When this film landed on the door mat I really did not know what to expect. If you have read any of my other reviews you will understand I am “Mr Mainstream”, concentrating on major and popular releases and leaving the more art house and specialist movies to my esteemed colleagues. Having said all of that, I am a voracious viewer of anything different and looked forward to getting my teeth into something entirely different. Released on its 40thanniversary, The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie is a satirical, farce like film built around the simple premise of a group of the French social elite trying to meet for a dinner party. For a huge variety of increasingly surreal reasons, it seems they are feted to never achieve this outwardly basic task. To give you a full synopsis would entirely spoil your viewing pleasure of this movie. There is nothing predictable or formulaic about the storyline and the stylised cinematic presentation will keep you hooked....[Read the complete movie review]
The transfer to Blu-Ray is OK, it’s a 24P MPEG 4 AVC stream in 16:9, so no compatibility issues. It does look a little “TV” at times, as if the image has been overly processed with a lack of film grain, but given the relatively low quality of the original footage, this is maybe to be expected. Film scratches and dust have all been removed and the picture oscillates between looking extremely sharp (Almost too sharp at times) to quite soft. What does come across is the excellent lighting and limited re-grading required to give consistent shots. Low level detail is missing to a fairly large extent with a few shots looking a little solarised at times. Don’t expect modern picture quality, but compared to some other re-releases of a similar vintage, this one holds up well.
Picture score : 6
Probably the most disappointing element of the release. The original mono soundtrack has been faithfully reproduced utilising a DTS-HD Master 2.0 stream. The original audio was not great and with more modern reproduction equipment, this really becomes quite noticeable, with poor dynamic range and limited frequency response. Sound effects (We cannot really call them background effects as subtlety is not a strong point of the sound track) do not really integrate well, with out of time footsteps, a laughably poor string quartet overdub that does not even use the correct instruments and a range of maybe 2 or 3 car sounds that are repeatedly used all adding up to a very average original sound track that the Blu-ray faithfully reproduces. What really spoils things though is the appalling lip sync. Take your eyes of the subtitles and concentrate on the speech for a while and just how bad it is becomes very apparent. If this is as a result of the transfer and clean up, then the QC of the final mastering is suspect, but my suspicion is that the initial over dubbing was not that accurate and that is what we are seeing. There is an English soundtrack on the disc but the sound effects are poorer and it loses a lot of its appeal as a foriegn language film.
Sound score : 4
The only real extras are an original trailer and a 35 minute academic exploration of the film and genre as a whole by learned Professor Peter Evans. This is interesting if you do not have much knowledge of the genre but you would only watch it the once. You can select 3 different languages, and select different subtitles. The menu itself is as quirky as the film and fits well. The disc is not the quickest to load but is quiet and speedy once it gets there. Resume support is excellent. What is odd is that you need to go to the Extras menu to select the different language sound tracks. You cannot select this on disc start up. Some might miss it!
Extras score : 5
Don’t let the poor technical scores put you off this movie. Treating it as a technical masterpiece would be to totally miss the point of the release. Take it at face value as a best possible release of an old, art house movie and appreciate the filmmakers art in terms of the skills of the cameraman and director.
This film is one for the collection, a real mind bender in the best tradition of surrealist cinema. These sorts of films rarely get made to this level of complexity and quality in modern times as the market will always be too limited for studios to throw big budget at them. If you enjoy films to push your boundaries and give you a few smirks along the way I think this will be a satisfying evening’s entertainment.
Overall score : 7
629 word review written by Matthew Jarvis.
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