Saturday, December 13, 2008

Breillat On (Other People's) DVD

Ok, we've been looking at all of Breillat's films on DVD, but there is something that 'till now we'd overlooked: Catherine Breillat making appearances on English language DVDs of films that aren't her own.

Notably, she's featured on one of the extras for Criterion's DVD of Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom. Specifically she's one of several interview subjects (all speaking English) in the 23 minute documentary, Fade To Black (pictured above), which is included on the second disc. Everyone's given pretty equal time, so she gets to speak for a few minutes at different points, mostly about the sexuality and controversy of Salò. This extra is only available on the second release of Salò that Criterion put out. Their first, now out of print release does not include Fade To Black, or any of the other extras. It should also be pointed out that the actual print of Salò used for this rerelease, like their first attempt, is cut: missing a scene during the wedding sequence; so serious Pasolini fans will have to stick with the region 2 disc from BFI (pictured, right). But this new set from Criterion is worth at least renting for the extras (especially if you're a Breillat completist, of course!).

Catherine Breillat has also cooperated with Criterion in writing an essay entitled Awakening for the booklet packaged with their DVD of Ingmar Bergman's Sawdust and Tinsel. She's not featured on the DVD at all, though; only in the booklet.

Finally, Catherine Breillat is featured in one segment of the IFC's four-part documentary, Indie Sex. Specifically, she's in part 2, Indie Sex: Teens. This film was originally made for the IFC channel on which it aired and features a whole ton of filmmakers and others reminiscing on sex in cinema in a sort of light-hearted Remember the 80's kind of way. It's nothing amazing, but enjoyable as a fun, casual fluff piece. Breillat appears (subtitled) specifically in a section about Fat Girl... including film clips, her own comments, and commentary by three film critics; you get just about 4 minutes worth of material. Breillat fans won't learn anything new, but it's nice to see her work getting spotlighted for people who haven't been introduced to it yet. There are also some extras on the second disc: a short look at stag films, and a decent amount of bonus interview footage; but Catherine Breillat isn't featured in any of that. She's only featured in Teens on disc 1.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Barbe Bleue

It looks like Barbe Bleue (Bluebeard, an adaptation of the famous tale by Charles Perault) wasn't shelved after all; it was completed! Apparently, she filmed it for the Franco-German TV network Arte (Association Relative à la Télévision Européenne), a channel focused on the European arts.

It's produced by Sylvette Frydman and Jean-François Lepetit (written and directed by Breillat, of course), and stars Lola Creton as Marie-Catherine, Daphné Baïwir as Anne and Dominique Thomas as Bluebeard himself.

There's virtually no info about this film in English, so here's a Google translation of the press kit's plot description, so at least you can get the gist: "Often fairy tales take as central a kind of serial killer Child: So is there Ogres. But Bluebeard is the emblematic figure. It is also in the 50-55 years storytelling girls preferred models. This is the case of Catherine, she loves to scare his sister Marie-Anne read him stubbornly the story until she cries. At the same time Catherine planned in the story, she became Princess Marie-Catherine, the last woman Bluebeard, which does not reach women who hanged predecessors. Because it is the virgin princess that Ogre can not bring himself to kill. This hesitation would be fatal. Thus the virgin gets the head of Giant."

Unfortunately, since it's made for television, we may be waiting a very long time for an English translation; but at least we know it exists so there's a chance.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Spanish Dirty Like an Angel DVD

I've just found a Region 4 DVD for Breillat's Dirty Like an Angel (see my original post on the film here), under the Spanish title: Sucia Como un Angel. It's from the DVD company Film House, and apparently has a nice, widescreen print. Unfortunately, however, most reports say they have only added Spanish language options.

At least one website ( does claim it also has English subtitles, however. I'm trying to find out (I've just sent an e-mail to Film House), but if anybody knows or can beat me to the punch in finding out, please let me know!

