposes of making Count Dracula – “a doggedly faithful adaptation”, according to a contemporary review in The New York Times – he had in his army of technicians and helpers the three man crew of experimental Catalan film-maker (and devoted anti-Franco campaigner) Pepe Portabella. Then in his 40s, Portabella had incurred the wrath of the Franco regime a decade earlier when he produced Luis Bunuel's Palme d'Or-winning Viridiana, a coded (but scathing) attack on modern Spain. Here, he shoots a Making Of documentary, though unlike any you've ever seen before. Entirely silent apart from a Carles Santos soundtrack which runs from grinding dissonance to lounge jazz to minimalist, arrhythmic percussion, it's shot in black and white on heavily-exposed film stock which gives it the look of the degraded, Expressionist films of half a century earlier: works such as FW Murnau's 1922 masterpiece Nosferatu, or Carl Dreyer's Vampyr, from 1932. We watch the film's stars preparing for scenes – primarily Christopher Lee but also Soledad Miranda, who would go on to star in Franco's 1970 film Vampyros Lesbos and die in a car crash just months later – and we slowly start to see Portabella's political intention: Franco is the vampire, obviously, while the lack of audible words refers to the dictator's ban on the Catalan language. More than that Vampir Cuadecuc is a sly, intelligent, thought-provoking, arty and monochromatically ravishing dig at the whole process of film-making. Cuadecuc, by the way, is Catalan for the tail of the worm, though it also refers to the bit of a camera film which is left unexposed in the canister.

Cardinal (15)

Entertainment One, £19.99

With its snow scenes and heavy use of fur-trimmed parkas, a storyline involving a missing girl and a maverick cop with issues struggling to accept the new partner who has been foisted on him, this six-parter could easily feel like yet another remake of a Scandi Noir hit. In fact the Canadian series is an adaptation of Forty Words For Sorrow, the first in a six-strong set of novels by Ontario-based author Giles Blunt which throw John Cardinal (the maverick cop) and Lise Delorme (the rookie partner) into a variety of mysteries.

That said, American actor Billy Campbell has form (sort of) where remakes of Scandi Noir hits are concerned. He plays brooding John Cardinal here, but in the US remake of The Killing he had the Lars Mikkelsen role, as the local politician implicated in the murder. Quebec-born Karine Vanasse plays Lise Delorme.

The event which brings Cardinal and Delorme together is the discovery of the body of a girl who had been reported missing some months earlier, a member of Canada's so-called First Nations indigenous population. Political sensitivities immediately come into play for Cardinal's superiors, though the man himself is more concerned with his developing theory that there's a serial killer loose. Meanwhile, an early reveal lets us know that Delorme isn't all she seems.

Cardinal screened on BBC Four earlier this year and will probably do so again – the Canadians have commissioned two more seasons, based on the third, fourth and five books in the series.