Thursday, August 19, 2021

Brief Crossing (2001)

I wanted to come back and revisit the DVD releases of this film, which I'd given rather hasty, minimal coverage of in my original post. I've found, really digging into a proper comparison between the two available releases, that the distinction was greater than I thought.

Brief Crossing (Brève traversée in its homeland), about a chance encounter between an English woman in her mid 30's (Sarah Pratt) and a 16 year-old French boy (Gilles Guillan) during an overnight ferry ride, is a more subdued film, at least by Breillat standards. It still has an extensive, 10 minute long sex scene in the second act. But by and large, it's just intently focused on the flirtations and almost Socratic dialogue between the two leads who enter and leave each other's lives in a single night.

This film is available on two DVDs: the 2004 US edition from Wellspring (which has since been absorbed into the Weinsteins' Genius Products company) and the subsequent 2006 UK one from Second Sight Films.

US DVD on top; UK DVD below.
Both are widescreen transfers, but only the R2 PAL DVD is anamorphic. I've left the negative space around both screenshots so you can see how it will display on your set. What's more, the US disc is interlaced, presumably due to a poor PAL conversion, since both discs have nearly identical run times. Oh, and it's vertically stretched a bit, making the characters tall and skinny, while still cropping a substantial amount of picture off around the edges. Actually, the UK disc might be stretched a bit in the other direction at the same time, making everything too wide. You start getting into a weird uncanny valley comparing the two transfers: exactly how wide are these actors' natural faces? So maybe it's a trade-off in that respect. But the US disc is also a bit softer. So while a blu-ray would be ideal, to get this image into HD and really refine the aspect ratio and everything to perfection, I don't see that on the horizon anytime soon. So for now, and quite possibly always, the Second Sight disc is by far the preferable transfer.
However, Wellspring went the extra mile and recorded a new interview with the director for their edition. It's just over twenty minutes and nice to have since this film is one that rarely gets discussed. The US disc also has an exclusive 5.1 mix (both discs have the standard Dolby stereo track and removable English subtitles), which might be a draw for audiophiles. So you'll want to get the UK disc; but if you're a dedicated enough fan, it could be worth getting both.

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Breillat's First Movie In Eight Years: Inavouable

I'm excited to have something new to report on this site, something big: a whole new movie.  Titled Inavouable, this will be Catherine Breillat's first new feature length film since Abuse of Weakness in 2013.  Producer Saïd Ben Saïd (Bacurau, Maps To the Stars) first announced it by posting the title page of the screenplay on Twitter March 29 with the simple descriptor "[b]ientôt" (soon), and has since been posting updates since.

The film is set to star Valeria Bruni Tedeschi and Olivier Rabourdi.  It's actually a remake of the recent NC-17 Danish film Queen Of Hearts about a lawyer who has an affair with her teenage stepson.  The taboo sexual drama certainly feels like it's in Breillat's wheelhouse, but hopefully she's chosen this project because she feels she has something unique to express and wasn't just brought on to replicate the same film in another language because she sounded like an obvious choice.  But we'll see; I have faith.  It's certainly a good sign that she's both the writer and director.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

A New (Mini) Film By Catherine Breillat Out Now!

Catherine Breillat has made a new film, and it's playing in theaters and streaming online now!  ...But, before you get too carried away, I should point out that this is an extremely short film.  It's part of Strand Films' (the company that's distributed her last several films here in the US) film series called 30/30 Vision: 3 Decades of Strand Releasing.  It's a series of thirty short films, each roughly a minute long, filmed on iphones by thirty of the filmmakers Strand has worked with over the past three decades.  Some of the other noteworthy filmmakers include John Waters, Rose Troche, James Schamus, Cindy Sherman, Claire Denis and Gregg Araki.

So yeah, as you can imagine, a single minute filmed on their phones suggests they're aiming pretty low compared to these filmmakers' usual feature work.  But that doesn't mean we don't wanna see them, right?  Well, all thirty films are playing together in various screenings throughout the month of December, including at the San Franciso Museum of Modern Art and UCLA.  Sounds like a fun event to attend!