Update 11/28/08: No word back from Film House, but I talked to someone who sells these discs online and he assures me there are no English subs. Oh well. :(

Monday, November 17, 2008

Bad Love

Catherine Breillat has been giving interviews about her upcoming film, titled Bad Love, based on her recent novel of the same title (pictured right... it has yet to be translated into English). It's set to be produced by Jean-François Lepetit (who also did The Last Mistress), and star Naomi Campbell and Christophe Rocancourt.

The story is about Vivian Parker, a glamorous film actress who meets Louis at a film festival. On a whim, she gives him her phone number and they wind up in a passioniate and destructive love affair.

In one interview, with (click the link to read the whole thing), she explains that the film is "going to be in English, but not like the French directors who want to make an American film... I'm going to make the film in France. Only the beginning will be set in Toronto. I want Niagara Falls. But otherwise, I want to be in my country, in my home, to make a film. Artisanal again." She also talks about the film in this interview with

They're looking for a 2009 release. ...Meanwhile, I guess Barbe Bleue has been shelved? (Actually, it was completed; see this post.)

Saturday, October 25, 2008

UPDATE #2: Last Mistress

For those holding out for a region 1 NTSC edition of The Last Mistress, it will be coming out on November 18th from Mongrel Media in Canada. There's no definitive word on the extras yet, but it will apparently be uncut, and English subtitle options are confirmed.

There's still been no announcement of a US DVD release date; but now... who cares? ;)

Update 12/18/08: According to this review at, this DVD has "no extras to speak of," so you're definitely best off with the region 2 disc at this point. That's possibly just as well, since this version seems to be a bit hard to find...

By the way, Asia Argento is amazing in this. She's really grown as an actress since her early roles.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

New English Police DVD

Just as our copies of Artificial Eye's Last Mistress DVDs are dropping into our mailboxes (in case you forgot, it's out now), Eureka Entertainment announces their upcoming DVD of Police (written by Catherine Breillat, directed by Maurice Pialat... see my previous Police post for more on the film). This special, 2-disc edition is due out in just a few weeks - September 22nd.

It's PAL, region 2, boasts of a "gorgeous new anamorphic transfer of the film in its original aspect ratio" (that's 1.66:1) with "New and improved English subtitle translations." What more could you ask for? Well, how about the extras ported over from France's G.C.T.H.V. edition? They've done that, too! The second disc will feature a 2003 video interview with Pialat and, yes, Breillat. The 35 minute documentary is also included, as well as screen-tests with Maurice Pialat and C. Galmiche, an excerpt from a 1985 episode of Cinéma Cinémas focussing on the production of Police, an interview with the editor, the theatrical trailer, and a 40-page(!) booklet. It seems like the only thing they've left out are the deleted scenes, but it's hard to complain about a DVD presentation like this.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

UPDATE: Last Mistress

An English language DVD of Breillat's The Last Mistress (Une vieille maîtresse) has officially been announced from Artificial Eye (which makes sense, since they're the ones who released it into theatres in that market). It's PAL, Region 2 and scheduled for release on August 25th. No word yet on the features, but Artificial Eye are a good company, so let's be optimistic. =)

This is the first English language DVD of this film, but not the first DVD... see my previous post for info on the French language disc.

Update 7/9/8: Extras confirmed: the theatrical trailer (plus trailers for California Dreamin' (Endless), You, the Living and Terror's Advocate), deleted scenes with commentary by Breillat, and a 24-minute making of documentary... all the same as the French disc, but subtitled.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Catherine and Co. (1975)

We end ...yes, this is the last post until some new DVD or information surfaces - with this post, we've covered it all. I WILL update this blog when there's info that belongs here, though - so keep checking back. So, we end at the beginning, with Catherine Breillat's first film: 1975's Catherine and Co. (Catherine et Cie).

