Released to celebrate the 40thanniversary of its cinematic release, this gentle French comedy is the latest in a string of re-mastered blu-rays from Studio Canal. Written and directed by Claude Sautet (Les Choses de la Vie), starring Yves Montand, Sami Frey and Romy Schneider, it tells the story of a vivacious young woman caught in an emotional triangle between her first adolescent love and a suave, successful entrepreneur.
Although described as a comedy, the humour is subtle and quite possibly loses something in translation as well. It’s all pleasant enough, but unlike some foreign movies, I did struggle to follow the storyline through the subtitles as closely as I would like.
Romy Schneider was the archetypal troubled actress. Beautiful and fragile, her life was as tragic as any film script. She was married and divorced twice, bore two children, one of whom died when he was impaled on a fence and she died as much from grief as from the...[Read the complete movie review]
At first glance, the 1.66:1 Mpeg AVC picture looks incredibly clean and bright. Film grain is limited, scratches and other film imperfections are removed and the colour grading is excellent. The issue is that the clean-up has been a little over zealous with the lack of detail most noticeable around faces, with fines lines and shadows all missing. Items of clothing take on an almost solarised appearance, with digital noise replacing the detail. Skies look like solid blocks of colour instead of containing gentle differences and the beach scenes also suffer as well, with the sand looking more like a sheet of material than actual grains. The softness of the picture is not the only issue with colour gamut limited and shadow detail very low. Edge enhancement is not visible, so no nasty cut out people against the background or anything like that. All of this makes it a very easy film to watch, but it is not exactly hifi!
The camerawork is first rate albeit rather safe throughout, with very few focus issues. Depth of field is fairly wide, feeling more “TV” than movie, but this is a stylistic thing that is seen in most movies of the genre from this period. There are some great expansive pans and some neat in car footage, but it is all too easy to see where a cheap optical effect has been used to simulate a background to make us think a static car is actually moving.
Another good master from Studiocanal, but the clean-up has just been a little too harsh this time.
Picture score : 6
The original mono soundtrack has been transferred to a DTS-MA HD stream and sounds as good as it possibly can. Dialogue is clean, but the sound effects are not convincing, with the range of car sounds too limited and very little in the way of background clutter – seagulls on the beach, people chatting in the coffee bar, that sort of thing. The music sounds a bit brittle at times, suggesting that the audio has been brightened up a bit and as with the picture, the noise reduction has been a little too harsh.
Sound score : 6
Just one short graces the disc. This is unsurprising given that many of the original stars and director are long since dead, but what they have put together is very good. Titled Serenade for Three, we are treated to interviews with the key surviving crew, including various designers and producers. Running at a little over 30 minutes and in HD it is worth watching, even if some of it is a little impenetrable.
The disc menu is very simple, with just a France / UK language selection (The UK selection simply puts the menu into English and turns on the subtitles) and the short to watch. There are no extra language tracks and only subtitles in English and French. The resume feature is not well implemented. Eject the disc or turn off the player and you are relying on the limited scene selection menu to find your way back to the point you left the movie.
Subtitling is generally very good throughout the movie and short, with just one scene where Cesar explains the relationship between Rosalie and her family members present in the room where unless you can speed read, the words disappear too quickly. I did not spot and major gaffes or typos but simpler French and the few words of English are not displayed on the screen. This may be an issue for the hard of hearing but please bear in mind this is not advertised as an SDH subtitle, merely a translation.
Extras score : 5
A gentle romantic film that struggles through the language barrier somewhat. There is no denying the depth of the performance from any of the leading cast and the direction and storyline are commendably strong, but I can’t help thinking that the pace is too slow for our modern viewing and the plot a little too simple. On the plus side, the film has not dated as much as some from the era and remains quite watchable. There is a little violence and occasional partial nudity but not enough to offend and the few profanities are not usually translated.
Not quite the technical masterpiece that some Studiocanal films are. The picture has been over stabilised and cleaned up, leading to a softening of the picture and too much flattening of colour. This does not affect the watchability of the film but it hardly makes a reference disc.
If you are a lover of French cinema and appreciate the finer points of romantic comedy, there is much to recommend here. The acting is of a high calibre and from a well-respected cast. As a general release its appeal is more limited and the slow pace does it no favours. A niche release if ever there was one.
Overall score : 7
828 word review written by Matthew Jarvis.
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