But let's say you don't live in a hip, smartly artistically served community.  Or maybe, since you're here at and not, you only care about Catherine's film.  You just wanna watch it quick and painlessly online.  Well, you're in luck!  A neat little website called happens to be streaming all of the female-directed 30/30 shorts, and Breillat's is right at the top of the list!  There ya go.  It's obviously a minor work, but for us starved Breillat fans who haven't had a new film from her in six years now, a "sad but beautiful" video postcard from our beloved director should be very welcome.  She says she's out there writing, so maybe we'll get another movie soon... and this can be a DVD extra!

Friday, July 26, 2019

Romance Finally In HD!

Okay, so they didn't quite make their April 19th release date, but that's okay.  Second Sight's blu-ray of Romance has finally arrived!  This should be especially big news for anyone who still has the US DVD, which wasn't even anamorphic.  I've already covered a good deal about this release when it was announced, though now that it's landed I can now confirm all of that info was correct: it is indeed uncut and the three promised interviews are on there...  Even on the packaging, they still don't tell us any information about this new scan: is it 2k, 4k or what?  If they'd sprung for 4k, though, I'm sure they would've told us, so I think it's safe to assume it's not.  But now that we have it in-hand, we can take a close up look, and even make a DVDExotica-style screenshot comparison to the old DVD, so let's do that!
US 2000 Lions Gate DVD on top; UK 2019 Second Sight BD bottom.
So I left the negative space around the first set of shots so you can get a clearer idea of the framing, and just how annoying non-anamorphic DVDs are in the age of modern, widescreen monitors.  It just floats there in a sea of negative space.  Anyway, the aspect ratio is almost the same, with the blu-ray slightly correcting the DVD's 1.61:1 to a properly pillar-boxed 1.66:1.  This essentially means the blu-ray has a little extra information along the left-hand side, and a sliver along the top.  The DVD's also slightly vertically squished.  Colors and levels are pretty much the same, although the BD is a bit on the light, or even pale, side.  Detail and resolution, however, are a massive leap forward in PQ.  You can see the film grain, making it look like a proper movie, unlike the DVD, which smears and compresses everything fine away.  The picture is decidedly sharper now, with no unwanted tinkering (i.e. edge enhancement, artificial sharpening or digital noise reduction), presented in 1080p with a high bitrate on a dual-layered disc.

The BD does pare away some language options, but it keeps the only important stuff, so I'm fine with it.  The DVD had both the original French audio and a slightly cringey English dub, both in Dolby stereo, as well as English, French and Spanish subtitles.  Second Sight ditches the dub, giving us just the French audio with optional English subtitles.  And Second Sight does add something to the audio mix, giving us the choice of the original stereo mix or a 5.1 remix, both in lossless DTS-HD.
And, of course, they've finally made it a bit of a special edition.  Each of the interviews is roughly 20 minutes, and are a must-watch for any fan of the film.  A minor disappointment is a lack of the trailer, which even the old Trimark DVD had (remember "www...taste... romance... com?").  So okay, that and it's a shame to lose the English dub, even if it's just to amuse yourself by snickering at.  But it all adds up to a teensy tiny step backwards and a massive leap forwards.  Great news for us Breillat fans, so let's hope they tackle another one of her films soon!

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Romance (X) Restored for Blu-ray!

It's been a while since we've had any good news on the Breillat home video front, but here's some now!  1999's Romance, or Romance X as it's known in many markets, is getting restored in HD for an all new, special edition blu-ray!  Due to hit stores just next month, April 19, it's being put out by Second Sight in the UK, and its Amazon listing boasts a "[b]rand new scan and restoration."  Up 'till now, all existing DVD editions have been pretty barebones.  The French DVD had an interview with Breillat, but it wasn't English friendly, so it wasn't much more help.  Second Sight, however, promises all new interviews with Catherine Breillat, star Caroline Ducey and producer Jean-Francoise Lepetit, finally giving this film the level of special edition it deserves!

Now, you may remember that the original UK DVD had a brief bit of its extremely graphic sexuality cut.  That DVD was put out by a company called Bluelight.  But in 2014, Second Sight reissued Romance on DVD (bumping their non-anamorphic transfer up to anamorphic in the process), and they got that cut waived by the BBFC.  So it's highly unlikely that this new 2019 edition should have any concerns on that front.

So this is exciting!  Hopefully this is just the beginning, as a lot of Breillat's work is in desperate need of rescue from their very dated DVD transfers, to say nothing of those films still M.I.A....  But for right now, we can be pretty happy with this.