Catherine Breillat cowrote the script to this French sex comedy with producer Léo L. Fuchs, and it was directed by Michel Boisrond. In it, Catherine (Jane Birkin) is a young Parisian prostitute who decides to incorporate herself after learning the ins and outs of big business from her clients. has a great write-up for this film. You'll have to click the link to read the whole thing, but here are some excerpts, "None other than controversial director Catherine Breillat penned the original screenplay for this seemingly inconsequential Jane Birkin vehicle. Written in her early twenties when Breillat was right at the beginning of her career, the silly CATHERINE AND CO. does contain many of the themes that she would explore much more seriously in her later films such as the prostitution of oneself and women's position in modern society. I'm not trying to apply any serious meaning to the very daft CATHERINE AND CO. but Breillat's involvement in the film shouldn't be overlooked and it definitely shares some of the themes of her later works... CATHERINE AND CO. isn't a great film by any means but for the talent in front of and behind the camera it remains well worth searching down. It is currently unavailable on dvd but used copies of it on VHS can be found."

He's right about that, I'm afraid. There is no DVD of this film available in any region. There are however NTSC VHS tapes available in the US that were released from VidAmerica. Definitely disappointing, especially since MoonInTheGutter describes the tape as "an eye sore," but its prospects for a DVD release don't look too good, and at least we do get to see it in English.

So, I hope this blog has been helpful for you... I've learned a lot just putting it together. Like I said at the start of this post, there will be updates when new information comes about (hopefully an English Last Mistress DVD will gracing the pages of this blog rather soon, or an update on Blue Beard) - this will always be the best, most up-to-date source for information on Breillat DVDs - but until then, this is goodbye.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

À propos de Nice, la suite (1995)

A follow up to Jean Vigo's short 1930 documentary A propos de Nice, A propos de Nice, la suite (1995), is really a collection of seven short documentary films combined into one feature. Breillat directed one of the seven segments (the others being: Costa-Gavras, Claire Denis, Raymond Depardon, Pavel Lungin, Raúl Ruiz, Abbas Kiarostami and Parviz Kimiavi).

Once again, seems to be the best source for a write-up: "[t]his French anthology is a tribute to A Propos de Nice (1930), a classic documentary that took a poetic and sometimes satirical look at life in the French Riviera town. This version blends fact and fiction to chronicle life in modern-day Nice and is comprised of seven vignettes, each directed by an internationally renowned filmmaker. Only one of the episodes, 'Reperages,' from Iranian directors Abbas Kiarostami and Parviz Kimiavi, stays close to the style of the original film by Jean Vigo as it chronicles the experiences of a filmmaker who came to Nice to do research on Vigo for his upcoming documentary. A different episode eavesdrops upon a man and two women discussing sociopolitical concerns as they lie indolently on the beach. In another, a photojournalist cruises the city's lively Promenade des Anglais. In a silent vignette, "Nice, Very Nice," a young killer is seen gliding through a crowd of carnival goers on the way to perform a hit. The other three cover subjects ranging from the history of Nice, to a political rally, to a portrait of the city as a popular spot for different kinds of rendezvous."

Breillat's segment is titled "Aux Niçois qui mal y pensent." Google translates that into "To the from Nice one that poorly there think." Heh. So, yeah, I don't know.

I guess DVD studios figure a French documentary paying homage to another French documentary from 65 years ago would have a limited appeal (bah!), since this film has not been released in any region. It ought to be, though.

To Mathieu (2000)

2000's Selon Matthieu (To Mathieu) is Breillat's most recent film that she's written but did not direct, and it's also her most recent film that's still not on DVD in English (excluding Une vieille maîtresse, which we trust is coming).

Breillat cowrote the story with Cédric Anger and director Xavier Beauvois, in which Benoît Magimel plays Matthieu, a factory worker who works with his father in Normandy, until his father is fired for smoking on the job. While Matthieu fights to get his job back for him, his father dies in a car crash. But Matthieu thinks it was a suicide and decides to exact revenge on his boss by having an affair with his wife (Nathalie Baye).

Selon Matthieu is available on DVD, but not with English subtitles. There's a nice, French DVD (R2, PAL) with an anamorphic, widescreen print. This is also available in France as a 2-disc set with another of Beauvois' films, Le Petit lieutenant - the Selon Matthieu disc is the same as the one that's sold seperately. There's a healthy number of extras included in the set, but they're all for the Le Petit lieutenant, not Selon Matthieu.

Oh, and there's an anamorphic, widescreen Spanish DVD, as well. It's Region 2 and PAL encoded, with optional Spanish subtitles and a Spanish dub. But, yeah. Nothing for us English speakers.

Some More Scripts She's Written

Catherine Breillat co-wrote Nuit de l'océan (there's no English title, but it translates to Night of the Ocean), about a mother whose son who disappears at sea, with Luigi De Angelis and director Antoine Perset in 1992. There's no DVD or even video release in any region.

In 1984, she wrote L'Araignée de satin (The Satin Spider) with director Jacques Baratier. Set in the 1920's, Catherine Jourdan plays a ballet instructor who returns to teach at the all-girl boarding school where she grew up, only to discover the girl she'd been sexually intimate with as a teen (Ingrid Caven) is now teaching there, too. There's no DVD of this film, but it was released as an untranslated, PAL VHS in France and even an English subtitled PAL VHS in the UK.

In 1993, Breillat and Pascal Bonitzer wrote Couples et amants (roughly translated: Couples and Lovers) with director John Lvoff. Allmovie gives us this slightly awkward synopsis, "Seemingly, Paul (Jacques Bonaffee) and Isabelle (Marie Brunel) have a wonderful, harmonious marriage. Yet Isabelle is not averse to having a little side action with another man in the afternoon, and Paul is really getting into his romance with one of his ophthalmic patients, a young woman who pursues him more than he pursued her. Even those little affairs might not indicate that there is much wrong with the marriage, but when Paul find's out about Isabelle's little affair, he behaves like a thug rather than the sensitive, easygoing man he has appeared to be. By contrast, the constant bickering of a couple they both know seems to indicate real intimacy between them, despite the fact that they are on the verge of divorce." There is no DVD, but this was released on video in Canada (untranslated, NTSC).

She co-wrote the screenplay for Aventure de Catherine C., about a French actress who moves to Austria, with Jean-Pierre Kremer and director Pierre Beuchot in 1990. It's based on the two Adventure Catherine Crachat novels of Pierre Jean Jouve (which have since been published as one): 1928's Hécate and Vagadu, written in 1931. It was never released on DVD, but did come out as an untranslated, PAL VHS tape in France.

Finally (for this post, there's still a bit more to come), Breillat co-wrote Milan noir (Black Milan) with three other writers, including director Ronald Chammah in 1987. It's a thriller starring Isabelle Huppert who plays, as tells us, "Sarah, a woman who has settled into a more or less normal life in Milan after her lover, a much-wanted terrorist, left the scene. Her life becomes complicated indeed when she becomes aware that he is about to return. The difficulty is that not only is she aware of this, but the police and various underworld groups are also. How is she to protect her own life under the circumstances, much less keep her lover from falling prey to the various traps that are being set for him?"

Do any of these sound interesting? Well, then go get a job at a DVD studio and get them to put them out, please. Because Breillat's films are seriously under-represented on DVD. :(

Three TV Movies

Catherine Breillat scripted three films for French television in the 90's... None of these are available on DVD currently, and I wouldn't hold my breath - but, hey; we can hope. =)

Viens jouer dans la cour des grands (there's no English title, but Google translater makes it Come Play With the Big Boys) aired in 1997. Directed by Caroline Huppert (yes, related to Isabelle Huppert - she's her sister, though Caroline has apparently had a pretty full career in television herself, writing and directing for television) tells the story of a young girl (Isabelle Carré) who moves to Paris to work as a secretary at a large company where she gets romantically caught up with an American CEO.

Le Secret d'Elissa Rhaïs (again, no English title, but it translates to The Secret of Elissa Rhais) is an adaptation of Paul Tabet's book by Breillat and four other writers, including director Jacques Otmezguine. It's a true story about a celebrated Algerian author, Elissa Rhais, who became quite famous in France during the 20's and 30's... until it was discovered that she was actually an illiterate whose semi-autobiographical works were ghost written by Raoul Tabet (Paul's father).

Lastly, in 1990, Breillat adapted Raymond Radiguet's novel Le diable au corps (Devil In the Flesh) with director Gérard Vergez. This had been made into films twice before: once in France by Claude Autant-Lara in 1947, and more recently (1986) in Italy by Marco Bellocchio who - as you may remember from my last post - Breillat worked with on Gli Occhi, la bocca. It's about a high school student who falls in love with an older woman after her husband is sent away to the frontlines of World War 1.

For Completists Only

Like the title says, only the most seriously completist Breillat fans will be interested in this one (unless you're interested in the film for non-Breillat-specific reasons, of course), but for the real die-hards, here it is: Gli Occhi, la bocca (Those Eyes, That Mouth). Breillat only worked as assistant editor on this 1982 drama written and directed by Marco Bellocchio (perhaps best known for his unorthodox film of Henry IV starring Marcello Mastroianni) with co-writer by Vincenzo Cerami.

This is available on a nice, anamorphic widescreen DVD from RHV. It's a Region 2 PAL disc, in its original Italian, with optional English and Italian subtitles. It also features the trailer and some (unfortunately, minus any English translation) interviews as extras. It's your only option, but except for maybe an NTSC port with subtitles on the interviews, you can't ask for much more than this, anyway.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Bilitis (1977)

Bilitis is a coming-of-age story based on the novel Les chansons de Bilitis by Pierre Louÿs, which follows the exploits of a young girl (Bilitis, played by Patti D'Arbanville) over the course of her summer vacation. It was written by Breillat with Jacques Nahum and Robert Boussinot, and directed by the English erotic photographer David Hailton in 1977.

Bilitis is available on a lot of cheap DVDs... they mainly all seem to be VHS rips. Jef Films put it out in both the US and the UK. They're fullscreen, low quality and missing at least one scene. Jef has also put out a boxed set of three of Hamilton's films, including their Bilitis disc, as well as fullscreen copies of Laura, Shadows of Summer and A Summer In Saint Tropez.

There's also a Chinese disc from Castaway with English language options that's pretty widely available, which is essentially the same as the Jef discs.

There are two DVDs released in Australia. There's the NTSC R0 disc from Blue Sky Video, which you can get from (where I get all my Aussie discs from) and similar places. That one's pretty much the same as the Jef and Chinese discs.

But a write-up on the IMDB boards, however, says the second Australian disc, "comes from a different master an is PAL. This is quite better compared to the others and the only one which is uncut. The picture quality is average and the colors are quite good. It also respects the aspect ratio (which is about 1.66:1) The source used for this DVD appears to be a VHS tape. The quality of the source though is reasonable good for a VHS tape. Sadly it doesn't have interactive menus or chapter search. But this is definitely the one to buy, for the moment."

I realize a message board post is pretty flimsy evidence, but a lot of surfing seems to confirm (from what very little information is available online - not a lot of people seem interested in detailing the finer points of budget DVDs) that this PAL disc is the best (albeit still pretty crappy), and seems to be the only version that's uncut as well. At any rate, it ain't much, but it's the best there is for now. Hamilton has a following, though... so hope eventually someone will capitalize on that and put out a beautiful, restored DVD.

Police (1985)

Cahterine Breillat came up with the original idea, then co-wrote the script of Police with director Maurice Pialat in 1985. It stars Gérard Depardieu as a police detective torn between his professional code of honor and the demands of his heart when he finds himself romantically drawn to one of the suspects in his investigation of a drug smuggling syndicate (Sophie Marceau).

Police is available as a marvelous, 2-disc special edition in France from G.C.T.H.V. (that's Gaumont Columbia Tristar Home Video to you). Disc one features a beautiful anamorphic print of the film (in its original 1.66:1), "presented" (which means, I suppose, a video introduction) by Catherine Breillat. Then, on disc two, there's an interview with Breillat, a 35 minute documentary, deleted scenes, a featurette and some other stuff. What it does not feature, however, are English subtitles.

This is also available in the first volume (there's a volume 2 with other films) of a Maurice Pialat boxed set - it's 9 discs all told, including both discs of Police, which are the same as the ones sold separately.

There is no US DVD (or UK, or from anywhere else) so we English speakers are left to make do with the old, fullscreen VHS that was released by New Yorker video back in the 90's. You might as well track it down - you can find it cheap, and sadly, there are no better options for us until somebody ports that wonderful French set over - which I'm sure isn't about to happen anytime soon. There is now an English language special edition DVD (PAL, r2) of this which I wholly recommend.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Some Scripts She's Written

So, we've now covered every film she's directed - she was filming her own adaptation of Blue Beard (Barbe bleue), but production was sadly stopped when she had a stroke - but there are plenty of other films she's written or co-written over the years. So let's jump right into some of those, shall we?

Money (La Thune) is a comedy she co-wrote with its director, Philippe Galland, in 1991. (a surprisingly good source of write-ups for foreign films with virtually no US release) offers this description, "Kamel is the son of French-born Algerians, and he has learned fairly quickly that working for others, at least for him, is no way to ensure that he won't remain poor. However, he is a bright, enterprising lad, full of confidence and energy, and he soon gets a profitable but unconventional business going. He also has a relationship with a non-Muslim girl, whose middle-class parents are simultaneously appalled by the relationship and charmed by the man himself, so much so that they permit him to sleep in her bed at their home." There is no DVD of this film, in English or any other language... it's only home video appearance to date has been an untranslated, French PAL VHS.

La Pelle (The Skin, or La Peau in France) is an Italian war film based on the memoirs of Curzio Malaparte - here played by none other than Marcello Mastroianni, and features Burt Lancaster in a small role. Breillat wrote the screenplay with two other writers: Robert Katz and the film's director, Liliana Cavani in 1981. La Pelle IS available on DVD - in fact, there are actually two different (but similar) fullscreen R2 Italian DVD, however neither include English subtitles. Interestingly, though, the soundtrack is available in the United States on a recently issued (2006) CD. Update 11/7/2011 - This has received a new French release, and even a Blu-Ray edition, but there are only French and Italian language options.

Finally (for this post... there are many others which will be covered in future posts), we come to the 1989 film, Zanzibar, which she co-wrote with Robert Boner and director Christine Pascal. writes it up as an "'inside look' at French filmmaking, Marechal (Francis Girod) - who is a has-been director - a producer, Vito Catene (Andre Marcon) and Camile Dor (Fabienne Babe), a big-name actress, have agreed to make a film about drugs, but don't have a story, financing, or any of the other elements needed to make it. This doesn't stop them; they cobble together the financing and begin shooting anyway. The producer is very fond of the leading actress, and when she gets hooked on drugs for real in the course of shooting what he feels to be a farcical imitation of a film, he gives up his shares in the film and heads off for the back of beyond (Zanzibar) to lick his wounds. To add insult to injury, the film winds up being a critical and commercial success." As with a lot of Breillat's films, it's only ever been released as an untranslated, French PAL VHS.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Dirty Like an Angel (1991)

So, there's one other film Breillat wrote and directed that's not on DVD: 1991's Dirty Like an Angel (Sale comme un ange)... says the film, "chronicles the relationship between the wife of a young cop and her husband's partner, a self-hating, fifty-year-old police inspector. The sex scenes between the two are as fiercely candid as those in 36 fillette." While offers a slightly more detailed synopsis: "A fifty-something police inspector Georges Deblache appears to have had enough of life. A confirmed bachelor, who has grown used to dinners-for-one and nights with prostitutes, he envies his young partner, Didier Theron, who has recently married an attractive woman, Barbara. Deblache realises that he is intensely drawn to Barbara and she, although disgusted by her feelings, gives into the desire she also has to sleep with him…" There's also a review of the film which states, "What is most striking about this film is its sense of realism and the totally unromantic way in which a romantic liaison is portrayed. ...This is not an easy film to watch – the austere realist style and limp policier backstory drains the film of surface emotion, making it a hard film to engage with. Yet it is the unusual, convention-breaking style of the film which ultimately makes it so appealing, which allows us to be drawn into the brittle lives of its protagonists and to appreciate their torn inner feelings." (Click the link to read the review in its entirety.)

But, as with Nocturnal Uproar, we can't see it for ourselves to make our own opinions, because it's only ever been released on video as an untranslated, French PAL VHS... no DVD at all. Hopefully, eventually, whichever studio owns the rights to this film will change finally that.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Nocturnal Uproar (1979)

Breillat's second film, Nocturnal Uproar (Tapage nocturne, 1979) seriously needs to be out on DVD - it should have been released years ago. Based on her own novel, The Village Voice called it one of "her two most powerful films." describes the film as, "[a] crude film, of an intense, moon-like beauty, a sexual film with a series of cutting-edge scenes on carnal relationships, a tale of love and desire in their raw state, the story of the implacable and destructive passion of a young woman, Solange, played by Dominique Laffin, to whom Catherine Breillat gave her best role ever. The film was banned to anyone under 18 and its failure in theatres distanced the filmmaker from film sets."

While describes it as, "A completely routine drama involving sexual situations and rough characters, this story directed and written by Catherine Breillat looks at the liaison between Solange (Dominique Laffin) and Bruno (Bertrand Bonvoisin). Solange is the female version of a womanizing film director who is confident about her conquests and her ability to figure out men. Along comes Bruno, and Solange's faith in her knowledge of men is put to a test and found wanting. In spite of her better judgment, she is undeniably attracted to Bruno though the man is going to be trouble in a big way."

Breillat herself has said of the film, "[t]his is a film about desire and seduction. The heroine keeps going to the limits of her desires. She repeatedly seeks new experiences, because desire soon fades." But I wouldn't know about all of that, because it's never been distributed on DVD in any region - it's only been released on VHS as an untranslated, French PAL VHS. >:[ Somebody really needs to get on this, pronto!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Films She Acts In

Catherine's sister, Marie-Hélène Breillat, is an actress who worked a lot in the 60's and 70's perhaps best known for playing the Claudine in a series of TV movies based on the novels of Colette: Claudine à l'école, Claudine à Paris, Claudine en ménage, and Claudine s'en va. She even starred in Catherine's film Nocturnal Uproar (Tapage nocturne), and did some voice-over for the lead character in A Real Young Girl. But our Catherine has done a bit of acting herself, essentially playing small roles in three films:

She and her sister both appear in Bernardo Bertolucci's 1972 classic, The Last Tango In Paris. MGM has put this film out uncut in a nice anamorphic widescreen transfer in almost every market. The discs are all essentially the same, though different regions are apparently framed slightly differently: the UK disc is framed at the standard UK ratio of 1.78:1, as opposed to the US which is in 1.66:1, while the French, German, Australian (and probably others I haven't bothered to research) are all in the more generic 1.85:1 aspect ratio.

They appeared in another film together a few years later, in 1976. Her sister, working steadily at that time, was probably responsible for getting her the work on both films they acted in together. Dracula and Son (Dracula père et fils) was one of Christopher Lee's French speaking roles, with Lee reprising his famous Hammer role of "The Count" (not referred to as Dracula, strictly speaking, in the original version) in a strange satire. It's received a terrible reputation in the US after being released here with about 20 minutes(!) edited out, and most of the badly dubbed dialogue is actually very changed. The only DVD of this film is of the original, uncut (94 minute) French language version, in its original aspect ratio. Pretty f'in' sweet; but unfortunately there are only French and German language options. Our best bet is to pick up one of the many budget VHS copies that were released in the US, of the crappy 75 minute altered-dialogue cut - yuck! Personally, I'm holding out for the proper version on DVD (Christopher Lee in a Dracula film... somebody's gotta put it out eventually, right?)

More recently, Catherine Breillat returned to acting to play a small role of the estranged wife in Claude Berri's The Housekeeper (Une femme de ménage) - this time thanks probably to her own celebrity rather than her sister's efforts. It's been released in the US by Palm Pictures in both R-rated and Unrated editions (of course, you'll want to stay far away from the R-rated cut which is missing approximately 3 minutes of footage). A lot of sites online (including Amazon) list this DVD as being full-frame, but in fact both versions (the R & unrated) are in their correct 2.35:1 aspect ratio. So the unrated version is a pretty good option, although the case lists a making-of featurette as an extra, which doesn't actually appear on the DVD. :(

The French DVD from Fox Pathé Europa is not only uncut and 2.35:1, it features a slew of extras including interviews, the making-of featurette missing from the US disc, a short film by Berri titled Le Poulet (his first film, which won the Oscar for best short subject in 1966) and a commentary... but of course there are no English language options. This DVD is also available as part of a 17(!) DVD boxed set of Claude Berri's films - definitely one for us prisoners of the English language to drool over in envy.

Those are all the films, but Catherine acted in one television project as well: Le Dialogue dans le marécage (roughly translating to Dialogue In the Swamp - 1973), again with her sister. There is no DVD release, and I wouldn't expect one anytime soon.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

And the Ship Sails On (1983)

After her first two films based on her movels struggled at the box office, despite polarizing critical response, Catherine Breillat spent some time writing scripts for other filmmakers before making her directorial comeback in 1988 with 36 Fillette. One of those scripts was And the Ship Sails On (E la nave va in Italy, or Et vogue le navire in Breillat's France)... sort of. According to the IMDB, she shares both story and screenplay credit with Tonino Guerra and director Frederico Fellini; but in the actual credits initial credit goes to them and she's credited separately as "Sceneggiatore" (scriptwriter) under "Troupe Francese."

This was released in the US by Criterion in 1999. It's a pretty solid, widescreen transfer, albeit non-anamorphic and with no extras (except for a nice, little 6-page booklet).

The film was rereleased, this time for the British market, in 2006 by Infinity. In some ways their transfer is better - brighter and more vibrant; but it's misframed at 1.66:1 (as opposed to 1.85:1, thus cropping the sides of the image) and also non-anamorphic. They do, however, include a second disc with a hefty collection of extras: an hour-long documentary called Fellini: a Self Portrait (released in the US as an extra on Criterion's La Strada DVD) and two half-hour episodes of a television series on Fellini. Infinity also included 2-disc set as part of a larger boxed set, simply titled Fellini, with two of his other films, Ginger and Fred and Orchestra Rehearsal, and the rest of that Fellini TV series.

So, in the end, it's up to you. Both choices are non-anamorphic... I'd have to go with the Criterion because it's framed correctly. But the UK disc comes in at a close second, and does have a nice collection of bonus material (although none of it's really specific to this film or relates much to Breillat). You might just go with whichever is easier for you: the PAL European disc or the NTSC Criterion here in the states.

As much as double-dips generally annoy me, an updated disc from Criterion might be nice - a prettier, anamorphic transfer and some new extras (including a Breillat interview, of course!) would be pretty sweet.

Update: Well, it happened! And the Ship Sails On was released on beautifully English-friendly blu-ray in 2021, restored in 4k, as a part of Criterion's Essential Fellini boxed set. No Breillat-related extras, but they did unearth a very good, vintage television documentary that goes behind the scenes of the making of this film. Click here for my review, with screenshots. But suffice to say, it's very highly recommended!